By Scott Kramer
Come Nov. 4, the latest installment of The McGladrey Classic—a longtime dream of Sea Island resident and PGA TOUR professional Davis Love III—returns to Sea Island’s Seaside Course. The tournament, held annually at the course since 2010, blends world-class golf, intense competition, entertainment and charity for a weeklong spectacular.
The PGA TOUR approached Love and Sea Island in the fall of 2009 with an opportunity for them to host a sponsored tournament. As it happens, Davis and his wife, Robin, had been looking for a way to raise funds for the Davis Love Foundation, which supports both national and community-based programs for children and their families, such as the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southeast Georgia.
It all came together in 2010, as The McGladrey Classic was born with the Davis Love Foundation serving as the host organization that owns and operates the event. McGladrey, the fifth largest U.S. provider of assurance, tax and consulting services, signed a contract to be the tournament’s title sponsor; the partnership has since been extended through 2015.
As Love predicted, having Sea Island’s Seaside Course as the event’s venue was the perfect decision; over time, it has exceeded expectations. “Not only is Seaside an amazing course to play, it has breathtaking views around every turn,” Love explains. “I grew up playing this course; it’s where I call home. It was an easy choice to bring the PGA TOUR here.”
Others have echoed Love’s sentiments; the ocean views and natural charm of the course have made it a hit among tour pros who have competed in the classic. “Last time I played, it was cool to have a home tournament,” says Harris English. “We travel all over the world so much, and it’s a lot of fun having an event less than a mile from where I live. I get a lot of friends and family to come out and watch, and that makes me feel even more at home. I’ve played Seaside since I was a little kid.”
Highlights over The McGladrey Classic’s short history have been abundant, and the finishes have been nothing short of exhilarating. This year brings heightened excitement, as The McGladrey Classic’s winner will receive coveted FedExCup points and an automatic buy-in to the Masters, making the competition more fierce than ever before. Heath Slocum won the inaugural edition of the event, with an exciting one-stroke victory over Bill Haas that culminated when he dropped a 60-foot birdie putt on the 16th hole. Things got even tighter the second year, when Ben Crane went on a back-nine birdie run to force a playoff with Webb Simpson. Eventually, Crane emerged victorious on the second playoff hole. Last year, Love was in the last group on Sunday, but Tommy Gainey shot a course record 60 in the final round to capture the tournament.
By PGA TOUR standards, the ocean-flanking Seaside Course is not particularly long at 7,050 yards. It is, however, very challenging. Legendary English architects Charles Colt and Hugh Alison originally constructed it as a nine-hole course in 1929. In 1973, Joe Lee designed the additional Marshside nine. Then, renowned course architect Tom Fazio transformed the nines into the current layout in 1999. GolfWeek ranks Seaside Course in its list of Top 100 Resort Courses.
The course is built around marshland, and golfers can see the Atlantic from many of the layout’s unique vantage points. The grass conditions are typically immaculate, as is to be expected from a top-rated course.
“The course is not overly long, but there is a premium in hitting fairways and greens,” comments Scott Reid, the tournament director of The McGladrey Classic. “It’s very easy to short-side yourself when missing the greens on Seaside, making it hard to get up and down. Typically the wind is one of the best defenses for Seaside, but in the first three years of the tournament, we really haven’t had a day of difficult wind.”
Regardless of who captures the trophy, the true winners of The McGladrey Classic are the organizations benefiting from The Davis Love Foundation. The McGladrey Classic has raised $900,000 for charity since 2010. “The ambitious mission of the Davis Love Foundation is to help build a better future for vulnerable children and their families who are at risk of poor educational, economic, social and health outcomes,” Reid says. “This year, organizations that will benefit from the event include the Special Olympics, Boys & Girls Clubs of Southeast Georgia and a number of other local charities that focus on the well-being of children and families.”
The Davis Love Foundation has also announced the 2013 Birdies Fore Love program that benefits a wide range of children and family charities—after a successful launch last year that raised $16,000-plus for 23 charities. Participating charities invite supporters to make a pledge for every birdie made during the four rounds of The McGladrey Classic. This year, there are 37 participating charities.
Fundraising events related to The McGladrey Classic go above and beyond the official tournament, during the weeklong festivities. There’s a youth day, two pro-ams, the Wiffle Ball Classic with tour pros and their wives, and in 2011, the tournament started a tradition of staging a community concert event on the Wednesday night before the tournament gets under way. Darius Rucker performed at the inaugural concert. This year’s act is country superstar Toby Keith. Proceeds from each of these events go toward the Davis Love Foundation.
“There are so many great events going on tournament week, from barbecue cook-offs and oyster roasts to our Live Under the Oaks concert on Wednesday night,” Love says. “I think my favorite part is being able to welcome my friends and competitors to the place I call home, and show them the amazing Southern hospitality that the Golden Isles has to offer.”
In its first three years, the tournament has attracted spirited galleries. There were 19,400 attendees in 2010, 23,400 in 2011, and 25,700 last year. This year, the crowd can expect to watch for the likes of Davis Love III, Zach Johnson, Jonathan Byrd, Matt Kuchar, Lucas Glover, Jim Furyk and Webb Simpson compete for The McGladrey Classic trophy.
Visit mcgladreyclassic.com for details.
Sea Island’s Golf Learning Center is well known in golf circles for its top-notch instruction, state-of-the-art technology and, of course, phenomenal practice resources. So it’s not uncommon to see PGA TOUR pros come in for help with their swing, an equipment tuneup or just to practice their game.
While the Golf Learning Center is not open during The McGladrey Classic, some of its students may be playing in the tournament. Players like Davis Love III, Brandt Snedeker, Charles Howell III, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Lucas Glover and Jonathan Byrd have sought to better their game from the staff, which is led by Golf Learning Center Director of Instruction Todd Anderson.
“I’ve kind of taught a little bit of everything to tour pros, including the full swing, the short game and putting,” Anderson says. “And there are always some mental parts involved. I don’t think you can teach golf without touching the mental side of the game a little bit, such as how to approach shots and how they should be thinking. … I basically teach all aspects of the game.”
Despite being among the best in the world, these tour pros don’t cease trying to become even better, and Anderson’s keen eye for swing mechanics and communication help them achieve their goals.
“From a teaching standpoint, I’m trying to give them awareness of what they need to do to be successful as a player … help them understand who they are as a player and what they need to do to improve in the various parts of their game,” Anderson says. “Over the years, the players I worked with come back and tell me that they still do a drill or work on something we worked on when they were students here. Hopefully we made some kind of an impact on them that they applied to their game in the long term.”
PGA TOUR pro Harris English is a huge fan of the facility. “I have worked with them for a couple of years now, and have learned a lot,” English says. “Plus, they have everything there you could ever want as a golfer. There is [equipment to] simulate every hitting situation. There are so many good chipping greens and putting greens, too. It is truly unlike any other practice facility I have ever been to.”