City of Myrtle Beach, Horry County, State of South Carolina and PGA TOUR officials were on hand Wednesday at The Dunes Golf & Beach Club to formally announce the renowned Robert Trent Jones design as host of the first-ever PGA TOUR event on the Grand Strand: the 2024 Myrtle Beach Classic. Check out all the details on this momentous occasion for the Myrtle Beach golf market in this video of the full press conference.
Karen Riordan (01:54):
Good morning everyone. Can you hear me okay? This is such an exciting day. This is a dream that we’ve had for many years to have what you all know we affectionately call “The Golf Capital of the World,” Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, have its own PGA TOUR tournament. That dream is being realized today. At this time, I’d like to introduce Mr. Kelly Jensen from the PGA TOUR. Kelly is the Vice President of Tournament Business and he’s been a key partner in this new agreement between Visit Myrtle Beach and the PGA TOUR. Please welcome Kelly Jensen.
Kelly Jensen (02:36):
Thanks, Karen. Wow, what an exciting morning. Thank you all for joining us today as we celebrate what is a historic day for professional golf here in the state of South Carolina and right here in Myrtle Beach. The modern PGA TOUR has strong ties to the Palmetto State with the RBC Heritage in Hilton Head Island having been on the tour schedule since 1969. In upstate South Carolina on the Korn Ferry tour, you have the BMW Charity Pro-Am that’s been on tour since 1992.
Today those ties become even stronger on behalf of the PGA TOUR and I’m thrilled to announce the formation of the Myrtle Beach Classic, a new PGA TOUR event to be played starting 2024 here at The Dunes Golf and Beach Club. The Myrtle Beach Classic will be played in the heart of the FedEx Cup regular season with the winner receiving 300 FedEx Cup points. Winning on the PGA TOUR is among the most difficult accomplishments in all of sports. To be the best, you have to beat the best. So with that said, I can promise you 72 holes of intense competition from the PGA TOUR’s best and a week of excitement for fans.
Through our television partners, the beauty of Myrtle Beach and the state of South Carolina will be on display and broadcasted to more than 200 countries in 27 languages. One of the things that sets the PGA TOUR apart is the charitable impact our tournaments make in the communities in which we play. Last year, the PGA TOUR and its tournaments donated more than $200 million to charity and that all time figure exceeds $3.64 billion. As a new PGA TOUR event, the Myrtle Beach Classic has committed to supporting the Tour’s charitable mission and we’re thrilled to play a part in these efforts.
I’d like to thank Karen Riordan and her incredible team at Visit Myrtle Beach for their tireless work and bringing this tournament to life as well as Duane Parrish and Visit South Carolina who have been fully committed to delivering more PGA TOUR golf to the Palmetto State. We are truly grateful for your support. I’d also like to thank Dave Genevro, Tracy Conner, and the entire group at Golf Tourism Solutions for being tremendous partners throughout the process as well as Mr. Collins Wakefield and everyone here this morning from The Dunes Club. We appreciate you graciously offering to host the PGA TOUR at this premier facility and we will no doubt treat it with respect and care that is at earned over its 75 year history.
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Finally, Mayor Bethune, Council Chair Gardner. I’d like to thank you, the City of Myrtle Beach and the Myrtle Beach City Council for supporting us in this endeavor. We know that the Myrtle Beach Classic will be worthy of the Grand Strand’s reputation as a world class destination and the PGA TOUR is eager to play a role in supporting the local economy while giving back to the charities here that matter most. We look forward to welcoming you once again to this beautiful facility in this wonderful community for the Myrtle Beach Classic, which is certain to be a destination event for both PGA TOUR players and fans alike. Thank you.
Karen Riordan (05:48):
Thank you, Kelly. I’d now like to introduce Mr. Duane Parrish. He doesn’t really need an introduction here. Most of us know him. He is the wonderful director of South Carolina Parks, Recreation and Tourism. Duane has been a great friend to the Grand Strand for many years, and again, has been a key supporter who encouraged our talks with the PGA TOUR. And he himself, of course, has had a long successful partnership with the PGA TOUR as we promote the state of South Carolina as the very best state in all of the country for golf. Welcome to the podium, Mr. Duane Parrish.
