Jeff Shain

Golf notes: Golf Channel Am Tour includes Harbour Town, Palmetto Dunes

It didn't take long for Keith Weaver to understand the power of having the Golf Channel name behind him.

Though Harbour Town and other prime Lowcountry venues dotted the schedule in the years Weaver managed the Golfweek Amateur Tour's Hilton Head-Savannah circuit, there were some where he never seemed to make inroads.

Now tabbed to launch the Golf Channel Am Tour's local outlet, some of those doors have come open.

"It's been amazing," Weaver said. "There were a handful of courses that I tried so hard to get onto, but it never worked out. But this year when I was approaching them with the Golf Channel Am Tour, they seemed a little more receptive."

The result is what Weaver calls a "rock-star lineup" of regional courses headlined by Harbour Town, Palmetto Dunes and Kiawah Island's Ocean Course.

The season begins Nov. 7 at Black Creek Golf Club, outside Savannah. Two other events are scheduled for 2015, with the meat of the schedule starting Jan. 9 at Kiawah.

"We have eight or nine courses this year that we never played in the five years that I've been down here," Weaver said. "It's almost like perfect timing. A new tour coming, new courses to play. There's a lot of excitement about the schedule and the courses that are working with us."

In all, half of the region's 18-event schedule will be contested in Beaufort County. Among those who previously had been tough gets, Weaver cited Dataw Island (scheduled for June 25) and Callawassie GC (July 9).

"Those are two we never had a chance to get on," he said. "For a schedule, I really can't complain about what we're throwing out this year."

The Golf Channel schedule also is sprinkled with several two-day "major" tournaments, featuring such renowned venues as TPC Sawgrass and Pinehurst No.2, along with current or former PGA Tour stops Innisbrook Resort, Trump International-Puerto Rico and Dove Mountain in Arizona.

"Guys really look at the opportunity to play on some of those PGA Tour-level courses," Weaver said, noting several players from his previous stop have voiced an interest in the new circuit.

"It wasn't even close," Weaver said. "It was like, 'Let's go. Let's do this.'"

To see the full schedule, go online to GCamtour.com and click on the schedule tab. Membership is $199 for the season, though a discounted rate of $129 is available until Dec. 31. Email Weaver (hiltonhead@gcamtour.com) for details.

GRAND CHAMPIONS TO AID FIRST TEE

Former Masters and Heritage champion Bob Goalby heads a group of seven "grand champions" coming to Wexford Plantation on Monday in support of The First Tee of the Lowcountry's annual fundraising tournament.

Long Cove Club's own Jim Ferree also will take part, along with former PGA Tour mainstays Don January, Lee Elder, Doug Sanders, Dow Finsterwald and Billy Maxwell. The event begins with a Grand Champions lunch, followed by an 18-hole outing.

The First Tee of the Lowcountry is nearing completion of its Golf Learning Center, a six-hole facility on Hilton Head Island behind the Boys & Girls Club. That center is scheduled to open next spring.

A handful of spots remain open for the fundraiser, which generates 25 percent of the chapter's annual operating budget. Entry is $500 per person. To inquire, contact Jim Magruder (jmagruder@aol.com) or Ken Campbell (kcampbell23@cinci.rr.com).

IJGA CAPTURES ACADEMY CUP CROWN

Paced by Lino Galdin and Linda Trockel, Team IJGA captured the Hurricane Tour's Academy Cup team title in its first year competing in the event for top junior golf academies.

Team IJGA carded a collective 594 to grab the first-day lead at Celebration GC outside Orlando, Fla., then went four shots better in the second round to win by 10 over the Gary Gilchrist Golf Academy.

Trockel finished third in the girls' top division, posting a total of 2-under-par 142, while Galdin tied for third in the boys' competition at 1-under 143.

Also representing Team IJGA were Colton Tanner, Shiso Go, Matej Malicek, Aniruddh Kedlaya, Ankita Kedlaya, Kanata Irei, Saptak Talwar and Haruka Shintani.

Galdin excelled again a few days later in winning the IJGT's Georgia Open at Savannah Quarters, using a pair of even-par 72s to claim a two-stroke victory. Hilton Head Island's Chase Phillips captured the boys' 14-and-under division; IJGA student Sera Tadokoro was second in the girls' competition.

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEKEND

Fripp Island's Ocean Point GC is the venue for the 18th S.C. Mixed Team Championship, as the duo of J.D. Hoft (Bluffton) and Sigrid Kueng (Hilton Head Island) seek to improve on last year's tie for second in the Championship division.

The field includes 12 tandems with at least one local entrant. Among them is Bluffton's David Crocker, who took second in the Senior division last year with partner Leigh Coulter (Hopkins), and Hilton Head Island's Karen Ferree.

In addition, the Hurricane Junior Golf Tour will be at Dolphin Head GC this weekend for its Lowcountry Junior Shootout.

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