NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – Over 140 collegiate golfers hit the green at the Barefoot Resort in North Myrtle Beach for the Barefoot at the Beach Collegiate Women's Golf Tournament. The tournament is actually organized and sponsored by the Lowcountry's College of Charleston. This is the first year that the tournament has been held at Barefoot in the North Strand, but it stands as a testament to growing sports tourism in the greater Myrtle Beach area.
"It helps expose Myrtle Beach to people who wouldn't have exposure to it," said Lew Gach, a golf official and Dean of Golf Academy of America. "We have a lot of visitors and a lot of spectators as well. It gives them an opportunity to play Myrtle Beach and hopefully they'll come back."
Speaking to parents, coaches, and fans along the fairway, it appears that Gach's analysis is true. Dave Gerry and his wife traveled all the way from Wisconsin to watch their daughter, Jesse, compete. It was their first time to the Carolina coast, but they like what they saw.
"I think it's the kind of place where people would be very comfortable. It would be fun to come back," Gerry said. "I hope I get to come back again soon."
Sports tourism has played a greatly increasing role in the hospitality industry here in the Grand Strand. With dozens of recent sporting events being held here in the Grand Strand, like the Big South Conference recently held at CCU. It's a niche that many in the Grand Strand would like to see tapped more often.
"There's a huge potential here," said Rich Bartram, Barefoot Resort golf pro. "We'd love to see more interest in the years to come.