Duane Parrish (06:30):
Thank you, Karen, and thank you, Kelly, and congratulations by the way. Yes, I’m very blessed to be in the state that we have and we’re a state that’s known for beaches and golf. Always have been in my lifetime. So of course here at Myrtle Beach today, the reason for our beach reputation speaks for itself. There’s probably no better example than looking out the wind and to your left. Our beaches are the gifts that nature has provided us and we’re blessed to have those natural resources that draw visitors countless from far and near. Our reputation is a premier golf destination. However, it isn’t something that just simply gifted to us. It’s a reputation that’s been built over many years, one that continues to grow through the hard work of many people in this room, the dedication and vision of local and state leaders.
South Carolina is home to over 350 golf courses that generate over $3 billion in economic activity each year for our state, including $1.1 billion in off course spending at hotels, restaurants, and other attractions. Golf generates more economic income for our state than any other single entertainment or recreation activity in South Carolina, and it’s a sector of our tourism industry that has grown by leaps and bounds quite frankly, the past couple of years. In 2021, the number of golf rounds played across South Carolina increased over 13%. Golf remained strong in 2022.
In the first quarter of 2023, rounds have increased by 10%. We’ve seen in [inaudible 00:08:00] tax collections from golf reach all-time highs over the past two years, growing at an average rate of over 35% each year. While golf has been a major asset for our tourism industry, the levels of golf success, we realized over the past couple of years have really been nothing short of phenomenal. With golf at an all-time high here in South Carolina, we have an opportunity to further elevate our standing as a premier golf destination. Just sort of say strike while the nine iron is hot. It really is a good time.
As a state, we entered into a five-year official marketing partnership that designates Discover South Carolina as an official tourism sponsor of the PGA TOUR, providing an opportunity for Discover South Carolina and organizations like Visit Myrtle Beach to tap into the PGA TOUR fan base and encourage them to discover South Carolina. And today, our partners at Myrtle Beach have achieved another significant gain for our golf and tourism industry with a partnership that will place the Grand Strand on the center stage of golf for the next four years. I appreciate the hardworking diligence of our partners here in Myrtle Beach and I appreciate the spirit and partnership the PGA TOUR has consistently shown to work to elevate South Carolina’s golf reputation. As a state, one of our primary goals has always been heads in the beds, feet in the fairways, and people in the parks. Now we can add a new one for the state, bringing golf pros to the greens. Kelly, Karen, everyone else here that Kelly’s recognized, congratulations. This is a big day for Myrtle Beach. Thank you.
Karen Riordan (09:42):
Now I’d like to introduce and welcome to the podium Mayor Brenda Bethune from the City of Myrtle Beach. Of course, our mayor has been so supportive of all of the events that we do in sports as well as festivals. And again, we appreciate her being here with us today to say a few words and we know how much she loves Myrtle Beach. So please come to the stage, Mayor Brenda Bethune.
Brenda Bethune (10:11):
Good morning everyone. Over the weekend I wanted to look back and see exactly what the history of golf in Myrtle Beach was because I knew that it was very deep and long, but what I was surprised to find out is that it goes back over 96 years when the Ocean Forest Golf Club had first opened its doors. This prestigious Dunes Club has been opened since 1948 and has been steeped in tradition ever since. Today it is a pleasure to be joined with the PGA, which is a deep and unique history with golf for over 94 years. This is a great record and a great joining because we both have a unique and passionate history for golf. It is so exciting to be here and to celebrate with you all today for the joining of our beautiful city with this great PGA organization. We look forward to this tournament being a hole in one for our community. Duane, you’re not the only one with the one-liners.
On behalf of our City Council and the City of Myrtle Beach, it is my honor to welcome the PGA back to Myrtle Beach and we look forward to a long and successful history together. I also want to thank visitmyrtlebeach.com and our Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce for their dedication to bringing world-class events to this area. I want to also thank Duane Parrish with SCPRT. Duane, you have been such a great friend to our city and you continue to help make us one of the best destinations in the United States. So thank you everyone and let’s get ready to tee up. Thank you.
