The 34th edition of the tournament will again bring 3,000 players from across the globe to Myrtle Beach, and the camaraderie the event fosters is the tournament’s enduring legacy.
Nowhere is the lure of that bond more evident than among the World Am’s 132 international participants. Players will be descending on Myrtle Beach from six of the earth’s seven continents (when people play golf on Antarctica, we will target it) and more than 20 countries.
“I come for the people,” said South African Alastair Laing, who will be playing in his 13th event since 1999 and figures he has traveled more miles than anyone to compete in the World Am. Given that it’s over 8,100 miles each way from Johannesburg to Myrtle Beach, Laing has traveled more than 200,000 miles going to and from the tournament, making it hard to argue his point.
While the World Am has become an annual part of his calendar, Laing was an unlikely candidate to be a perennial player. A week prior to the 1999 event, Laing had never heard of the tournament, much less participated in it, but a friend asked him if he wanted to play golf in America.
On a whim, Laing replied in the affirmative and seven days later he was teeing it up in his first World Am, which didn’t lack for excitement. After a rare opening day rain out, he made a hole-in-one during his first tournament round, jump-starting his love affair with the event.
While Laing has never finished better than seventh in his flight, he almost had another, potentially more lucrative, ace. He qualified for the finals of the hole-in-one contest at the World’s Largest 19th Hole in 2013 and hit the flag on a shot that would’ve been worth $25,000 had it gone in the hole.
If the ball had the found the bottom of the cup, Alastair would’ve been thrilled, but the result of one shot never dictates the quality of his experience.
“I love the people, I love the tournament, I love the country,” Laing said.
One 2017 newcomer, traveling an even greater distance, hopes to enjoy a similar experience. Jameson Pias, a resident of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, won a trip to this year’s World Am at a tournament in Portugal, a development that astounded his friends.
“My golfing friends in Malaysia are in disbelief and awe-stricken when I tell them that I would be going to USA to play golf at the World Am,” Pias said. “This is the first time they have heard of this event.”