By Jim Maggio
Collin Morikawa’s emphatic win at The Open Championship was one for the history books. It was also a reminder to us that he’s one of four golfers to win a major championship whose prior competitive success along the Myrtle Beach golf scene played an important role in their path to glory.
Here’s how Myrtle Beach helped each of them get there during their amateur years.
Morikawa’s 2019 golf year progressed from amateur to professional achievement at warp speed, and we caught the tail end of his collegiate career first-hand right here on the Grand Strand. His University of California, Berkeley team earned one of five qualifying spots in the NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championships, as Morikawa joined three Bears teammates in finishing 54-hole stroke play under par with a T14 individual finish at the Myrtle Beach Regional at TPC Myrtle Beach. Morikawa would go on to a T6 individual finish in the Championships to conclude his amateur career, and just two months later earn his first PGA TOUR victory at the Barracuda Championship.
Four TOUR victories later, including his 2020 PGA Championship win at TPC Harding Park and Sunday’s British Open triumph at Royal St. George’s, Morikawa has already entered rarefied air as a professional. Morikawa is now the first golfer to win two different majors in his first appearance, and became just the second golfer in 95 years to win two of his first eight majors. The first? Bobby Jones.
Morikawa also edged closer to the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking with Sunday’s win, surpassing Justin Thomas to claim No. 3 position and closing the gap between him, Jon Rahm and a familiar name in these parts …
Beyond his major championship victories at the 2016 U.S. Open and the 2020 Masters, Johnson’s illustrious professional exploits are well-documented. But unless you live in the greater Myrtle Beach area or have been a college golf fan since the early 2000s, you might not be as familiar with just how accomplished DJ’s college career became at our hometown Coastal Carolina University.
With TPC Myrtle Beach as the Chanticleers’ home course throughout his college tenure, Johnson would parlay his years of competitive golf at the Tom Fazio/Lanny Wadkins design into an extensive list of NCAA and amateur achievements, including:
Within three short years, another future major winner would make multiple collegiate trips to Myrtle Beach with impressive results:
Reed competed in 2010 with an Augusta State team that placed third at the General Hackler Championship at TPC Myrtle Beach, in route to helping the Jaguars capture the first of two consecutive NCAA Division I national championships. The following year, Reed led the defending national champs to victory at the 2011 Hackler at TPC Myrtle Beach, firing a 5-under 67 in final-round play and finishing T4 in individual play.
Reed would make his PGA TOUR debut later that year, and in 2013 earn the first of his nine TOUR victories at the Wyndham Championship on his way to eventually becoming the 2018 Masters champion.
Before emerging as the 2009 U.S. Open champion at Bethpage Black after a successful college career at Clemson, Lucas Glover was one of the most decorated golfers in South Carolina high school history. A three-time high school All-American at Wade Hampton High School in the mid-1990s, Glover won state championship titles as a freshman and sophomore and earned all-state honors all four years of high school.
As part of that journey, Glover captured one of the Palmetto State’s longest running and most coveted high school championships: the George Holliday Memorial Junior Championship at Myrtle Beach National Golf Club, an event also won by two additional future PGA TOUR players (D.J. Trahan and Matthew NeSmith) and a future LPGA Tour star (Kristy McPherson).
Glover earned his third TOUR win two years after his U.S. Open triumph, and just last week snapped a 10-year victory drought by winning the 2021 John Deere Classic, becoming the sixth player this year age 40 or older to raise a TOUR event trophy.
Who Could Be Next?
Current PGA TOUR players NeSmith and Harold Varner III have also made multiple competitive appearances in the Myrtle Beach area in recent years – NeSmith as a two-time George Holliday champ in 2009 and 2010, and Varner competing at the General Hackler Championship with his East Carolina team at TPC Myrtle Beach in 2012 and DeBordieu Country Club in 2013. Each has recorded multiple top-10 finishes in TOUR events in the past year, with Varner earning a T2 and hefty payday at April’s RBC Heritage.
There’s also Akshay Bhatia, who won the 2019 Dustin Johnson World Junior Golf Championship at TPC Myrtle Beach after a runner-up finish in the prestigious event a year prior. Bhatia bypassed college golf to turn professional in 2020, making 16 PGA TOUR event appearances since. Bhatia recorded a top-10 finish at the Safeway Open and a T30 showing at the 2021 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, where he fired a first-round 64 and became one of only seven golfers since 1983 to hit all 18 greens in regulation at Pebble Beach in a single round – either during the annual AT&T, or at one of the four U.S. Opens held there in that time span.
But there’s one current professional not named Dustin Johnson (and not a Coastal Carolina alumnus) who’s both achieved at a higher level along the Grand Strand golf scene than any of the aforementioned players, and has the momentum to make waves early in his upcoming PGA TOUR career: Cameron Young, a two-time winner on the Korn Ferry Tour in 2021 who’s in prime position to earn his TOUR card for the 2021-2022 season.
A three-time All-ACC selection at Wake Forest, Young won the individual championship at the General Hackler Championship at The Dunes Golf & Beach Club in March 2019. Two months later, he was one of Morikawa’s playing partners at the NCAA Myrtle Beach Regional – helping his Demon Deacons advance to the NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championship, and in the process besting Morikawa on the individual leaderboard at TPC Myrtle Beach with a top-10 finish.