Karen Riordan (12:13):
So as we’ve all been reading up a little bit and making sure we have our history right, one of the things that I didn’t realize is that the beautiful Dunes neighborhood is in the City of Myrtle Beach, but we are standing right now at this moment in this room and the course actually is in the county. So it is in the Horry County limits. So that’s just kind of neat and interesting that both the city and the county share this beautiful area, this beautiful beach, this beautiful golf community. So we felt it was only appropriate that we also hear from Chairman Johnny Gardner from Horry County Council to say a few words. Please welcome to the podium Johnny Gardner.
Johnny Gardner (13:00):
Thank you very much. Thank you. I’ll be brief. I’m so delighted and honored to be here. What a great occasion. Beautiful weather, beautiful people, everything is wonderful. And I was in the Army and when the general or anybody would find out where I was from, they would say, “Hey, get Gardner. He knows how to play golf.” I never wanted to play with him because they’d find out how bad I was. But anyway, it’s a wonderful day. This is the golf capital and I couldn’t see a better fit than the PGA and Myrtle Beach. And we’re happy. On behalf of county council and county government, we do welcome the PGA. We’d like to thank everybody involved in it, most especially the Chamber and Karen and her staff and all the hard work they’ve done. We’re grateful for all the partners and partnerships that we have up to this date and moving forward.
I understand that this was a great event and a great occasion, but the real heavy lifting is going to start here in a little bit and we’ve got plenty of time to get it done, but it is a lot of hard work. We’re looking forward to getting the permits and moving the things that need to be moved and all the stuff that won’t make the papers and all the stuff that won’t be on TV, but we have to get it done and we’re looking forward to it. We’re grateful for it. I always say wherever I go, “Horry County is a great place to live and a great place to work.” This is another example of that. So great things are happening in Myrtle Beach. It’s great for Myrtle Beach, but it’s also great for the Grand Strand and the entire county. So thank you once again.
Karen Riordan (14:42):
Visit Myrtle Beach has a very special and unique partnership with our golf DMO, our destination marketing organization, which is called Golf Tourism Solutions. So Golf Tourism Solutions has been partnering with us for many, many years again to promote the game of golf to people all over the world. And we do that in a great partnership. So I thought it was only appropriate that we would have Mr. Dave Genevro. He serves as the general manager of The Barefoot Resort and the Dye Club as his job, but as his second passion and job, he serves as the Chair of Golf Tourism Solutions. So I’d like to welcome Dave Genevro to come up and say a few words. Thank you.
Dave Genevro (15:29):
Good morning everyone. Thank you Karen. It’s great to be here and part of this exciting news that we’re all talking about today. On behalf of Golf Tourism Solutions board and staff, I’d like to thank Karen and the entire team at the Myrtle Beach CVB for going above and beyond in making what has been a dream to host a PGA TOUR event at Myrtle Beach a reality. All their hard work and persistence has paid off, and we all look forward to witnessing the tournament success in the coming years. The partnership we have, which Karen just talked about with the CVB, continues to go stronger each and every year. And working together on this project moving forward is really exciting for us. GTS boasts over 200 years of combined golfing experience among its board and team members. With such extensive knowledge, GTS is well equipped to provide the help and guidance needed to make this event unforgettable for the players, the spectators, and the entire community.
Thank you to The Dunes Golf and Beach Club for hosting the PGA event. The impeccable facilities, professional staff, stunning course will make an unforgettable tournament. We all appreciate your dedication to providing a world class golfing experience for the Myrtle Beach Classic in 2024. As you all know, most great ideas always need a little help to get things started and this project was no exception. One of the first steps was Tracy Conner making a quick call to Gary Schaal. He’s our resident and past PGA of America President and who also was the first PGA of America president from the Carolinas Section. Because of Gary’s connections, his call was all that was needed to get the ball rolling and a big part of the reason all of us are sitting here today. We would all like to give a big thank you to Gary for reaching out to his contacts and making the necessary introduction to get this project moving forward. And I think Gary’s sitting right over here in the corner.
