Demanding River Hills Country Club Highlights eGolf Gateway Tour’s Seventh Annual River Hills Classic


Bobby Wyatt

By Stewart Moore

Lake Wylie, S.C. – The eGolf Gateway Tour returns to scenic Lake Wylie, South Carolina this week for the seventh annual River Hills Classic, to be contested at the Willard Byrd-designed River Hills Country Club on August 5-8, 2015. The course, while short by modern standards, has proven each year to be one of the most grueling on the tour’s rotation, with some of the fastest greens and narrowest fairways the game’s up-and-coming stars face on an annual basis.

For the fourth consecutive tournament, the eGolf Gateway Tour remains in the greater Charlotte, N.C. area for this week’s River Hills Classic. While the prior three stops at The Club at Irish Creek, Cabarrus Country Club and Verdict Ridge Country Club have put forth unique challenges, River Hills stands alone as one of the more intimidating courses the players face each year.

At just 6,780 yards and a par of 72, the 1969 Willard Byrd design looks measurably short on the scorecard, but plays as without doubt one of the five most arduous courses in the greater Charlotte area.

Green speeds of 13 on the stimpmeter pair nicely alongside a narrow layout that is surprisingly hilly next to the banks of Lake Wylie. With out-of-bounds lining both sides of each hole, a number of players attack the course with 3-woods and hybrids off the tee, which makes the layout play well into the norm of modern yardages.

“There are not many relaxing shots at River Hills,” said eGolf Gateway Tour president David Siegel. “If you put the ball in play off the tee, you are more than likely looking at a short-iron approach to an undulating green. Even with a wedge in your hand, you can make bogey just as easily as birdie. For the golf connoisseur who claims the game is getting too easy for the pros, this is a great week.”

As with any championship-caliber course, the proof behind the accolades is best witnessed through the winners it puts forth. With River Hills, that list is quite strong.

In 2008, former Georgia Tech star Roberto Castro won his second of five career eGolf Gateway Tour titles at the River Hills Classic, posting a 13-under tally for a four shot win as the only player in the field to reach double-digits under par.

The Alpharetta, Ga. native used the River Hills win as a springboard to success on the Web.com Tour and now the PGA TOUR, where he has competed full time since the 2012 season.

Current PGA TOUR member Brice Garnett Current recorded a hole-in-one in the opening round of the 2011 River Hills Classic, riding the ace to a course-record 61 and a five-shot win over fellow TOUR member Jason Kokrak.

Garnett’s River Hills title was the first of two victories in 2011, a year in which the former Missouri Western State golfer played his way onto the Web.com Tour, where he competed for two years before ascending to the PGA TOUR in 2013.

Other winners at River Hills include current Web.com Tour member Chris Baker (2010), as well as current PGA TOUR Canada members Bruce Woodall (2013) and Ethan Tracy (2014).

Michael CromieMichael Cromie

“River Hills is one of our premier events year in and year out,” Siegel said. “The golf course is immaculate, and the greens are phenomenal with the Bermuda grass thriving in the dead heat of summer. This week should make for yet another great finish and deserving champion.”

Players of note in the field include:

Michael Cromie (Cary, N.C.)
Former University of Georgia standout is finally coming into his own as a professional, with four top-20s in his last four starts, including career win No. 1 at last week’s Verdict Ridge Open and a runner-up effort at the Mimosa Hills Open in June. The 23-year-old birdied three of his final four holes during the final round at Verdict Ridge – including the par-5 18th – on his way to a one-shot victory over Chas Narramore and Andreas Halvorsen. Cromie won the prestigious North & South Amateur in the summer of 2014, in turn becoming the first former North & South Junior to pull off the rare double.

Ryan Nelson (Charleston, S.C.)
The tour’s 2014 leading money winner finished runner-up to Ethan Tracy at last year’s River Hills Classic, falling two shots shy of a playoff after birdieing five of his final nine holes en route to a closing 67 and a 10-under-par total. Nelson owns six eGolf Gateway Tour titles since the summer of 2011, but has yet to enter the winner’s circle in 2015, with 10 top-25s in 11 starts – including three top-5 finishes.

Bobby Wyatt (Mobile, Ala.)
Wyatt will be making his first eGolf Gateway Tour start of the year after competing in the tour’s Million Dollar Championship Series last fall. The former junior phenom, who made headlines when he recorded a round of 57 at the 2010 Alabama Boys State Junior Championship, was the top player on the University of Alabama golf team while leading the Crimson Tide to back-to-back NCAA team titles in 2013 and 2014. The 22-year-old was named to the United States Walker Cup team in 2013, and claimed individual honors at the 2014 SEC Championship on his way to being named a consensus first-team “All American” – the second straight year in which he earned the nod.

Ryan NelsonRyan Nelson

Other notable players in the field at River Hills include leading money winner Frank Adams III (Laurinburg, N.C.), 2015 Southern Open champion Grayson Murray (Raleigh, N.C.), five-time tour winner T.J. Howe (Osceola, Pa.) and former PGA TOUR member Matt McQuillan (Ontario, Canada).

Opening-round play at the River Hills Classic will begin on Wednesday, August 5th at 8:00 AM, with players competing in threesomes off of Nos. 1 and 10 tees. Following the conclusion of 36 holes, the field will be cut to the low 35 percent and ties for the final two rounds of play. The tournament is open to the public and free of charge. For more information on the event, or the eGolf Gateway Tour, please visit www.egolf.com.