Y’all should head south for summer vacation

By Tony Leodora, The Times Herald

Personally, this has always been the saddest holiday of the year. It began when days filled with baseballs and bats, reluctantly, were traded in for pencils and schoolbooks. Even the purchase of a new Lone Ranger lunch box could not brighten the spirts of a young lad who would rather be playing outdoors, instead of sitting in a schoolroom with his hands folded on the desk.

Not only has the summer vacation activities changed drastically over the years (mainly, golf clubs have replaced baseball bats) but so have the summer vacation venues.

Certainly, the Jersey Shore is still the most popular destination for all who live in the Greater Philadelphia area. And it always will be.

But, in recent years, a growing number of Philadelphia area vacationers have been looking to some other seaside destinations. Partly, it is because of the increased ease of travel. But mainly the shift has been driven by economics.

The price of home rentals at the Jersey Shore is among the highest in the nation, and continues to climb. A four-bedroom, four bath house within two blocks of the beach in Ocean City, NJ can cost in the neighborhood of $4,000 to $5,000 for a week.

Locals have been finding more economical rentals in places such as the Outer Banks in North Carolina or along the long stretch of beach locations near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. For the most part, a similar rental as the one mentioned above can be found for about half the Jersey price.

For the most part, North Carolina’s Outer Banks is strictly a drive-in vacation destination. It is about an eight-hour drive from the Philly area.

While many have taken advantage of the huge Outer Banks beach homes to bring the entire family together for a vacation, some are still waiting to explore this uncrowded and low-key area. For a good look at the area, check out the Traveling Golfer television show, hosted by yours truly. Go to www.travelinggolfervideo.com and click on the archived show that originally aired in August.

Myrtle Beach, on the other hand, has been a favorite destination of Philadelphians for years – but mostly for golf trips in the spring or fall. It is only recently that more locals are making the trip south for a summer beach vacation.

One reason is the inexpensive direct flight on both US Airways and Spirit Airlines out of Philadelphia. The trip takes little more than an hour.

Another reason is the ability to roll up a golf vacation and a family beach vacation into one, economical package. A little bit of early morning golf, then an afternoon on the beach and everyone is happy.

What people find is that the Philadelphia area has an amazingly significant footprint in the Myrtle Beach area.

It is safe to say that the huge golf business that drives much of the Myrtle Beach economy would be significantly less, if not for the vision of a Montgomery County native.

The late Jimmy D’Angelo – affectionately known as the Godfather of Golf in Myrtle Beach – was a native of Huntingdon Valley. He grew up in a family of 11 children on a farm, but gravitated to the world of golf.

He became head golf professional at the now-defunct Baederwood Club in Jenkintown. He rose through the ranks both locally and nationally, being elected to the position of secretary of the PGA of America. Then the call of adventure beckoned.

Renowned architect Robert Trent Jones was building a championship seaside course in Myrtle Beach. The Dunes Golf and Beach Club opened in 1948 – only the second course along the area known as The Grand Strand, which now is home to 100 courses. He wanted D’Angelo to migrate south and promote the new venture.

Always intrigued by a challenge, D’Angelo accepted, became pro at a course with only a handful of members, and started promoting locally. When growth took place slowly, he got a stroke of genius.

Knowing many of the great golf writers in the country, and knowing that many drove south past Myrtle Beach to cover The Masters every year, he convinced the Golf Writers Association of America to holds its annual championship at the Dunes Club on the weekend before The Masters. It was my introduction to Myrtle Beach, 30 years ago, and I have been returning three, four, five times a year ever since.

That original GWAA Championship was in 1953. Soon after, stories in Myrtle Beach started to appear in magazines and newspapers across America. In 1987 he personally presided over the opening of the 50th golf course in the Myrtle Beach area, Prestwick. At that event, he brashly predicted that Myrtle Beach would have 100 golf courses before the end of the century. There wasn’t a golf writer present who didn’t think the old pro was starting to get senile.

His prediction came true in 1997, three years early. Happily, he lived long enough to proudly witness it.

Since then, people with Philadelphia ties continue to have a huge hand in the success of Myrtle Beach.

Although a native of Connecticut, Bill Golden developed a fond attachment to the Philadelphia area as an undergraduate at Villanova University. He played on the golf team with Chet Walsh, a member of the most famous golf family from Philadelphia Country Club.

After graduation, he moved up through the ranks in the golf industry and for more than a decade has served as president of Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday, the huge marketing consortium that is the main engine behind Myrtle Beach’s golf industry. His loyalty to the Philadelphia area, and cultivating it as a prime market, has been a big part of the reason that so many of its residents view Myrtle Beach as their favorite vacation spot.

Also, one of the top Myrtle Beach golf course superintendents is a Philadelphia native. He is David Kingsland, who came out of Delaware County and also graduated from Villanova. For about 10 years he has been doing an outstanding job at Shaftesbury Glen Golf & Fish Club. Annually it is ranked as one of the best-conditioned golf courses in the area. Also, he is one of the few who has been able to successfully maintain bentgrass greens in South Carolina.

Arguably one of the most powerful golf professionals in Myrtle Beach also is a Delaware County native. Bob Seganti came to the twin properties of Caledonia and True Blue almost 20 years ago and has established himself as a leader in the area. He also operates Caledonia Golf Vacations, a packaging company that can take care of all of the needs for vacationers coming to his south end of the Myrtle Beach area.

Realizing the continually increasing stream of vacationers who have made their way from the City of Brotherly Love to The Grand Strand, it should come as no surprise to see Philadelphians becoming the movers and shakers in the Carolina Low Country. It is a refreshing trend.

But don’t expect it to completely overtake the region. There are still many more people who say, “Y’all” than ones who prefer the greeting, “Yo.”

Tony Leodora is president of TL Golf Services, host of the weekly GolfTalk Live radio show on WNTP 990-AM and host of the Traveling Golfer television show — as well as editor of GolfStyles magazine. He is former sports editor of The Times Herald. Send comments to tlgolfservices@aol.com.

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