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Tournament of Champions: Saluting lady golf champions

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By Elsa Bonstein, Golf Gab

By Elsa Bonstein
Beacon Correspondent
On Nov. 3-4, men’s and women’s golf club champions in Brunswick County will compete in the 2012 Tournament of Champions at Sandpiper Bay. They qualified for this event by winning the gross-score championship at their clubs.
The tournament began nine years ago as a suggestion from several club champions. They wanted “just one more tournament” to determine the best of the best for that year.
The Beacon responded by becoming the annual sponsor of the Tournament of Champions. Previous tournaments were at Ocean Ridge, Sea Trail, St. James and Thistle Club.
In the first year (2004), there were 12 clubs with memberships large enough to have a club champions in Brunswick County. Since then, the golfing population has grown and today Brunswick County has 17 clubs with memberships that play an annual gross championship.
Throughout the years, the Tournament of Champions has become a much-anticipated event.
“The champions love the TOC because it is pure golf. No handicaps, no mulligans, no raffles, no door prizes, no second or third prizes,” said Monte Beebe, of Sea Trail, who has competed four times and will play again this year. “There’s one individual men’s trophy and one individual women’s trophy and two rotating club trophies. The winner takes all.”
Along with the tournament, there is a pairings party on Friday, Nov. 2, and an awards luncheon at the conclusion of play on Sunday.
Starting times are between 8-9 a.m. Nov. 3-4. The men will tee off on one nine, the ladies on another at the 27-hole Sandpiper Bay complex. Spectators are welcome, but expected to walk. A few selected carts will be available for those with serious medical needs, according to Tim Tilma, general manager of Sandpiper Bay.
Here are the women’s club champions for 2012.
Mona Dye-Boob, Brierwood: Mona has won the Brierwood ladies’ club championship for the last seven years.
An excellent golfer with a long drive, Dye-Boob tied in the Tournament of Champions in 2006 with Sandy Hulberg of The Lakes. There was no provision for a tie, so the two were declared co-winners. In 2007 she tied with Dale Calhoon of Brick Landing (Calhoon won in a playoff), then she won outright in 2008 and 2009.
An avid fisherman, Dye-Boob says she did not play as well as usual in the Brierwood Championship this year.
“It’s the middle of fall fishing season and I have not had time to play or practice my golf as much as I should,” she said. “I’m back in gear now and will be working hard on my game to prepare for the Tournament of Champions.”
Previous to moving to Brunswick County, Boob won the women’s club championship at the Bucknell University Course in Lewisburg, Pa., for nine straight years.
Alcina Davis, Brunswick Plantation: This is Davis’ fourth trip to the TOC, having won the championship at Brunswick Plantation in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
She learned to play golf after she got married. “My husband was an avid golfer and I realized I’d be a golf widow if I did not learn to play the game,” she said. “I started to play, and before long, I loved the game.”
In 2008, Davis won the Brunswick Plantation Championship in a four-hole playoff. In 2009 and 2010, she won outright. This year, she finished in a tie that was settled by a match of cards.
In August, Davis and her husband took a trip to Oregon and played Brandon Dunes. “The four courses there are some of finest we’ve ever played,” she said. “The holes are right on the Pacific Ocean with huge dunes, lots of sea grass and the rocky shoreline below.”
This summer, the Davies worked at the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, S.C., from Thursday to Saturday.
“I had my picture taken with Ricky Fowler and won a new putter at the awards dinner,” she said. “It was so much fun.”
Suzie Hurley, Cape Fear National: This is Hurley’s second win at Cape Fear National (she also won in 2011) and she is most enthusiastic about the game of golf.
“I grew up on a farm in Ohio, one of eight children,” she said. “I started to play golf when we moved here 17 years ago. I knew that in this area, it was essential to be a golfer. Plus, it’s a great way to meet people.”
After living at Pine Valley in Wilmington, Hurley moved to Brunswick Forest. She truly enjoys the golf course and the people there. “Everyone is friendly and welcoming,” she said.
