Championship Recap

by Chad Flowers

 Jun 13, 2018 at 8:35 PM

In 2018, McConnell Golf hosted four notable events that gave others from around the region, and even around the world, the chance to compete on some of our best tracks.

Atlantic Coast Conference

Old North State Club on Badin Lake in New London, NC once again hosted the Atlantic Coast Conference Men’s Golf Championship in late April. Warm breezes from across the lake graced the fairways as some of the best amateur golfers in the country attacked the Tom Fazio layout.

While the finish was down to the wire with Clemson, Wake Forest, and Virginia shooting low final round scores, Georgia Tech continued its domination of the ACC Championship with a 29-under 835 over three days to claim its ninth title in the last 13 years. This year’s title was also the 17th in program history for the Yellow Jackets.

“It’s a great conference with all these teams that are ranked, so any time you win here it means a lot, and this year is no different,” said Georgia Tech coach Bruce Heppler. “We knew that Clemson would come charging up the leaderboard, they always do. It got close and exciting, and this place brings that out. We’re just happy to walk away on top this time.”

U.S. Open Championship Qualifier
Holston Hills Country Club in Knoxville, Tennessee was proud to again host the local qualifying of the U.S. Open Championship in May. A total of 78 players from all across the U.S. and other countries played for fi ve open spots into the sectional qualifier. Perfect weather, pristine course conditions, and a strong field led to low scoring on the famed Donald Ross design. Sebastian Vazquez of Mexico took medalist honors with a round of 63 while four other players had 66 or better to fi ll out the fi ve available qualifying spots.

“Holston Hills has played host to this local qualifier for many years,” said Director of Golf Chris Dibble. “Our course is always a player favorite, and we enjoy having all of the different players here each year.” Tour's Rex Hospital Open

Moving from the amateur ranks to the professionals, the annual Rex Hospital Open returned to Raleigh’s TPC Wakefield Plantation at the end of May. The Hale Irwin designed, 18-hole championship golf course proved once again to be a great test for some of the up-and-coming professionals on the Tour. Joey Garber of Petoskey, Michigan, and a Georgia alumni, persevered with a one stroke, 18-under victory. Coming in at a tie for second at 17-under were Hank Lebioda and Scott Langley. Of local interest, Albin Choi, a former player at NC State, and Cameron Percy, a resident of Wakefield Plantation and McConnell Golf member, each finished tied for sixth at 15 under par.

“The Rex Hospital Open has become a mainstay at Wakefield, and our members and staff alike look forward to it each year,” according to Wakefield Club Manager Michael Thomas. “This event has raised some $9 million for patients, programs, and services at UNC Rex Healthcare over the past 31 years.”

American Junior Golf Association

In June, the AJGA Tournament in Greensboro was played at the Sedgefield Pete Dye Course and has been newly rebranded as the Wyndham Invitational presented by BB&T. If that sounds familiar, it is because the same title and presenting sponsors are also on-board for the annual PGA Tour stop, Wyndham Championship, in Greensboro at McConnell Golf’s Sedgefield Ross course in August.

A week of great golf culminated as Karl Vilips, the No. 1 junior golfer in the Rolex AJGA rankings, blistered the Dye course for a 10-under 270 over the four days. During his third round, Vilips birdied the 18th hole to tie the competitive course record of 8-under 62. Vilips now has five AJGA victories and his is a name we should all remember There’s no doubt he will be playing professional golf soon.

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Mastering the Mental Game

by Lauren Thedieck

 Jun 10, 2018 at 3:43 AM

How? Through wellness.

Understanding who you are and what you want to achieve is the key to success. But what keeps that key in the ignition and the car in “drive” might be something you’ve never considered. The answer is wellness. While wellness is an all-encompassing term, let’s hone in on mental toughness.

In sports, some might notice their anger flares when they play, a visible sign of loss of mental control. Others have negative thoughts or expectations that can bring their level of play down. Here are four tips to stay focused on the golf course, tennis court, and even in the workplace.


Mindful meditation can be done anywhere: laying down, sitting in a chair, or walking around the block. It’s a process that teaches us to respond more effectively to negative situations that we face in a sport or in daily life. Through meditation, we don’t seek to change or correct negative mental experiences; instead, we learn to accept whatever is going on in our minds and refocus our attention on the task in hand. Taking this practice into the sports arena results in an athlete’s increased ability to function “in the zone” by sharpening concentration, accuracy, and precision.

