Learning the Game

by Brad King

 Mar 22, 2019 at 7:00 PM

The Country Club at Wakefield Plantation’s Junior Golf program is firing on all cylinders.

Mastering fundamentals has long been  at the core of junior golf, followed closely by making the sport appealing to kids. But the pros at Wakefield Plantation are taking things to the next level with technology, fitness, and contagious enthusiasm. In so doing, they have not only doubled the size of the program but are paving the way for golf’s next generation.

Under the guidance of Wakefield’s Director of Golf Adam McLaughlin, his assistants Monique “Mo” Gesualdi, Ryan Vance, Matt Brennan, and teaching professional Erica Britt, Wakefield’s junior program runs year-round and totals about 100 players. Within that junior golf program, the club’s PGA Junior League program is up to 56 participants and four in-house teams, while the Wakefield Junior League has grown to more than 60 young golfers.

The club’s junior players take advantage of the Wakefield Plantation Learning Center, including its two indoor-outdoor bays and an indoor putting area equipped with video technology. The cameras offer instant swing feedback, while also allowing the Wakefield instructors and coaches to monitor swing improvement, and modify specific golf moves.

The Learning Center is also equipped with Flightscope, a leader in golf radar technology providing detailed information about club movement and ball flight. In addition, this winter, Gesualdi teamed with Wakefield’s personal trainer, Drew Forshey, to add a junior fitness program to the golf training regimen. The fitness program includes high- intensity interval training plus stretching, balance, stability, and flexibility exercises.

“The combination of fitness training and golf technique is often overlooked by junior golfers,” says Jason Butcher, whose 14-year-old son Jace has competed in national tournaments. “Many juniors, my son included, can’t practice properly because of physical limitations due to a lack of strength or mobility. This program emphasizes the importance of both, and keeps it fun.”


“We have a really solid group of junior golfers,” says Gesualdi, an accomplished former Furman University golfer, who adds that her passion has always been junior golf.

Gesualdi points to 14-year-old Lily Kate Watson. “She has a lot of potential that we are working on unleashing and will be one to watch,” says Gesualdi.

According to Lily Kate’s father, Josh Watson, the golf fitness program has been a wonderful experience. “Not only has the high level of instruction helped to improve her game, she’s also really enjoyed connecting with the coaches and players,” he says.

Lily Kate echoes her father’s sentiment: “As a female junior golfer, I feel so fortunate to be a part of a club that supports high-level golf instruction for both boys and girls,” she says.

Gesualdi calls 9-year-old Isaiah Adel her “stud” — and little wonder, considering Adel has fired a 32 for nine holes.

“The Junior Golf Fitness Program is great because it works on sharpening the kids’ golf skills while also teaching them how to stay physically healthy for the sport,” says Christian Adel, Isaiah’s dad. “Mo and Drew keep it entertaining, with some friendly competition mixed in, which the kids always enjoy.”

Gesualdi says Dylan Johnson, who recently turned 12, possesses the “smoothest left-handed swing” she has ever seen. Dylan’s 2017 club champion-ship scores were 87-89, and in 2018, he shot 76-82 — 18 shots lower over two days in one year.

Other rising stars include 10-year-old Chase Duncan, who had his first hole- in-one at age 9 and competes on the regional and national level. Ten-year-old Cooper Pleasants, in the Junior Golf Fitness program, is newly competing but has great athletic ability and will be one to watch as he continues to develop his game over the next few years.

Gesualdi also points to 8-year-old Harrison Hunt, who has yet to play tournament golf, but exhibits a “great, natural swing.”

Beyond an increase in skill for these juniors, both parents and players agree that it’s the camaraderie among the kids that’s just as important.

“The connections our kids are making with other juniors makes the whole process seem more like fun, less like work,” says Erik Johnson, Dylan’s dad.

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It's Chase with the Ace

by Casey Griffith

 Mar 01, 2018 at 9:05 PM

Meet 10-year-old Chase Duncan. He recently shot his first hole-in-one at Wakefield Plantation, acing hole No. 7 while playing with his father. He is the youngest McConnell Golf member to do so at any property.

