Hilton Head Open gives local golfers a chance to play Arnold Palmer’s latest design

WexfordBy Lance Hanlin, lhanlin@golfersguide.com

Arnold Palmer helped put Hilton Head Island golf on the map back in 1969. By winning the first Heritage Classic at brand-new Harbour Town Golf Links, “The King” brought nationwide attention and credibility to the local scene.


Palmer returned to Hilton Head last year to unveil his latest contribution to Lowcountry golf – his signature course at Wexford Plantation.

The Arnold Palmer Design Company stylishly renovated the original layout of Willard Byrd, repositioning tee complexes, eliminating a number of bunkers, removing trees to widen some fairways and upgrading all of the greens.

“We hope the strategy, options and variety of play challenge your intellect and your personal game,” Palmer told a large collection of onlookers during a private grand reopening on Oct. 20, a day Hilton Head Island mayor Drew Laughlin dubbed, “Arnold Palmer Day.”

This month, the top amateur and professional golfers from Hilton Head Island and the surrounding area will get a chance to play Palmer’s course when Wexford Plantation hosts the 38th annual Hilton Head Open. The 36-hole individual medal play tournament is set for Aug. 4-5.

“(The Hilton Head Open) absolutely draws the best golfers from the area,” first-year tournament director Tom Logue said. “With the new renovation that happened, I think everybody is looking forward to playing it.”

Course architects put an emphasis on classic design, turning back the clock with smaller greens and bunkers. They also produced modern interpretations of several classic designs, such as the Road Hole green, the Redan hole, the Alps hole and the Biarritz green. 

“(Wexford) allowed us to put in some greens that have a little more slope than we would normally do,” lead designer Brandon Johnson said. “There’s no way you can build a Biarritz green with a six-inch swale in the middle. There are some considerable undulations out there. I think that makes it very fun and it keeps the course interesting for members who play it day-to-day.”

A premium is placed on playing the correct side of the fairway. The par 4 first hole is a textbook example. A fairway bunker on the right directs the correct path. Landing on the left side will result in a poor angle to the green, especially on a left pin. The same type of thing happens on the par 5 eighth hole. A drive down the left side opens up the green.

Just watch out for cross bunkers in the second and third landing areas.

Thanks to its exclusivity, less than 40 rounds are played on the course each day. Director of golf Scott Hunter says feedback from his members has been positive.

“People like the new course much better than the old one,” Hunter said. “The old course was tight and extremely penalizing, especially off the tee. It was kind of long and boring. Now it’s much more user-friendly. It’s more pleasing to the eye and has some very unique characteristics.”

Hunter will have home-course advantage in this year’s Hilton Head Open. He won the tournament in 2005 and 2006 and is the only back-to-back champion in the 37 years of the event.

Another favorite in the field is David Rogers out of Secession Golf Club. The 2011 HHIPGA Player of the Year has been dominant this year since switching back to his old putter, winning the chapter’s One Day Assistants Championship and Professionals Championship.

“I just need to do what I know I can do – drive the ball straight, hit my iron well and make my share of putts,” Roger said. “The main thing I have to do is have fun. The results will take care of themselves.”

Other contenders are Colleton River’s Matt Lucchesi, Cherokee Plantation’s Mark Tomedolskey, Oldfield’s Doyle Ricks and Old South’s Pete Popovich.

“It’s the strongest field of the year simply because you have the biggest field that includes amateurs and professionals,” Popovich said.

The professional purse is expected to be around $6,000. Amateurs will compete for Wexford gift certificates.
Last year’s champion, Jordan Pomeranz, will not be back to defend his title. The former caddie at May River Golf Club is currently earning his stripes on the eGolf Tour.  

WHAT: The 38th annual Hilton Head Open golf tournament (local event)
WHEN/WHERE: Aug. 4-5, Wexford Plantation, Hilton Head Island
SCHEDULE: First round, Aug. 4, 8 a.m.; second round, Aug. 5, 8 a.m.
MORE INFORMATION: www.hhipga.com

(Year, Champion, Tournament Site)
2011, Jordan Pomaranz, Hampton Hall
2010, Mark Tomedolskey, Wexford
2009, Colby Wilson, Hampton Hall
2008, Adam Lescalleet, Palmetto Hall
2007, Keith Bach, Hampton Hall
2006, Scott Hunter, Hampton Hall
2005, Scott Hunter, Hampton Hall
2004, Clink Avret, Port Royal
2003, Koll Farman, Port Royal
2002, Eric Kennedy, Palmetto Hall
2001, Don Taylor, Palmetto Hall
2000, Clint Avery, Palmetto Hall
1999, Kevin Hodes, Indigo Run
1998, Tom Iredell, Indigo Run
1997, Kevin King, Indigo Run
1996, Jason Vance, Indigo Run
1995, Terry Lanning, Indigo Run
1994, Bob Boyd, Indigo Run
1993, Drew Butler, Indigo Run
1992, Bob Boyd, Hampton Hall
1991, Gary Duren, Shipyard
1990, Eric Landfried, Hilton Head National
1989, John Richardson, Palmetto Dunes
1988, Doug Vinsett, Wexford
1987, Eric Landfield, Moss Creek
1986, Ron Cerrudo, CC of Hilton Head
1985, Gary Duren, Shipyard
1984, Chip Pellewrin, Port Royal
1983, Drew Butler, Oyster Reef
1982, Ron Cerrudo, Sea Pines
1981, Danny Gourley, Moss Creek
1980, Gary Duren, Palmetto Dunes
1979, Joey Kaney, Port Royal
1978, Check Matlack, Dolphin Head
1977, Blake Watt, Moss Creek
1976, Doug Schreyer, Moss Creek
1975, Bill Smunk, Shipyard

