Well, the annual Myrtle Beach golf trip is over.

Nobody got hurt. This is always the first goal. The second goal – never met – is for everybody to shoot all three rounds in the 80s. When most of us typically are in the 90s and flirting dangerously with triple figures, 80s is a target.

The rest of us were hoping Rick would shoot all three rounds in the 80s. That would have given some of us a slight – very slight — chance to win the shiny championship trophy. Alas, he had a round of 77 – playing a tee behind the rest of the us – and eventually edged Steve, the second-place finisher, by 27 strokes.

It was closer than we expected.

We knew this would happen going in. Rick, an athletic sort, crushes drives with power. He is sort of DeChambeau Lite. Good short game, too. And his putts go in with a regularity that angers the rest of us.

But he’s a good guy.

Dennis, Steve, Tom, Johnny, the other Mike and I had three days of scores that don’t necessarily need to be shared with the general public. It’s safe to say none of us will ever qualify for any mini-tours or Captain’s Choice teams that need an A player.

This trip was particularly special and was anticipated with much glee because the 2020 tournament fell victim to COVID. That was  a very minor loss in the grand scheme of things, but yank a buddy beach trip from the grip of golfers, and it has cascading impacts. For example, wives who thought they were going to have four free days suddenly find the house too crowded.

We assaulted Myrtle Beach, an internationally known capital of recreational golf, armed with one of those golf “packages” that gives the group three rounds – one at a top-of-the-line beach course and two at “other” courses. This is one of the few ways golfers of modest incomes can play the shore’s high-end courses, where greens fees often are the equivalent of the annual budget of Honduras.

Day One was at Wildwing Avocet, an attractive but fairly difficult course (even from the up tees). Rain started falling on the first tee, and everybody held their breath (it rains often at the beach). But the precipitation stopped almost as soon as it started, and competition commenced.

Through a parade of lost balls, balls that drowned, balls that landed behind pine trees and balls that took awkward flight to parts unknown, we finished the first round on a hot and humid day. Rick shot an 83 – not great for him – and the rest of us briefly had hope. It was good for a five-shot lead.

Day Two was our “special” day. We played True Blue, designed by famed architect Mike Strantz, who took advantage of the beach’s natural element – sand – to create a golf course full of it. Despite our best efforts, it whipped us into submission. Beautiful fairways and nice greens but a course harder than a steel-toed shoe.

The final round was contested at Myrtlewood Palmetto, a reliable beach track that was in great shape. Rick, with two birdies on the front side, was rolling along without any fear of competition. For the rest of us, the highlight of the day might have been the young woman who was doing some serious sunbathing just off the 13th fairway. Not that that was a distraction.

Interspersed in all this golf revelry were the real reasons for the trip: hamburgers, fries, an occasional pizza, two assaults on Painter’s Ice Cream, a myriad of cold beverages, baseball on TV at night and thrilling although somewhat dangerous rides in golf carts through several shoreside communities.

We didn’t encounter any surly starters, aggressive reptiles or ball-grabbing course squirrels.

And, again, nobody got hurt.

Let’s do it again next year.

Mike Hembree

Mike Hembree is a veteran journalist who has covered a variety of sports for numerous publications and websites, including USA Today, Fox Sports, TV Guide and The Greenville (S.C.) News. He has written 14 books and has won numerous writing awards at the national, regional and state levels. He is a seven-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.