Goals on Paper

When you were young, you were probably told to write your goals down and keep them where you could see them every day. The same is true for you today. Keep goals visible to stay motivated and to push yourself.

“Setting goals helps us grow and expand, pushing ourselves to transform in ways that we never imagined,” said Tony Robbins, a prominent figure in leadership psychology. Understanding your heartfelt desires, and affirming you can attain them, is a beneficial tool to staying positive and determined.

Diet and Exercise for the Mind

It’s also helpful to write down your unhealthy mental habits. As Amy Morin, best selling author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do states, “Mental strength is a lot like physical strength. If you want to be physically strong, you need to go to the gym and lift weights. Mental strength is the same. If you want to be mentally strong, you need good habits like practicing gratitude. But you also have to give up bad habits,like destructive beliefs about yourself and others.”

Letting go of these inhibitors gives you control over your outlook and athletic potential.

Establishing Potential 

Focusing on your mental game will help drown out mental noise. You have control over every shot placement, which club to use, and what strategy to follow. Once you break your concentration and become consumed with things that you can’t control, you reduce your chances of playing your best.

So, how can you start the round off on the right foot? Create a simple routine. Stretch, meditate, practice on the range, eat a healthy meal — whatever it is, find your routine and stick to it.

As psychologist Jim Taylor wrote for Psychology Today, “Routines enable athletes to be completely physically, technically, tactically, and mentally ready to perform their best. I don’t know a world-class athlete in any sport who does not use routines in part of his or her competitive preparations.”

One of my tennis coaches at NC State would always say, “Practice each day like it is a match. On game day, you focus a little bit more and you prepare a little bit better.”

Make this part of your mental routine each day you are on the course and court.

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The Golf Whisperer

by John Maginnes

 Jun 06, 2018 at 3:59 AM

One of the game’s great voices reflects on the past
and looks ahead to a new challenge.

Roger Maltbie turned 67 years olf this summer — and he’s still going strong. He amassed five wins during his PGA Tour career, but Maltbie’s leaving his mark in the broadcasting world as an on-course analyst for NBC Sports. His comfortable style of walking the fairways has endeared “Rog” to golf fans across the world. I caught up with Maltbie during his break from PGA Tour coverage.

John Maginnes: What do you remember about Sedgefield and the old GGO?

Roger Maltbie: Well, I’ve played it with friends since and love the golf course. Going all the way back to the mid 70s, I don’t remember much. I remember that it was cold. Maybe Greensboro in March or early April wasn’t such a great idea. August makes a lot more sense, and the golf course looks great during the tournament.

JM: Tell us about the core group at NBC that you’ve worked with for so long.

RM: We’re getting a little long in the tooth there, pal. We’ve been together a long time. This is my 27th year, Johnny Miller’s 29th year, and Mark Rolfing was there before me. Gary Koch has been there since 1997. Dan Hicks has been in the booth since 1993. And of course, the rookies are Peter Jacobsen, Notah Begay, and Jim “Bones” Mackay.

JM: How has it been working with Bones, Phil Mickelson’s former longtime caddie?

RM: We did an experiment at Sea Island with Bones and John Wood, who caddies for Matt Kuchar. I took them out on the course and showed them how to do this job — this is where you stand, this is what you do. Bones is a quick learner and he does a good job. A caddie really does offer a different perspective. We ask him, “What would you tell a guy, what would your advice be?” It’s been a nice fit.

JM: And inevitably, we have a little more insight into Phil Mickelson’s thinking.

RM: Really, who looks at life or golf like Phil? How do I say this with the utmost respect — you can call Phil a lot of things, but you can’t call him doubtful. Phil’s confidence is his greatest asset, whether the rest of the world follows along or not.

JM: What have you made of the return of Tiger?

RM: It’s great that he’s healthy again. Whether he catches Jack or not almost doesn’t matter. Who knows? But it’s a shame to see someone get robbed of the opportunity because of a physical problem. Now he seems to have that cured and he can go after it hard, so now we might get to see if he can do it, but that is going to be the burden for him.

JM: For a long time, the flagship event for NBC was the US Open. How hard is it for you to watch someone else do the event?

