By Ruben Lowman
Let there be golf.
After a two-year absence due to the pandemic, the Hootie & the Blowfish Monday After the Masters Celebrity Pro-Am will be returning to Barefoot Resort in North Myrtle Beach this month, although there is a major tweak from previous tournaments.
Held at Barefoot’s Dye Club for going on two decades, the tournament has become one of the most popular celebrity pro-ams in the country, massively popular with both fans and participants. This year’s event, to be held from April 10-11, will only see the latter part of that equation, however, as there will be no spectator tickets sold for the first time since the tournament began to explode in popularity as the band’s fame soared.
Hootie MAM tournament director Paul Graham explained that the organizers actually decided to put on the event without spectators before the pandemic emerged. He said that after the 2019 tournament they decided to try a year without selling general admission tickets, as they wanted to see how an event without fans would affect the charity’s bottom line.
“While the addition of a few thousand people on the golf course adds excitement, it is actually a financial and operational challenge that we wanted to experiment for a year without,” Graham said.
“Our responsibility is to raise money for the Hootie and the Blowfish Foundation and provide the best experience for those supporting the tournament. After we get through 2022, we’ll reassess the tournament as a whole and make decisions that give us the best chance for a successful event.”
The decision to move forward with the event without fans is not tied to the pandemic and Graham said it will not affect the tournament this year.
“We are lucky in that regard,” he said.
While it was necessary for organizers to trial what it would be like financially without fans, it still was not an easy choice. Hootie MAM has grown into one of the most popular tournaments of its kind, selling out its allotment of spectator tickets in just a matter of days every year since 2005.
Typically, there would be around 6,000 available tickets for the event, with half going to sponsors and the other made available for the general public. Even though spectator tickets were not sold, this year’s event will retain some of those sponsor packages and VIPs, ensuring the participants will still be able to play to a crowd.
Hootie & the Blowfish will also be returning to the stage to perform in their much-loved annual concert at the House of Blues once again. The show caps the event festivities and is scheduled to begin at 8:30 p.m. following the conclusion of the tournament and the awards ceremony.
Graham said the other major alteration this year was to split the tournament field up into a couple days of golf to help speed up the pace of play. He said that if they had decided to have general admission this year, they would have to do it over two days and that would not have been practical or financially responsible.
“Besides that, we are business as usual,” he said.
Despite not having spectators, there is still an extensive list of participants for the tournament’s return to the city. Spud Webb, Rick Barry, Mia Hamm, Ed “Too Tall” Jones, Sterling Sharpe, Santonio Holmes and Tony Siragusa headline the non-golf athletes, while Colt Ford, Jamey Johnson, Aaron Lewis, George Eads, Joey Fatone and Javier Colon highlight the celebrities in the field. Notable golfers include John Daly, Charlie Rymer, Chris DiMarco, Nancy Lopez, Woody Austin, George and Wesley Bryan, Ken Duke and Billy Hurley.
Monday After the Masters goes to support the band’s charity, which helps to fund education and causes for junior golfers, raising over $7 million since it began in 1994. Graham said this is what the band truly cares about, the work they do and helping to ensure that it continues.
“The Hootie and the Blowfish Foundation was established so the band could help charities that they believed in, especially in the great state of South Carolina,” Graham explained.
“The four guys in the band have always been focused on helping people even before their fame as successful musicians. Their careers have simply given them the ability to give more and change more people’s lives. In particular, they care about the youth of tomorrow and their access to education.”
Ultimately, Graham said everyone involved with the tournament was ecstatic to be back in their second home here at the beach once again.
“As a staple of the North Myrtle Beach community for almost 20 years, our tournament staff, along with the band, the board, fans, volunteers and sponsors, have found a second home in NMB and we couldn’t be happier with the support we have found,” Graham said.