The 38th annual Hilton Head Open is set for Aug. 4-5 at Wexford Plantation. Here are four golfers to watch:
Name: Matt Lucchesi
Club: Colleton River Plantation Club
Height: 5-11
Weight: 180
Birthday: July 22, 1971
College: Middle Tennessee State University
Turned Pro: 1995
Birthplace: Cumberland, R.I.
Residence: Bluffton
Amateur Highlights: Participant in Northeast Amatuer, Monroe Invitational, Western Amateur
Professional Highlights: 1996 NGA Hooters Tour member, 2002 South Florida Section Assistant Apprentice Champion, 2006 South Florida PGA Chapter Pro-Assistant Champion, 2010 Hilton Head PGA Chapter Match Play Champion
Quotable: “I am looking forward to playing Wexford. I expect it to play difficult as I have heard the course has become more demanding since the renovation. … I anticipate the (Hilton Head Open) field to be strong. We have some great players in the area both amateur and professional.”

Name:Pete Popovich
Club:Golf Performance Academy at Old South Golf Links
Birthday: Oct. 2, 1972
College: Ferris State University
Turned Pro:1996
Birthplace: Chicago
Residence: Bluffton
Amateur Highlights: Various smaller regional events
Professional Highlights: 2001 HHIPGA Match Play champion, numerous top finishes in area events, Carolinas Section events and mini tours.
Quotable: “I think it’s a great course that will produce a worthy champion. … With the new greens and more pin placements, it can be set up like a U.S. Open and even par could win. If it’s set up a bit more generous, under par will be the winning score.”

Name: David Rogers    
Club: Secession Golf Club
Height: 5-11
Weight: 178
Birthday: Oct. 16, 1984
College: Spartanburg Methodist College/ San Diego Golf Academy
Turned Pro: 2007
Birthplace: Spartanburg
Residence: Bluffton
Professional Highlights: 2010 North Carolina Open Champion, 2010 Hilton Head Open- 3rd Place, 2010 HHIPGA Professionals Champion, 2010 HHIPGA Honors Cup Member, 2010 HHIPGA Player of the Year, 2011 South Carolina Open- 5th Place, 2011 Hilton Head Open- 2nd Place, 2011 HHIPGA Professionals Champion, 2011 HHIPGA One Day Assistants Champion, 2011 HHIPGA Assistants Championship- Champion, 2011 HHIPGA Honors Cup Member, 2011 HHIPGA Player of the Year, 2012 HHIPGA One Day Assistants Champion, 2012 HHIPGA Professionals Champion; 2011 US Open local qualifier – 2nd
Quotable: “I feel it’s a pretty big tournament because it’s the only ‘open’ event that we have here in the area where anyone can play. Also, it has been popular for years and the HHIPGA and the HHIAGA do an outstanding job coordinating this tournament.”

Name: Jeff Wong
Club: Pinecrest
Height: 5-9
Weight: 175
Birthday: March 31, 1975
College: Utah State University
Turn Pro: N/A (still amateur)
Birthplace: Jerome, Idaho
Residence: Bluffton
Amateur Highlights: 2010 Hilton Head Amateur  - 2nd, 2010 Hilton Head Open Amateur Champion; 2010 State Mid-Am – T11, 2011 HHIAGA Match Play Champion, 2011 HHIAGA Fourball Champion; 2011 State Mid-Am, T11
Quotable: “Wexford’s course won’t give up a lot of birdies. Steady play and good ball striking will give any player the chance to compete. You can’t force or overpower this course and you have to take advantage of opportunities when they are presented to you. Also, it never hurts to have a hot putter!”

When remodeling the golf course at Wexford Plantation, the Arnold Palmer Design Company was inspired by many of the world’s most famous golf holes. The ninth green resembles No. 10 at Riviera. The 15th green mirrors the 13th at Augusta National. Here is a look at four other holes and the inspiration behind them.

Hole 12
Par: 4
Yardage: Black 441, blue 430, white 410, gold 352, red 305, green 281
Inspired by: Hole 17; Old Course; St. Andrews, Scotland
The skinny: The 12th is Arnold Palmer Design Company’s play on the famous Road Hole green (without the actual road behind it). It features a similar angle and is protected by a round thumbprint bunker. It’s tough to reach in two.

Hole 13
Par: 3
Yardage: Black 200, blue 176, white 155, gold 143, red 115, green 108
Inspired by: Hole 15; West Links; North Berwick, Scotland
The skinny: The 13th is a modern interpretation of the famous Redan hole. The green is wider than it is deep and angles diagonally away from the tee box, right to left. Like the original, Wexford’s Redan-style hole also has a deep bunker fronting the left portion of the green.

Hole 14
Par: 4
Yardage: Black 382, blue 377, white 355, gold 331, red 312, green 280
Inspired by: Hole 17; Prestwick Golf Club; Ayrshire, Scotland
The skinny: The 14th is a Lowcountry interpretation of the famous Alps hole. There is a raised bunker formation in the middle of the fairway. Carry a cross bunker to the left and you have an open view of the green. Bail out to the right and you are caught blind. 

Hole 16
Par: 4
Yardage: Black 415, blue 391, white 372, gold 331, red 277, green 263
Inspired by: Hole 3; Le Phare Course; Biarritz, France
The skinny: The 16th is the design company’s interpretation of the famous Biarritz green, with a deep gully bisecting its middle. Just hope your ball and the pin are not located on opposite sides of the swale. No bunkers surround the green.


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