NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, SC — As pro golfers and amateurs tried to make their mark on the fairways and greens during Monday After the Masters at The Dye Club on Monday, Kathy and Bob Bendick owned the cart path between the fourth and 10th tees.
Kathy Bendick carried a souvenir Monday After the Masters hole flag and Bob Bendick was clad in a Chicago Bears hat and polo shirt, both on a quest to nab every autograph they could get with one special one in mind: former Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon.
``Basically who I go after is if my husband knows them and he'll say, `Oh he's a really good guy,''' Kathy Bendick said after running with pro golfer Dustin Johnson's cart and securing the only autograph along that path.
``But McMahon is very important... We dearly love him and [the Bears.]''
The Bendicks, of Cincinnati, are fans of the Bears and enjoyed McMahon's antics as the ``Punky QB,'' which is a nickname he inherited for his zany character on and off the field.
``This event is so much fun,'' Kathy Bendick said. ``It's well planned, easy to navigate around and it's just real people friendly.''
The Bendicks were among thousands who enjoyed the overcast skies and mid-70s weather, while watching the celebrities, including McMahon, show stopper Willie Robertson from the TV show Duck Dynasty, the University of South Carolina's quarterback Connor Shaw, singer Edwin McCain and South Carolina's own Darius Rucker, Dean Felber, Mark Bryan and Jim Sonefeld -- otherwise known as Hootie & the Blowfish, the Pro-Am tournament's namesake.
When asked whether he could believe the tournament was celebrating its 20th year, Rucker said, ``No, I can't.
``We started this 20 years ago as something to have fun and make some money for charity and it's grown into such a great event. It's become such a staple in South Carolina, I think if we tried to stop having it, people would be pretty upset,'' Rucker said.
The band's event is held annually to raise money for children's educational programs and the South Carolina junior golf program. Rucker credited the support of the amateur and pro golfers who make the event a priority every April.
``There are so many guys who come and support us every year,'' Rucker said. ``That's the thing that's really cool is they know it's going to be five, five-and-a-half hours because they've done it before and they come back again. It makes you feel good. It makes you feel like you're doing something right.''
Asked whether the event had another 20 years in it, Rucker said, ``I don't know if I've got another 20 years. If I do, I hope so.''
Former NBA small forward Rick Barry won the amateur long-drive competition, but it was The Weather Channel's Jim Cantore's neon green pants and colorful polo shirt as well as Robertson's popularity and sense of humor that made a splash shortly after the live broadcast of ESPN's Mike and Mike in the morning.
``I'm just warning people on this side, and well you folks on the other side too, that I might be coming your way,'' Robertson told both sides of the sold-out crowd gathered around the first tee for the long driver competition.
South Carolina's own pro golfer Dustin Johnson was at the event after a disappointing game at The Masters. He said he enjoys coming back home to see friends and play in front of a local crowd.
``I still get here as much as I can,'' Johnson said. ``I lived here for a long time. I love coming back and love coming to play for all of the Myrtle Beach people.'' He said he's not discouraged by his play at The Masters and plans to take a few weeks to get back on his game.
``I've been playing really well this year,'' Johnson said. ``I just didn't play well as Augusta. It's a golf course where if you're not on your game, you're going to struggle, and I did. I've got two weeks off now, so after today, I'll go home and work on the game a little bit.''
John Southworth of Cincinnati had probably the most impromptu part of the event. When he saw former pro wrestler Ric Flair, he knew he had to make the most of the moment.
``As soon as they said there's Ric Flair, I went over there, grabbed a chair and asked him to beat the [expletive] out of me and he did it,'' Southworth said. After one dramatized hit with a chair, the crowd egged Flair on for one more hit. ``The crowd wanted me to sell it, so you got to answer to the people. I'll die a happy man now.''
This was Southworth's third Monday After the Masters and he already has plans to come back next year.
``Great weather, beautiful women, everybody having fun, beer's cold,'' Southworth said. ``What else could you ask for?''
Contact JASON M. RODRIGUEZ at 626-0301 or follow him at Twitter.com/TSN_jrodriguez