This year, new clubs (Callaway Razr XRs) gave Hurley new confidence in her game.
“On the last day of our championship, I had four birdies and one eagle. My drive is good now and I’m putting better. I love the game of golf because it puts me out in nature. That’s part of who I am, especially since I grew up on a farm.”
Sandy Hulberg, The Lakes: Hulberg has lived in Brunswick County since 1980 and worked at the Boiling Springs Police Department for 25 years. Now she works at Old Fort Golf Course several days a week.
Before moving to North Carolina, Hulberg won the ladies’ club championship at Gun Powder Country Club in Maryland for five years running.
After winning at The Lakes in 2005, 2006, and 2007, Hulberg developed back issues and could not compete for several years. Finally, with her back better, she came back and won the championship in 2011 and now again in 2012.
“I work out at the Brunswick Community College Fitness Center three times a week and that has helped with my back problems,” she said. “I have some neuropathy in my legs and feet. The exercise helps.
“The Lakes is in excellent shape now and a real pleasure to play.”
In 2006, Hulberg tied with Mona Dye of Brierwood in the Tournament of Champions. At that time, there was no provision for a playoff, so the two were declared co-champions.
Laura Botto, Lockwood Folly: Botto won the Lockwood Folly Club Championship in 2005, 2009, 2011 and 2012. A true athlete with a love of sport, she started golfing at the age of 22 when she was working for the Parks and Recreation Department in Scotch Plains, N.J. She even met her husband on a golf course when she hit a ball into his fairway.
Botto has had her ups and downs on the course, but her credo is this: “Never give up on yourself. Sometimes you need to take a safe bogey instead of trying for a dangerous par.”
This year, Laura went into the last day of the Lockwood Championship with a three- stroke lead, played steady and won by three.
Laura is very active in the Brunswick Senior Games. This year, she played in 13 events, including swimming, cheerleading, softball, bowling and golf.
Laura and her husband celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary in 2012. They also won the bridge marathon at Lockwood Folly.
“It’s been a good year so far,” she said.
Robin Morris, Magnolia Greens: The Magnolia Greens ladies’ club champ moved here from Louisville, Ky., eight years ago.
Morris grew up playing golf. Her dad was an excellent golfer and served in the military.
“As my father was moved around, there was always a golf course on the base were he was stationed,” she said. “I learned to play on military golf courses.”
This is Morris’ first-ever championship, although she did win the ladies’ net championship in a women’s league in Louisville before moving here.
The tournament at Magnolia Greens this year was shortened to 27 holes because of rain. Morris had a three-shot lead after the first day.
“This is an exciting year,” she said. “My daughter in Texas is due to have a baby in March and I’ll be going there for that event.”
Susan Morrison, Oak Island Club: When Susan Morrison retired to Brunswick County in January of 2005, she took up golf in earnest.
“Prior to that, I had played once or twice a year because I was so busy working for the University of North Carolina in Charlotte,” she said. “I moved here and met lots of great people who played golf. Denise Pacula (2007 and 2009 ladies’ champion at Oak Island) took me under her wing and became my friend and mentor. We played together both days in the championship this year and she was very encouraging.
“I did not expect to win; I just wanted to play my best, and to have fun.”
This is Morrison’s first-ever club championship.
“I love the game and I’ve made great friends through golf,” she said. “The Oak Island Club is like my family.”
Karen McCloskey, Ocean Ridge: This is Karen McCloskey’s second win at Ocean Ridge. She also won in 2009, beating perennial champ Jeanne Maxon.
“We played three different courses,” she said. “Panther’s Run, then Lion’s Paw and finally Tiger’s Eye. I was up a few shots after the first round, then picked up a few more on the second day of competition. I was relaxed on the last day, thinking, ‘Let them chase me,’ and that helped me put in a good score.”
McCloskey learned to golf as a young girl.
“There were four kids in our family and my dad would take us all out on the course with him to give my mother a break,” she said. “We’d find old balls in the woods, hit shots. It was all very loose and fun.”
Karen believes in taking lessons to help her game, but she also relies on husband Ed to keep her on track.
