HHIAGA still growing after 29 years

Oyster Reef

Association gives local golfers opportunity to meet, play top courses

By Lance Hanlin, lhanlin@golfersguide.com

The Hilton Head Island Amateur Golf Association was founded back in 1983 as a way to give amateur golfers on island and in the surrounding area a chance to meet fellow players, compete in tournaments and play some the best courses in the Lowcountry.

Twenty-nine years later, now 350 members strong, that original mission statement still rings true.

“We’re in a Mecca of golf,” HHIAGA director Bob Collar said. “There are so many good golf courses here. I just hate seeing people stay in their little confines. We all love golf. I would like to see everybody get to know everybody.”

The association is open to all full-time Beaufort County residents and property owners ages 18 and older. To ensure competitive play, tournaments are flighted and handicapped. There are also senior divisions.

Membership is $20 per year. The association is also a club affiliate of the South Carolina Golf Association. For $25 extra, you can keep your handicap through the association with GolfNet.

The HHIAGA already hosted its match play event at Old South Golf Links and its Four Ball Championship at Bear Creek Golf Club. Up next is the 1-Day Tournament on July 15 at Callawassie Island Club. Its premier event, the Amateur Championship, is set for July 21-22 at Oyster Reef Golf Club.

The winner of the event gets an exemption into the Players Amateur, a national event, the following year. Rob Simmons is the HHIAGA Amateur defending champion.

“There are a lot of good players on Hilton Head Island and in Beaufort County,” Simmons said. “It’s probably as good of a field as you will find in the Charleston area or the Greenville/Spartanburg area, if not better.”

Oyster Reef Golf Club, originally opened in 1982, was designed by Rees Jones and is located inside Hilton Head Plantation. The par-3 sixth hole is recognized as one of the most spectacular holes on Hilton Head. The three finishing holes are also a highlight.

The Amateur Championship is open to spectators, free of charge.

“Those last three finishing holes are really something,” Collar said. “We are going to have 80 to 100 (golfers) in there. If people want to sit up by 16, 17 or 18 and watch the final five threesomes, they are really going to see some great local talent.”

The HHIAGA will finish its 2012 schedule hosting an inaugural pro-am along with professional golfers on Oct. 29 at Oldfield Golf Club. Also in October, the top 12 golfers from the HHIAGA will face off against the top 12 players from the Hilton Head Island Professional Golf Association for the Honors Cup, a Hilton Head Island tradition since 1984.

The amateur team won the very first Honors Cup, only to see the professional squad win the next 23 years in a row. The amateurs have had a great resurgence as of late, winning the Cup in 2008, 2009 and 2010 but lost last year’s event by a point.

Collar is confident the amateur squad can rebound this year, thanks to several high-profile new members. Former professionals Todd Barranger, John Patterson and Kevin King have regained their amateur status and are now HHIAGA members.

Rob Simmons and Todd White are nationally ranked players, J.D. Hoft has national tournament experience and Jonathan Bartlett, winner of the 91st West Virginia Amateur, just moved here.

“We’ve got some sticks, buddy,” Collar said. “We could be competitive nationally with these guys.”

Still, Collar points out the HHIAGA is looking for golfers of all skill level.

“I’m looking for more 15, 14 and 13 handicappers because we’re flighted by handicap,” he said. “I want as many golfers as possible to come enjoy the courses and the comradery.”

What: HHIAGA Amateur Championship (local event)
When: July 21-22
Where: Oyster Reef Golf Club, Hilton Head Island
Admission: Free
More information: www.hhiaga.com


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