South Carolina Contingent Not Challenging at Myrtle Beach Classic

Story by Bob Gillespie and Chris King

This week’s Myrtle Beach Classic is the first PGA Tour event staged somewhere in South Carolina besides Hilton Head Island, but none of the 15 players with ties to the state were close to being in contention after Thursday’s opening round at The Dunes Golf & Beach Club.

Leading the Palmetto State contingent at 2-under par 69 were former Clemson player Carson Young of Greenville; Richy Werenski, a former Georgia Tech player now living in Aiken and playing out of Palmetto Golf Club – one of three Palmetto members in the field along with Kevin Kisner (3-over par) and William McGirt (even par); Inman’s Jacob Bridgeman and North Augusta’s Matt Atkins, winner of the tournament’s “Q at Myrtle Beach” (see below).

Three others are at 1-under 70: Greenville’s Bill Haas, former Clemson player D.J. Trahan and Columbia’s Wesley Bryan. After McGirt at even par came former USC player Matt NeSmith and former Clemson player Jonathan Byrd, both at 1-over. Coming in at 2-over par were Hartsville’s Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey, Columbia’s George Bryan IV and Greenville’s Ben Martin. At 3-under were The Dunes assistant professional Morgan Deneen and Aiken’s Kisner.

Surprisingly, few of the S.C. players had played The Dunes before this week’s practice rounds. Trahan, who now lives in Arizona but spent his youth in Spartanburg and Hilton Head, is typical of those.

“I never played even a casual round here,” he said. “My first time was Tuesday. But I think the course is holding up well” to the PGA Tour players. “It’s a good golf course, and they added a few hundred yards to the length, but it’s holding its own. I predicted (a winning score of) 15-20 under par, and I still think that’ll happen.

“It’s a wonderful traditional golf course, and we don’t see a lot of those on the Tour these days. I love the old-school courses, the Donald Ross courses and like that. I was beyond pleasantly surprised when I first played here. I wish I had played here in my amateur days; I’m a little shocked that I never did get here to play.”

One of Trahan’s most recent returns to Clemson was for the Tigers’ 2003 National Championship 10th reunion in 2013. The school’s golf team, now coached by Jonathan Byrd’s brother Jordan, held a 20th reunion last year, but Trahan wasn’t able to attend.

“I’ve got a baby girl now, so my traveling is on a need-to basis,” he said. “I couldn’t make it, and I was sad to miss all those (teammates). It’s crazy to think it’s been 20 years – 21 now, in fact.
“But I made myself a promise: if God’s got me walking around 10 years from now, I’ll definitely be back for the 30th – and I’ll bring my daughter, who’ll be 10 years old.”

Atkins justifies “Q” spot in field with Thursday showing

Atkins, who won “The Q at Myrtle Beach” and along with it a sponsor exemption, more than justified his spot in the field after a solid opening round, shooting a 2-under par 69, good for a share of 38th place.

The North Augusta resident got off to a hot start, making birdie on three of his first five holes, but he was unable to sustain the momentum, due in large part to a wayward driver. Atkins hit just four of 14 fairways but made up for it with an approach game that saw him gain 3.3 strokes on the round, the fourth best total in the 132-player field. 

“I played solid,” Atkins said. “I didn’t really make any putts. Hit a few shots close early, took advantage of some opportunities. I didn’t drive it particularly well … I definitely feel like I left some out there.
“But it’s kind of one of those rounds, greens are quick. If you’re not below the hole, you just don’t get a lot of opportunities to be aggressive. I just didn’t really convert on anything.”

Atkins, a winner on the Korn Ferry Tour, playing well is hardly a surprise. He has played in 26 previous PGA Tour events and finished T38 last fall at the RSM Classic in Sea Island, Ga. 
“The Q” was a 16-player, 18-hole shootout that featured eight YouTube content creators and eight aspiring PGA Tour pros competing for a sponsor exemption into the Myrtle Beach Classic field. The documentary style video has accumulated 892,000 views.

(Top photo by Golf Tourism Solutions)

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