“My Dad shot the yardage at 90 and he said maybe an 8 iron,” says Chase. “I said, ‘I think it’s a 9.’ I was right. When I saw it go in, we both yelled and were excited.”

For his father, Jon Duncan, it was both a proud and humbling moment.

“Anything that your child accomplishes that makes them truly excited is always a blessing to watch in person,” he says. “Then when they remind you that you have never accomplished that same thing, you realize that a 10-year-old is better at golf then you.”

Prior to his hole-in-one, Chase was named the 2017 Junior of the Year at WP. He started playing when he was four years old; now, he’s a strong member of the 2017 PGA Junior League squad. Last year, he won the Junior Club Championship Nine & Under Division with a solid round of 39, seven strokes better than his nearest competitor.

This past summer, Chase teamed up with his Dad to post a stellar score of 37 and claim a Modified Pinehurst Parent-Child event at WP. Needless to say, the father-son duo have a lot of golf ahead of them. We’re certain there’s an ace out there for Dad in the future!

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Welcome to Our New Director of Golf

by Michael Thomas

 Sep 29, 2017 at 8:18 PM

Adam McLaughlin Joins Wakefield Plantation as Director of Golf

Adam grew up in Raleigh where he learned the game from Sam Brewer at North Ridge CC and attended Millbrook High School. After high school, Adam played for Appalachian State University where he was voted team captain his senior year in addition to being team MVP his junior and senior seasons. He has spent the last 11 years at Alamance Country Club with the last 6 years being their Head Professional/Director of Golf. 

Adam is a very talented golf professional and will bring his 11+ years of experience in the golf industry to Wakefield. He has a strong passion for customer service, teaching, growing the game to all levels of golfers, staff development and merchandising to our membership. Adam is considered to be one of the better playing professionals in the Carolinas Section with him most recently playing in the 2015 PGA Professional National Championship. Adam won the CGA Club Championship in 2007 and 2012. Please help us welcome Adam, along with his wife Amanda and their daughter Ellie (8) and son Walker (6) to the Wakefield team. 

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REX Recap

by Josh Points

 Aug 24, 2017 at 6:40 PM

At Wakefield Plantation, the 2017 Rex Hospital Open was another resounding success.

Conrad earned his first Web.com Tour title by beating hometown favorite Chesson Hadley with a par in strong rain on the first hole of a playoff. Shindler closed with a 4-under 67 to match Hadley at 15-under 269.

The 29-year-old former Texas A&M player earned $117,000 to jump from 50th to fifth on the money list with $152,528 in his rookie season. The top 25 at the end of the regular season earn their PGA Tour cards. Hadley — a Raleigh native and the 2013 tournament winner who was born at UNC REX Hospital, and his wife had both of their kids there — earned $70,200 and moved up to No. 18 with $101,632.

This was the 30th playing of the Rex Open and the 13th consecutive year at Wakefield Plantation. Any Web.com event takes a tremendous amount of effort to make it a successful tournament. Wakefield Director of Golf Josh Points shares highlights of the event.

For starters, Points notes that Wakefield Plantation Superintendent Todd Lawrence and his staff did an amazing job preparing the course and making the field one of the strongest of the year on the Web.com Tour.

“We know that we run a great event because of the number of PGA Tour players that play,” says Points. “That number will be the highest of any Web event this year. They come to Wakefield because the condition of the course is as good, if not better, than most on the PGA Tour.”

Points says the effort starts with Tournament Director Brian Krusoe, who has helped turn “The Boardwalk” during the event into one of Raleigh’s most family-friendly environments. “The face painting, bounce houses, snow cones, and food trucks are such a great part of the event that gives every family an opportunity to introduce golf to young kids.”

Because of attractions like these, many players bring their families to the event — which is not typical on the Web.com Tour, where funds tend to be tight. “I was impressed and proud to see players with their parents, wives, and children,” says Points. “Players want their families to enjoy a great week, too.”

At the end of the day, the volunteers are the backbone of the event.

“It’s great to see members like Helen Lundie working 100-hour weeks to make the event a success,” says Points. “Christine Perkins does an awesome job arranging player housing, which is one of the key reasons our event is special. The number of members that open their homes and form lasting relationships with players is something we are all proud of.”