You say to yourself, “What does the Myrtle Beach Classic mean to the Myrtle Beach golf market?” The Myrtle Beach Golf Classic will be the first PGA TOUR event in Myrtle Beach history and the first sanctioned major tournament to The Grand Strand in 24 years. Myrtle Beach has long been known as, and we’ve heard this a couple times today, “The Golf Capital of the World” and the Myrtle Beach Classic solidifies this claim, combining the world renowned accolades and success as America’s favorite traveling golf destination with the prestige of hosting a golf event on the world’s top professional golf tour, the PGA TOUR. Bringing a PGA TOUR event to the Myrtle Beach market strengthens the outside perception of Myrtle Beach golf market as not only a top pick for traveling golfers, but also a world-class golf destination.
Our success is because the people in this room work together on a regular basis. It was great in a conversation yesterday that the PGA TOUR is already seeing that in the short time that they’ve been here and working out all the plans for the future. And we’re excited. We appreciate what everybody’s doing in this room and we look forward to the next four years. Thank you.
Karen Riordan (19:04):
And last but not least, we need to hear from this year’s President of The Dunes Gulf and Beach Club. And that is Mr. Collins Wakefield. Collins, please come up.
Collins Wakefield (19:27):
Thank you, Karen. Good morning and thank y’all for being here. First, I just want to say thank you to the board and the past presidents for allowing us to enter into a four-year commitment. What a great thing. What a great thing this is going to be for Myrtle Beach, for the charities of Myrtle Beach and for the tourism at large. So thank y’all. We’re excited for the opportunity. What a venue for a PGA TOUR event. We have a spacious clubhouse, a new beach club. If you’ll see, the wall is just going up. So everybody in this room is very excited about that. We have a historic Robert Trent Jones Golf Course and everything is located right there on the beautiful Atlantic Ocean. The members, board and staff are all up for the challenge to host a PGA TOUR event.
Today, I just want to give a shout out and thank you to a number of people and organizations instrumental in bringing this event to Myrtle Beach. I’ll also highlight our great golf course. We’re humble to have been selected from the many championship golf courses located on The Grand Strand. This is a community team effort. We truly appreciate the support offered by the other local golf courses to help us host this tournament. In particular, we’ll need help with manpower and equipment that only they can provide. You may not realize that when you have a PGA TOUR event, you need a lot more people here and a lot more things happening. So we really do appreciate that. We couldn’t do it without them.
A special thank you to all these people sitting down here in this front row and the people that made the speech. And in particular, I worked real closely with Kelly Jensen. I just want to thank him for his time. And I was a bit of a pain, but we got through the contract. We signed it on Monday. I’m learning from some other politicians. It’s good to wait to the last minute before you sign something, but I do want to thank you for the trust that you’ve placed in us to host the first PGA TOURnament in Myrtle Beach. Gavin Arsenault, our GM, will guide us through the process. We will not disappoint. The tournament will tee off almost 75 years to the day when the first nine holes were played on our Robert Trent Jones golf course. It’s planned that even par will be 71. I know in the release, it said 72, but I think it’s going to be par 71. And the course will play approximately 7,375 yards.
Some of the golf course enhancements that are anticipated for the 2024 tournament include the following:
The No. 1 tee box will be elevated with a brick border backing.
The No. 2 tee box will be moved back approximately 30 yards, which really is kind of where the gold tees are on hole No. 8.
No. 6 tee box will be moved behind the blue tees, adding approximately 15 yards.
A new No. 8 tee box will be built behind No. 7 green. It will play 453 yards and it’ll be a par four and that’s hence the reason it’s going to be a par 71 as opposed to a par 72.
The No. 14 tee box will be raised to move back 45 yards.
All the tee boxes are being leveled and planted with zoysia grass.
The short game area will be enhanced.
The putting green will be enlarged.
“Waterloo,” which is hole No. 13, will remain untouched and is known as one of the greatest holes in the world.
We’re also excited, proud, and honored having a PGA TOUR tournament in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, “The Golf Capital of the World.”
Karen, thank you so much. I appreciate it.
