Holiday amateur golf in America took on
a new look last month, as two new events
debuted. Both have to be considered first-year successes, with a long run in front of
them if they build on their maiden efforts.
The first took place in Miami Beach the
week before Christmas. The South Beach
International Championship was conceived
and run by Jeff Hunt, formerly the executive director of the Dixie Amateur, long
a fixture of the holiday season. The host
golf course for the Dixie, Heron Bay, was
purchased by Canadian golf course operator ClubLink last year, and the future of the
Dixie was cloudy for awhile. Wanting to ensure that there was a top-ranked amateur
event in south Florida at that time of year,
Hunt partnered with the city of Miami and
built a new holiday event from scratch.
Reigning U.S. Amateur champion Kelly
Kraft, killing time until The Masters, took
the inaugural tournament, defeating a pair
of Frenchmen – Clement Sordet and Gary
Stal – by a shot. Kraft, who will turn pro
after making his Augusta debut, concluded
a memorable year that saw him take down
world No. 1 Patrick Cantlay in the finals
to claim the Amateur title in August at
Erin Hills in Wisconsin. He also won the
Trans-Miss Championship and the Texas
State Amateur and is now the fifth-ranked
amateur in the world.
Befitting its place as a global destina-
tion, the SBI had a very international field,
with 35 of the original 165-man field hailing
from outside the U.S. It was made up most-
ly of college players, but a dozen mid-ama-
teurs joined the fray. Hunt’s goal is to make
this one of the world’s top amateur events,
and player reaction during and after the
event suggests he is well on his way.
Afterward, the golf bags were auctioned
off with all proceeds designated for the
Folds of Honor Foundation, which provides
post-secondary educational scholarships
for children and spouses of military service
men and women killed or disabled while
serving our nation.
Alabama sophomore Cory Whitsett
slipped by his teammate and roommate
Bobby Wyatt to take the inaugural affair.
Whitsett, from Houston, shot a 5-under-par
66 in the final round after carding a 69 in
round one and a 64 in round two to finish
at 14-under 199, three better than Wyatt.
It was his second college win in as many
months, and bumped his World Amateur
Golf Ranking to 24th, up from 36th.
Whitsett’s bag featured Mark A.
Forester’s name on it. Forester, a University of Alabama graduate, was a senior airman with the U.S. Air Force. He was killed
at the age of 29 while conducting combat
operations with his Special Forces team in
Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan, on Sept.
According to Arizona Golf Association
Executive Director Ed Gowan, the tourna-
ment “exceeded all of our first year expec-
And why not? The weather was typically
ideal, and there is no other elite event on
the calendar to compete for players.
What was once a quiet time for competitive amateurs is no more. It’s nice to see
two new offerings in two different parts of
the country added to the docket.