“He’s taught me so much, like which clubs to use and when. When I get into a difficult situation, I ask myself, ‘What would Ed say?’ and that helps. We’ve been married 30 years and we still get along.”
Karen Blanchard, Rivers Edge: Winning the championship this year was a real surprise for Karen Blanchard because she had a hip replacement in January.
“I won the ladies championship at Rivers Edge four years ago, but then my left hip got really bad,” she said. “Because I couldn’t swing anymore, I developed a reverse pivot.”
After the surgery, as soon as Blanchard was able, she began to work on her game, trying to unlearn the compensating habits she had developed while her hip was bad. Her hard work paid off because on the final nine holes of the two-day competition this year, she parred seven holes and won the championship by one stroke.
Karen played serious competitive tennis for years, qualifying for the Mixed Doubles National Championship in New Orleans in 2008.
Back in 2008, Karen explained, she believed golf was a more difficult game than tennis because it required concentration for a much longer period of time.
Judy Nicoletti, Sandpiper Bay: In 2008, Judy Nicoletti won the Sandpiper Bay and Carolina Shores championship and represented both clubs at the Tournament of Champions on the Maples Course at Sea Trail. Since then, she has won the Sandpiper Bay championship four more times.
Last year, Nicoletti won the Tournament of Champions at Thistle Golf Club.
“Because I’m from Massachusetts, I don’t like the heat,” she said. “This summer was so very hot, I hardly practiced at all, and my game was not sharp. On the second day of play, I was behind by nine strokes. I played better in the second round and was down four after seven holes. I inched back slowly, hole by hole, and won the championship. It was very stressful.”
Nicoletti started playing golf when she was 12.
Joan Mason, Sea Trail: This is the third straight year Joan Mason has won the championship at Sea Trail. When she won in 2010, it was her first-ever championship.
This year, she won handily in three rounds of medal play on all three Sea Trail Courses (Maples, Byrd and Jones). She is known as a consistent long driver and short-game player, although this year Mason claims her putting was streaky.
She started playing golf 35 years ago in the state of New York.
“I didn’t learn to play golf as a kid, because my father (an excellent golfer) did not think that girls belonged on the golf course,” she said. “He said that golf was for boys and for men, but here I am.”
Today, Mason enjoys mentoring other women in the game of golf. “I like to be helpful to those who are just starting out,” she said.
Janet Coleman, St. James: Janet Coleman moved to St. James in 2002 and immediately won its ladies club championship. For the next three years (2003-2005), she continued her winning streak. She did not win in 2006 but was back in 2007.
Now in 2012, Coleman again has claimed the title of best of the best at St. James Plantation.
“I played more golf this summer and that helped,” she said. “The competition was very, very close. I was down three with four to go. I birdied, then crept up to win.
“As more and more people move to Brunswick County, the pool of golfers gets bigger and the golf becomes more competitive.”
Karen Northrup, Thistle: This gal did not play golf, she did not even like the game until 1995, when she and her husband came to this area for a vacation.
“What we usually did was this: my husband would play golf and I would sit by the pool,” she said. “On that particular trip, he suggested we go out and play the Cane Patch Par-3 in Myrtle Beach. We did, and I fell in love with the game immediately.”
Today, Northrup is passionate about golf and says she will be play anywhere, anytime, with anyone. She shot a consistent 87-87 to win the second ladies’ championship at Thistle Golf Club.
“The secret is to stay focused, but still have fun,” she said.
Northrup enjoys the area, especially the weather since she lived most of her life in New Jersey and New England.
Note: Crow Creek and Carolina Shores did not have a ladies’ club championship this year. Brick Landing, Carolina National and Farmstead-Meadowlands had not played their championships at the time of this printing. They will have been played in time to compete in the Tournament of Champions.  Next week, the Brunswick Beacon will feature the men’s golf club Champions for 2012.

Elsa Bonstein is a golf columnist for The Beacon. Reach her at elanbon@atmc.net. Follow her at facebook.com/elsa.bonstein.