WILMINGTON — Prior to playing nine holes during Tuesday’s practice round at the Wells Fargo Championship, William McGirt had never made his way around Eagle Point Golf Club in Wilmington.
But as he played the course for the first time, the Fairmont native saw some similarities to a place he’s raved about since making his Masters debut in April — Augusta National.
“The condition of (Eagle Point) is very similar,” McGirt told The Robesonian. “The greens are maybe a little firmer now than Augusta was (in April). The course is beautiful. … so far, so good. It’ll be tough.”
Quail Hollow Club has hosted the event since its inception in 2003, but the course will welcome the PGA Championship to Charlotte in August, giving Eagle Point, one of Golf Digest’s top 100 courses in the nation, the opportunity to be the stand-in host this season.
With its tall pine trees, plush grass, powder-white sand traps and elevated greens, Eagle Point certainly has the look of a baby Augusta National. The Wilmington track even features a par-3 course and several cabins.
The setup is not a surprise. Eagle Point president Bobby Long, a member at Augusta National, had Marsh Benson, who was head of grounds at Augusta for 27 years, come in and help get the course ready for the tournament.
“It’s not a course where you’ll be able to scramble a lot. It’s very similar to Augusta around these greens,” McGirt said. “You hit good shots, you get rewarded. You hit bad shots, you get punished — not just penalized.
“It’s just a matter of hitting it in the right spots out here. You have to hit it in the short grass if you want to attack.”
McGirt is also excited about the chance to play roughly an hour and 30 minutes from his hometown in Robeson County.
“This is as close to home as I’ll ever get,” he said. “It’s nice to get over here to be able to play it.”
Grouped with Raleigh native Webb Simpson and Smylie Kaufman, McGirt tees off Thursday at 7:34 a.m. from the par-3 10th hole.
As for the flock of Robeson County folks that are sure to be in the gallery following him this week, McGirt aims to make their drive down U.S. 74 well worth the trip.
“I just hope they enjoy it and have fun,” he said. “Hopefully, I can give them something to watch.”
Rodd Baxley can be reached at 910-416-5182. Follow him on Twitter @RoddBaxley.