RM: It was a business decision. We understand that money
talks and everything else walks, and that’s fine. We were out bid, so the USGA took their TV affiliation to a different place. Do I miss it? Yeah, I miss it. It’s our national championship, and certainly our first major. What I do is great fun. But there is some golf that is more meaningful, and we are talking about the US Open. To have those opportunities to cover the events was special. They are special events. They were special when we played, and special when we broadcast. So yeah, it’s a little painful to watch sometimes.

JM: As part of the shuffle of television contracts, NBC now does the Open Championship. What is that like?

RM: It’s different for me, because I only played in the British Open twice. Back then, we called it the British Open, but now it’s the Open Championship. Both times I played in it were at Turnberry, so I’m learning courses like Carnoustie for the first time, which is fun. [He pauses and smiles.] And it’s the next time that I work.

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Road Trip

by Mike Purkey

 Jun 02, 2018 at 8:55 PM

How an unassuming oyster shack inspired two trips to play several McConnell properties — and more to come.

The creator of the Sunny Side Turnaround is a CPA whose organizational skills calculated the excursion down to the dollar, mile, and hour. But in the end, it all started because Kent McLamb just wanted some oysters. The desire for a seafood run morphed into a golf trip, and it was the brainchild of McLamb, the chief deputy at the N.C. Office of the State Auditor and a member of Raleigh Country Club. His job often took him to Elizabeth City, N.C., and during those trips, he’d drive past Sunny Side Oyster Bar in Williamston, N.C. The restaurant is a simple clap-board building yet an iconic local spot. But McLamb never stopped, and he was determined to remedy that.

“If you didn’t know about it, you wouldn’t pull in the parking lot,” says Sam Sparks, a member at TPC Wakefield Plantation and part of the first official Sunny Side Turnaround.

“Most people, when they take a McConnell trip, go to Asheville and Knoxville,” says McLamb. “But I was looking at Brook Valley in Greenville, and wondered what would make it a worthwhile trip besides just driving to Greenville, playing golf, and coming back. Then I saw Williamston on the map.”

The plan was to play TPC Wakefield on Friday afternoon, drive 95 miles on U.S. 64 East to Sunny Side, have dinner, stay in Williamston, and drive 40 minutes to Brook Valley for a mid-morning Saturday tee time. After the round, they’d drive back to Raleigh and be home mid-afternoon.

Before he sprung this idea on anyone else, McLamb and his brother, Donnie, went on a test run last November. Declaring the trip a success, the two brothers were joined by Sparks and Kent’s brother-in-law, Gale Adams, in late April for the official Sunny Side Turnaround.

Golf was certainly a big part of the trip, but the destination of emphasis was the Sunny Side. “If you’re looking for a white table cloth kind of place, it probably wouldn’t be your speed,” says McLamb.

The Sunny Side Oyster Bar has been serving fresh seafood in eastern N.C. since 1935. It’s only open in months with an “r,” which means it opens for the season in September and closes at the end of the following April, mainly with an hour or more wait on the weekends.

Oysters are the main attraction and are served only two ways: steamed or raw. They’re accompanied by Sunny Side’s secret hot sauce. Shrimp, scallops, and crab legs make up the rest of the menu. And if you insist on something green, you can get broccoli with cheese sauce. That’s it.

“At most seafood restaurants, you could get a hush puppy or cole slaw,” says Sparks. “Not at the Sunny Side. The food was great and we had the best time. We’ll be doing that again.”

They returned to Raleigh at about 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, as calculated. “You feel like you’ve had a full weekend, but you still have a lot of your Saturday and all day Sunday to do whatever you want for the rest of the weekend,” says McLamb

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It's Chase with the ace!

by Casey Griffith

 Apr 05, 2018 at 3:22 PM

The pros, trainers, and coaches of McConnell Golf love nothing more than to foster and celebrate member successes. In this spirit, we’re launching the #MCGkudos campaign. You’ll see it used by our clubs throughout the year to initiate a round of well-deserved congratulations across the sister properties.


Meet 10-year-old Chase Duncan.

He recently shot his first hole-in-one at TPC Wakefield Plantation, acing hole No. 7 while playing with his father. He is the youngest McConnell Golf member to do so at any property.

“My Dad shot the yardage at 90 and he said maybe an 8 iron,” says Chase. “I said, ‘I think it’s a 9.’ I was right. When I saw it go in, we both yelled and were excited.”

