Spotlight on | Golf

South Beach International Amateur tournament becoming a top-20 event

 
 
Sweden's Hannes Ronneblad attempts a shot during the 2012 South Beach International Amateur.
Sweden's Hannes Ronneblad attempts a shot during the 2012 South Beach International Amateur.
Bill Van Smith / Miami Herald Staff

Special to the Miami Herald

Like climbing a mountain, Jeff Hunt keeps going upward step by step, and with each of those steps he enjoys the view more and more.

Hunt, 51, and his golf tournament are nearing the peak of the golf mountain.

In the inaugural South Beach International Amateur tournament nearly two years ago in 2011, the golf tournament was ranked as the No. 47 amateur event in the world, a noteworthy start. In 2012, the tournament moved up to 25th in the world.

Hunt, the tournament’s executive director, prepares to take that next step upward in 2013 in the event that runs Dec. 19-22. “We will be a top-20 event, easily,” Hunt said confidently.

In last year’s tournament, there were five of the top-100 players competing. “We already have 10 committed for this year,” Hunt said. “You get your ranking points on how many top-600 players you have competing, and we already have 10 committed. We are 45 percent ahead of schedule.

“We are going to have a phenomenal field.”

In addition to the strong U.S. contingent, the field will have an international feel to it. Hunt rattles off some of the countries that will be sending their best amateurs, including France, Italy, Mexico, Sweden, Venezuela and England.

Of course, a field such as the South Beach event doesn’t just happen.

“I’ve been working this thing hard for at least three months,” Hunt said. “Top players want to play against other top players. They want to go after each other. You get them by having a relationship with international federations and college coaches.”

However, he does admit he has one huge advantage.

“The players love the tournament,” he said, “but they also love coming to South Beach.”

The two courses used for the tournament — Miami Beach Golf Club and Normandy Shores – are pretty much ready to go. “The courses are in great shape,” Hunt said. “They pretty much are year-round. The city wants us to keep them that way. They are challenging. They aren’t overly long, but they don’t play easy.”

Don’t believe it will be the top of the mountain for Hunt, even if the South Beach International cracks the top 20 this year. He wants to keep climbing.

“The goal I set when we started this event was to get it in the top 10 or real close in five years,” Hunt said. “That plan hasn’t changed.”

A HELPING HAND

Davie Golf, always a course that comes up with good and innovative ideas, is offering half-price greens fees to furloughed individuals of the U.S. Government. That means they can play for about $15.

“There are thousands of laid-off federal employees in South Florida, sitting home with no pay,” said Dave Harris, director of marketing at Davie Golf, “so we decided to do something to show our support for them. Hopefully, a relaxing game of golf will help our federal employees get through this difficult time.

“We all hope this is a short-term offer,” he said, adding that he wants the people to get their jobs back soon.

Reservations can be made at 954-797-4653.

THAT’S A FACT, JACK

So, you’ve spent most of your golfing life — some 40 or 50 years — hoping to get a hole-in-one and it still hasn’t happened. Tiger Woods got rid of that stigma early. Woods was 8 years old when he made his first hole-in-one.

Read more Golf stories from the Miami Herald

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