Spotlight on | Golf

Changes in store for Dixie Amateur

 
 
Ben Derauf of Heron Bay runs the Dixie Amateur.
Ben Derauf of Heron Bay runs the Dixie Amateur.
Bill Van Smith / Special to the Miami Herald

Special to the Miami Herald

Golf is a game of history, both in the making and in the past. And South Florida has its own little piece of that golf history. It’s called the Dixie Amateur.

The Dixie Amateur is one of the oldest tournaments in Florida, first being played in 1924. It is also one of Florida’s largest tournaments.

“This year we’ll have about 220 players in the men’s division, another 110 women and 90 seniors,” Dixie Amateur tournament director Ben Derauf said of the event, to be held Dec. 19-22 at Heron Bay Golf Club, and on the two courses at Woodlands Golf and Country Club.

“It’s a very solid international field,” said Derauf, who rattled off at least 10 countries that will be represented.

Derauf, 25, knows it’s time to kick into double-time as he serves as the director of golf at Heron Bay in addition to putting on a tournament for more than 400 golfers.

No easy task.

“It’s like having two full-time jobs,” Derauf said. “But we’re moving along nicely. The courses are in great shape, and we are absolutely on track and ready to go. All the members at Heron Bay say that the course is in the best shape ever.”

However, Derauf admitted time is closing in. “There’s no doubt the tournament is coming up quickly,” he said.

The Dixie Amateur’s history includes some notable names that have won the championship, including Frank Strafaci and future Masters champion Doug Ford. In the more modern era, winners have included Hal Sutton, Brandt Snedeker, Andy Bean, Bruce Fleisher, Jesper Parnevik, Peter Uihlein and hometown Broward product Curtis Thompson.

There are a few logistical changes in this year’s tournament, with the most significant one being that everyone competing in the main men’s division will be guaranteed four full rounds of play. After the first two rounds, the top 72 will continue competing for the Dixie Amateur title while the rest of the field will play the final two days for the Woodlands Winter Invitational championship.

“We want people to come here and get their full value,” Derauf said. “Not just play two rounds and go home. We want to make every year more and more valuable to the players, and I think we’re doing that this year.”

Derauf enjoys the concept of various divisions — men, women, seniors (55 and older) and super seniors (65 and older).

“We love all those divisions,” he said. “It allows all high-level golfers to get involved.”

THAT’S A FACT, JACK

The swing speed of an average woman golfer is 62 mph. For an average LPGA pro, it’s 96 mph. The average male has a swing speed of 84 mph and 108 for an average PGA Tour player. Then you have 130 mph for Tiger Woods, and 148 to 152 mph for a long-drive champion.

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