For his father, Jon Duncan, it was both a proud and humbling moment.

“Anything that your child accomplishes that makes them truly excited is always a blessing to watch in person,” he says. “Then when they remind you that you have never accomplished that same thing, you realize that a 10-year-old is better at golf then you.”

Prior to his hole-in-one, Chase was named the 2017 Junior of the Year at WP. He started playing when he was four years old; now, he’s a strong member of the 2017 PGA Junior League squad. Last year, he won the Junior Club Championship Nine & Under Division with a solid round of 39, seven strokes better than his nearest competitor.

This past summer, Chase teamed up with his Dad to post a stellar score of 37 and claim a Modified Pinehurst Parent-Child event at WP. Needless to say, the father-son duo have a lot of golf ahead of them. We’re certain there’s an ace out there for Dad in the future!

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The Future is Bright

by John Maginnes

 Mar 20, 2018 at 4:00 PM

Harold Varner III on his North Carolina roots and promising future.

Harold Varner III is enjoying his third full season on the PGA Tour, and he’s one of the few PGA Tour players who looks like he’s actually having fun on the golf course. During his time at East Carolina University, he was the first Pirate to be named Conference USA Player of the Year — and his progress has been steady since. I caught up with Harold in Palm Springs, CA, shortly before the Career Builder Challenge. We did not delight in the fact that we were there on a 75-degree day, while North Carolina was under a blanket of snow. (At least, we tried not to.) Perhaps as much as any in the golf world, Harold appreciates his good fortune, because it came as a result of hard work.

Maginnes: When did you know that you could compete with the best players in the game?

Varner: I had an idea in college because I had a great junior year and started beating most of the best players. Obviously you have to be on top of your game, but I never really doubted myself.

Maginnes: When you were a kid, the Wells Fargo Championship came to Charlotte, and there was the Wyndham as well. Did you attend?

Varner: Definitely. I remember it vividly. We went to the old Wachovia [now Wells Fargo] in all kinds of weather. Especially when Tiger was playing every year, obviously being my favorite player. I love playing in them. Last year being in contention in Greensboro brought out a lot of ECU fans, and my sister lives in Greensboro, so that was a really cool week.

Maginnes: You didn’t play in the Tiger Woods era, but maybe that era isn’t quite over. What are you expecting from Tiger in his latest comeback?

Varner: I don’t want to put too many expectations out there for him. I just want him to play a full season healthy. It’s crazy how important that is now. I personally can’t imagine not being able to play golf even if it wasn’t out here on the PGA Tour. So just to be able to play and have his body hold up would be great.

Maginnes: You have the jump man hat on and the MJ shoes. How did you meet Michael Jordan?

Varner: I was asked to play in the HoopTee, which is the charity event run by the Hornets. Fred Whitfield is someone that I got to know and he put in a good word for me, and it’s just a great opportunity to work with the brand. Being from North Carolina and being associated with one of the greatest names in sports is pretty cool. And the shoes and clothes are awesome.

Maginnes: Twenty years from now, when your career is winding down, what do you want your legacy to be?

Varner: I want to have made the world a better place. There is too much money and opportunity out here not to affect change. I have this tremendous stage to have my voice heard, so I don’t know why I wouldn’t use it.

Maginnes: Some of that change you can affect is at home in North Carolina. Will that always be home?

Varner: Always. My parents are there, and I just moved back to Charlotte. I will always call it home.

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The McConnell Golf Dream 18 Course

by Brad King

 Dec 13, 2017 at 6:44 PM

With the 2016 additions of Providence Country Club and Holston Hills Country Club, McConnell Golf encompasses a dozen 18-hole, private golf courses throughout the Carolinas and Tennessee.

For those of you scoring at home, that’s a total of 225 golf holes in the McConnell Golf portfolio, and they are undoubtedly among the finest you’ll play anywhere. McConnell Golf properties feature courses designed by legends such as Donald Ross, Pete Dye, Tom Fazio, Arnold Palmer, Greg Norman, and Hale Irwin. In 2017, as they do year in and year out, McConnell Golf courses dominated the various state rankings.

So picking the 18 “very best” McConnell Golf holes is no easy task. But through nominations from pros and member votes, that’s exactly what we’ve done. We’re pleased to present the final course in the words of those whom know it best.

Head over to Facebook for photos, descriptions and tips on each hole >>

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