Karen Riordan (23:38):
I just want to speak for a moment on behalf of Visit Myrtle Beach in the Myrtle Beach Chamber. We are truly thrilled to serve as the title sponsor of this amazing PGA TOUR tournament. The Myrtle Beach Classic is a great opportunity. I think we can all see that to showcase to the world what an incredible destination we are for golf with, of course, over 90 golf courses for our locals to play and enjoy as well as for visitors. We have 60 miles of that beautiful coastline and gorgeous beaches. Over 2,000 restaurants. All of those will be showcased. So we just believe that in addition to the amazing attractions we have, the shopping is going to just elevate everything to a higher level and we’ll have a whole new group of people that will be coming and checking out Myrtle Beach and Horry County for the very first time. And again, that just makes us so happy. That’s what we dream of doing all the time.
So you’ve heard some thank yous, but I need to say them as well. I want to say thank you to Kelly Jensen, to Jen who’s here today, and John as well as Alan Fish. We started working with Alan it seems like a hundred years ago. Chris Cox and Mark Stevens, and the entire PGA TOUR team.
Karen Riordan (00:00):
They have been a delight to work with and we are so looking forward to working together to bring this tournament to being next year in 2024.
To the Golf Tourism Solutions team and board, you heard Dave talk about this a little bit, but we could not have done this without this level of teamwork, so I absolutely have to give a special thanks to Tracy Conner, to Dave Genevro, to Kyle Oland, the whole team. Everyone just jumped in, and as you heard earlier, Gary Schaal, living legend, Gary, the 28th President of the PGA of America, inductee into the PGA Golf Hall of Fame. No one better, a great ambassador, not just for the game of golf, but golf in the Grand Strand and golf in the Palmetto State, and so we thank you, Gary, for everything that you did to get this ball rolling, as they say.
I want to thank Brenda Bethune, the Mayor of the City of Myrtle Beach as well as our City Council members. I see several of you here today. Councilman Krajc, Councilman Chestnut, thank you for being with us, as well as Fox Simons and the whole team and city management. It does take a lot of work. It takes a village to pull all of these things off, and we really appreciate the support, and again, we have the track record in the City of Myrtle Beach to do these kinds of amazing festivals and events to the highest level, and again, make all of our residents very proud, so again, we thank you for that.
I do want to thank Collins and Blair Anderson and the entire Dunes Golf and Beach Club board for being literally all in. From the moment the discussions started it’s just been amazing to see the energy and the excitement and the enthusiasm. Want to thank Gavin Arsenault, the GM here, and again, their whole team for the gracious hospitality they’ve shown us today and every other day previously, and we know they again, that they’re going to bring that A game to the tournament and all the steps in between to get there, so again, we’re really, really appreciative of that.
We want to thank Chairman Gardner. We want to thank Horry County Council again for their support. We absolutely agree that this is not just great for Myrtle Beach, it’s great for the entire county and our entire region. Again, just showcases everything that we have to offer, not just in one community but all of the communities that make up the Grand Strand, so we’re really excited about that and appreciate that support as well.
And last but not least, the talented team at the Myrtle Beach Chamber and the Visit Myrtle Beach CVB team. I get emotional when I talk about them because I’m so proud of this team. They work so hard all the time, so special thanks to the marketing team, to our sports team, so people like Stuart and Diane in Marketing, Jonathan and Taylor in Sports, working again with GTS and a special thanks to Marlane White for working her tush off to make this happen today, so we really appreciate all the effort, and again, it’s just begun. This is just the beginning, but we’re very, very excited.
So we want to thank you all for attending today, and we know you’re going to have a beautiful day here in the Grand Strand. We are going to ask that media be able to stay put and assemble so that you may have the opportunity to speak with Kelly Jensen. We think he’ll probably be your first man of the hour that you’ll want to speak with, but of course also Director Parrish, Mayor Bethune, Collins, the entire speaking team, so anyone that you would like to interview, please feel free to stay and do that.
But again, thank you. Please have some breakfast back there. It’s beautiful. More coffee and juice, and we hope you have a wonderful day and we look forward to bringing you more developments on the Myrtle Beach Classic as they develop. Thank you. Thanks.