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Story by Ian Guerin
PAWLEYS ISLAND, S.C. | A handful of local pros have more experience as Tom Van Hoogen. Few can say they’ve played a role in so many different courses. Van Hoogen, now the head golf professional and general manager for both River Club and Founders Club at Pawleys Island, has in some form or fashion been in charge of running 10 different local courses over the years. It’s made him a treasure chest of knowledge for visiting golfers looking for advice on rounds, not to mention the market as a whole.
“The variety of golf courses in the Grand Strand [is impeccable],” he said. “And the condition of the courses year-round are the best in the country. When I moved to Myrtle Beach it took a while to get used to the courses.” It’s been a winding path for Van Hoogen since that occurred two decades ago. Since he began attending Coastal Carolina - where he majored in marketing (prior to the school’s now prominent Professional Golf Management program was sanctioned by the PGA) -he has worked at Myrtle Beach National, Willbrook Plantation, Litchfield Country Club, Wild Wing Plantation, Colonial Charters Golf Club and Aberdeen Country Club before moving into his current positions.
In 2011, he was given his first job as a head golf professional (Wild Wing) and has continued to show his ability to diversify. Part of that skill set stemmed from his ability to rip off the band aid of how he was introduced to the game. Growing up in Dublin, New Hampshire, Van Hoogen’s earliest days on the links were at courses designed much differently than they are here: Massive elevation changes and small greens. His regular rounds happened at the Dublin Lake Club, Brentwood Golf Course and the Shattuck Golf Course there in the Granite State. On top of playing with his father and two older brothers, he also caddied at Dublin Lake. “From then on, I was hooked,” he said.
He explored academic options, which led him to Coastal, and it is safe to say he was hooked on the Myrtle Beach area, as well. Upon graduation from CCU, he was hired at Willbrook, working under longtime Head Golf Professional Kevin McGuire. It was then that Van Hoogen began to form his own approach to leading the local golf scene. “With many great courses in such close proximity to each other, you have to think outside the box to make yourself stand out,” Van Hoogen said. “Being a golf professional in the Myrtle Beach area, I have found the best way to improve the course you’re at is by going above and beyond with customer service. Customers are coming out to play golf to have fun and have an enjoyable day, so I have always tried to be as friendly and helpful as possible.” And he’s done that wherever he’s gone.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part of series of stories illuminating the men and women serving as Golf Professionals at Myrtle Beach-area golf courses