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Home Course: Marion Dantzler

Bob Gillespie Bob Gillespie
Bob is a former sports writer at Columbia’s The State newspaper. He enjoys golf at South Carolina’s 360-plus courses, and after a round, sampling craft beers from the Palmetto State’s breweries.
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South Carolina's Marion Dantzler at Orangeburg Country Club
Marion Dantzler relaxes at his home course, Orangeburg Country Club

For a 48-year-old guy who has never made it to the PGA Tour and has had limited Nationwide Tour chances, Marion Dantzler might be the best-known mini-tour player in America.

The reason: "Golf in America," a Golf Channel series hosted by actor Anthony Anderson of "Law and Order" fame. In 2009, GC executives chose to profile Dantzler and his 20-year-plus pursuit of his golfing dream. Now, whenever golf junkies tune in to GC late at night, they are often likely to stumble across a rerun of the Orangeburg native's story.

Why him? "I'm not really sure," the soft-spoken professional says during practice at his home course, Orangeburg Country Club. "Earlier that year, the producer called me one day, said they were looking to do a segment on someone like me and had narrowed it down to five people. After 15 minutes on the phone, he said, ‘I think you're the one we want to talk to.'"

Anderson himself came to Orangeburg to do the piece, which was shot at the country club and Buck Ridge Plantation, a hunting-fishing club near Neeses (both properties are owned by local industrialist Frank Tourville). "We spent a whole day together, and then they came out on the road two times to film some more," says Dantzler, who wore a microphone while competing in Hooters Tour events in McCormick and Arkansas.

The eight-minute segment made Dantzler a celebrity with hard-core golfers. "I've had people call me who are pursuing kind of the same thing I do," he says. "They saw (the show) and said it motivated them." He's received cards and letters - "nice notes, words of encouragement" - from total strangers. "One or two of them actually got my phone number and called the house," he says, laughing.

There was another benefit: "Anthony and I stayed in touch," Dantzler says. "We talk about every month or so; he calls or I call. It's a neat friendship." For a behind-the-scenes video of Anderson and Dantzler, click here.

Dantzler's play on the Hooters Tour last year was disrupted when his father died in December and "my No. 1 priority was getting Mom situated," he says. He played well the final six weeks of 2011; in Mississippi, "I made the (36-hole) cut by one, then went out and birdied seven of my first 10 holes on Saturday." He won $9,537 in 2011; this year, he missed his first two cuts.

"Golf in America" showed the down side of his life - traveling, playing for small purses, living on a shoestring - but also Dantzler's joy at being able to do what he does. As long as that's the case, he says, he'll keep doing it.

Hometown: Orangeburg

Bio: Played college golf at Georgia Southern; has played the Hooters Tour since 1992, winning one tournament title.

Highlights: Won career-best $31,824 on the Hooters Tour in 2004; between 2005-2011, made 68 of 121 cuts and won $102,385; competed against 2007 Masters champion Zach Johnson on the Hooters Tour in 2002.

Where I play: "When I come home from traveling, I just stay here (Orangeburg Country Club). I've never played the Ocean Course; I did play (Harbour Town) years ago when I played in the Heritage as an amateur in '86.

"I have played other courses at Kiawah: played The River Club, played Osprey Point, but never the Ocean. I've played Wild Dunes. They're good for me, those courses are really target golf courses, and when you get a course where you've got to drive it good, it plays into my hands. A course that's 7,500 yards and wide open doesn't do me a lot of good.

"I enjoy playing courses that challenge you off the tee, make you think. Myrtle Beach, I've played the Dunes Club; I teach a guy and his son (Judson Holliday and Johnson Holliday) there. I always play it in the summer, never the winter, and it's always in great shape. People can get on there through hotels, which surprised me.

"I've never played Caledonia or True Blue. For a guy who plays golf as much as I do, I feel like I'm sheltered when it comes to courses in the state. You look at this place: why do you want to go anywhere else?"

Where I eat: "I really don't eat out much. When I travel, I always go to Cracker Barrels, because they're inexpensive, you know what you get, you're in and out fast. Sometimes when I'm in Orangeburg, I go to Four Moons, which is really nice. I've eaten at Dianne's in Columbia; I like a grouper dish they have there. (Both Four Moons and Dianne's are now closed.) When I'm in Columbia, I'll go to Moe's - you know: ‘Welcome to Moe's!' - and I like Chipotle Grill, too, because it's all organic, fresher.

"I'm not a fancy diner. In Orangeburg, I like to go to Dukes Barbecue. (Orangeburg professional) David Lackey, (former superintendent) Tom Green and me go to Dukes every week; that's our Friday night gig."

What I do for fun: "I've had opportunities to do other things, but I don't have as much free time as you might think. Most days I'm out here practicing; then when I go home, it's time to relax. Fishing and hunting, I could do, but I just don't seem to find time. I'm pretty golf-centric."

Bob Gillespie
Bob is a former sports writer at Columbia’s The State newspaper. He enjoys golf at South Carolina’s 360-plus courses, and after a round, sampling craft beers from the Palmetto State’s breweries.