Moore Am Just Keeps Getting Better
Dick Wilson made an executive decision after the Moore County Men’s Amateur Championship last Sunday: It’s a rewarding experience to be involved with and it’s really nice to play in, but doing both is a little much.
Wilson may change his mind, of course. That’s always a prerogative. But winding up 18 holes on the demanding Little River Resort course and having to wade right into the statistical challenges of score posting and settling card playoffs and answering a million questions can be mind-numbing.
“I may not play next year,” he said. “It’s tough being involved with putting on the tournament and playing.”
If Wilson is going to give up one aspect of his involvement, hopefully it will be as a participant. He’s been a vital element in the success of the championship, which was almost dead on the vine a few years ago.
Wilson, along with golf equipment store owner Bob Burwell and real estate executive Bob Klug, came to the rescue of the tournament. They changed the format from match play to stroke play, sought out sponsors, initiated a relationship with The First Tee of the Sandhills, and opened play to golfers outside Moore County.
The result is a healthy, popular event that drew a full field of 103 players last weekend and spurred talk of going to a double shotgun start in the future.
“It’s been improving every year,” Wilson said, “and it’s satisfying to see. We’d really like to enlarge the field because part of the entry fee is used to benefit The First Tee. This year we’re going to be able to donate between $1,500 and $2,000.”
That’s sweet music to the ears of Burwell, who is one of the driving forces behind The First Tee’s successful program and devotes hours of volunteer work to the group each week.
“We had 125 players one year and used a double shotgun,” Wilson said. “That was our biggest ever, but each year we’re trying to expand a little more.”
Wilson begins promoting the tournament and seeking sponsors in March of each year.
“I have no idea of how many hours I spend on it,” he said. “We try to get some new sponsors each year, but we have a core group that there’s no question will give us donations we can use for gift bags and prizes.”
The first Moore Amateur I covered for The Pilot was match play and had eventual champion Wynn Solle and perennial contender Steve Lassiter dueling it out at Little River. It was an exciting finish, but the players and I were the only ones there.
Wilson recalls those years. “When it was match play, it dragged on for a couple of months,” he said, “and when it ended no one even knew who had won it.
“Bob (Burwell) and I got involved in 2006 and I suggested we model it after the Sanford Brick Capitol, a successful tournament that was held on the Sanford Municipal Course. We opened it up to out of county players and that gave us a boost, although we’ve never had more than 20 percent of non-Moore residents.
“Now we have a reputation of being a good tournament, and the word is spreading.”
Access to players by the Internet is also helping.
“We have a base of 300 players that we send email invitations to,” Wilson said.
Although the promotion of the tournament begins in March, most players wait until much later to send in their entries.
“We had only 55 entries 10 days before the tournament,” Wilson said, “then we had 50 more in the last days before the deadline.”
That makes it difficult to plan for a double shotgun field.
“We had to turn away some late entries,” Wilson said. “In fact, Sherrill Britt (a four-time champion) didn’t play because of that. Sherrill wanted to enter a foursome that could play together in the first round but we were committed to a morning shotgun start and just didn’t have room.”
Chances are that as word continues to spread, entries next year will demand the double shotgun. But if that’s the case, Dick Wilson is going to have to decide if he’ll be involved as a player or as a worker.
It’s tough being both.
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