Golf

Bob Gillespie

SOUTH CAROLINA INSIDER

 

Home Course: Robin Waters

Posted 12/29/2013 1:28:00 PM

Growing up around Columbia, Robin Waters (known then as Bubba Waters) was a sports junkie. His first love was football, which he played at Brookland-Cayce High School and briefly at Newberry College. But the sport he excelled at, and the one that became his career, was golf.

From the time he and older brother Randy were six-time golf lettermen at BC (they played varsity from the seventh grade on), Robin Waters seemed destined to wind up doing something with the sport. He admits, though, that his job for the past 14 years – president of the NGA Professional Golf Tour, the former Hooters Tour, based out of Myrtle Beach – is not one he would’ve predicted for himself.

“My dad didn’t want me to try for the PGA (Tour); he thought it was too tough a lifestyle,” Waters said during an NGA Tour event this summer at Columbia’s Members Club at Woodcreek and WildeWood. “I was the only one (in his family) dumb enough to try for a (Tour) card.”

In his early years, Waters was a rolling stone, bouncing from Newberry College to Spartanburg Methodist Junior College and ultimately to Coastal Carolina, where he and fellow Columbia-area natives Terry Johnson, Donald Clement and Ronald Crow were members of the Chanticleers’ first men’s golf team. Waters’ post-graduate career was similarly adventurous: he worked for the family’s Bonaventure Golf and tried a few mini-tours before landing at Myrtle Beach’s The Dunes Golf & Beach Club.

That, in turn, led to a job in the golf-services business, and “I was a trouble-shooter around the country for eight years” before he came to Wilmington, N.C., where in 1998 he brought a Hooters Tour golf tournament to town. During the tournament, Waters met Robert H. Brooks, founder of the Hooters’ restaurant chain, who at the end of that tournament offered him a chance to run the tour.

“I told him, ‘I already signed a year’s deal to manage property here,’” Waters says. “So a year later, Mr. Brooks (who died in 2003) calls and says, ‘When can you start?’” A trip to Hooters’ offices in Atlanta convinced Waters, and he took over tour operations in October 1999. He’s been running the sprawling, traveling golf show ever since.

There is no “typical day,” Waters says. “We conduct more than 50 events a year – 25 on our major tour (up from a low of 18).” Because the NGA Tour serves as a training ground for players hoping to reach the PGA Tour or its developmental Web.com Tour, much of Waters’ time is spent making sure his tournaments don’t conflict with the PGA Tour/Web.com Tour schedules.

“We used to play through September, but now we finish up in August,” he says. When the PGA Tour revamped its qualifying process, the NGA had to adjust again. “We also conduct winter series tours in Florida and Myrtle Beach, and the Carolina Summer Series (for the NGA Tour),” he says. “I have to juggle all those contracts, and we have to work a year ahead” of the PGA and Web.com.

These days, he lives near Myrtle Beach in Loris and works out of Longs, where the NGA offices are located. It keeps him busy, as does his young family: wife Kim and children Lindsay, Kaylie and Jaxon. Waters says he doesn’t mind that he never achieved stardom on the PGA Tour; instead, he now works to help another generation pursue the same dream.

Hometown: Cayce.

Bio: Six-year letterman in golf at Brookland-Cayce High School (along with brother Randy); played at Newberry College, Spartanburg Methodist Junior College and Coastal Carolina; began golf business career at The Dunes Golf & Beach Club in Myrtle Beach; worked in several golf services businesses before joining the then-Hooters Tour (now NGA Tour) in 1999; lives in Loris with wife, Kim, and three children.

Highlights: As NGA Tour president, oversees one of the largest golf tours in the world, including a number of mini-tours under the NGA banner, with some 400 full-time members and as many as 900 off-and-on players; was a member of the inaugural men’s golf team at Coastal Carolina, which has since launched the career of fellow Columbia native Dustin Johnson.

Where I play: “I spend so much time in Myrtle Beach, so I’m still partial to The Dunes Golf & Beach Club. I had wanted to play at Caledonia Golf & Fish Club for three or four years, finally did during a corporate outing; I took the marketing guys there, and now I want to go back. Cross Creek in Seneca, we play a (tour) event there, and it’s great. And another hidden one is Hickory Knob (State Park Golf Course), and we play at the two courses at Savannah Lakes. Those are my top four or so, but we play in so many places (in South Carolina).”

Where I eat: “I really don’t have a favorite restaurant – isn’t that sad? In Myrtle Beach, I like Filets’ in Cherry Grove, The Library and if I had a favorite, it would be Crab Catchers in Little River. It’s simple, rustic, on the water. You come down there, I’ll take you there.”

What I do for fun: “I’m a motorcycle aficionado, I ride my motorcycle. I’ve got a group of us, some golfers, and we just got back from Sturgis, S.D. Three years ago, we rode out there and back. (In South Carolina), I like the mountains, anywhere around Greenville and Spartanburg. That’s what I do for ‘my’ time. It’s hard with children, but my wife’s supportive. She lets me take a trip or two a year, and when we ride, it’s 14-16 hours a day. It’s that addictive for us.”