Points said he loses track of all the compliments he receives from players, tournament partners at Rex, and the staff of the PGA Tour. Jim Duncan, Web.com Tour vice president of rules, competition, and administration, gave The Rex Open one of the best compliments imaginable.

“He said, ‘Coming to this event feels like coming home in many ways,’” recalls Points. “We have a young club, and the Rex Hospital Open helps us create history.”

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Remembering Bob Bidwell

by Josh Points

 Aug 24, 2017 at 6:36 PM

Bob Bidwell, first-tee starter at Wakefield Plantation since the Club’s inception in 2000, passed away on May 7, 2017 at the age of 89. Bob had spent his last month in and out of the hospital.

Bob was a man who had an uncanny ability to remember names and to make a lasting positive impact on each person he met. Bob, clad in knickers, was best known for his announcing skills on the first tee for the Rex Hospital Open, the Tuscarora interclub matches, and swim team events. His delivery lent importance to each event, and he made each participant feel special.

Working at a private club, Bob spent his days with a membership that enjoys
a certain level of financial freedom — and yet none were richer than Bob. He was blessed with all of the things that truly matter in life and shared those gifts with so many.

While we are sad to lose Bob, his extraordinary life should be celebrated. All of us at Wakefield are better for having known him.

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Off Course Play

by Jessie Ammons

 Dec 01, 2016 at 9:41 PM

With short days and cold weather, wintertime usually means retiring your clubs and hunkering down, at least for a few weeks. Yet it can be a time of opportunity. “When we’re in the spring and summer months, we focus on what the golf ball’s doing,” says Wakefield Plantation Director of Golf Josh Points. “In the winter months, you have an opportunity to focus on how your body shifts and rotates during a swing. What can you do to improve your personal mobility and physical fitness?”

As it turns out, you can do plenty - in much less time than a round on the course would take.

Points knows firsthand how beneficial the winter can be. At the Wakefield Plantation Learning Center, two indoor-outdoor bays and an indoor putting area are equipped with video technology to offer players instant feedback on their swing. “Carl Pettersson, David Mathis, Cameron Percy - in the winter months, we see a ton of our tour players use the indoor practice ranges,” Points says. “It takes them out of the elements and into a more controlled environment.” Points says that, once there, “they can focus on the things they’re trying to change in their golf swing.” Likewise, he says golfers of every level can treat the off season as a “time to change things physically in your game. Winter is a great time to focus on certain changes that you postpone all spring and summer.”

“When you have that time in the winter, you can focus on practicing and changing small movements,” Points agrees. He recommends investing in (or borrowing from a fellow member!) a weighted club. “Practicing your swing with it throughout the winter is a nice way to keep your game in shape and prepare for your schedule in the spring.” Even more specifically, Tallant says cooler months are the best time to start working on your short game. “Putting and chipping tend to be the two things that get rusty the fastest,” she says. “Stick to practicing in the mirror and you’ll stay tee-time ready come spring.”

Watch below as Points and Assistant Golf Professional Erica Britt demonstrate indoor practice tips to keep your golf swing in fine form. 


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Honoring ‘Our’ One and Only Bob Bidwell

by Matt McConnell

 Dec 01, 2015 at 7:45 PM

As you approach the first tee, with the morning sun rising above the first green at Wakefield Plantation, it already seems like a good day for golf. But with 87-year-old veteran starter Robert “Bob” Bidwell waiting to welcome you at his designated cart area, your day just got even better.

Sitting up straight with his clipboard in one hand and maybe a cigar in the other, the former paratrooper always relaxes you before your upcoming round with a quick joke or funny story. From a life lesson to a recurring line of how he still shoots his own age in a round of golf, Bob always knows the right thing to say to make you feel comfortable no matter who you are.

If you are a lady, he may give you a soft hug with a compliment. If you are a junior golfer, he will make sure you shake the starter’s hand with a firm grip. If you are a senior, he will make you think, “When I grow up, I want to be like Bob Bidwell.”

Honoring Bob

With a membership that loves him dearly, it would be hard to imagine Wakefield without him. So on July 24th this past year, more than 100 Wakefield Plantation members came together to throw a party and present a plaque for their friend Bob. Reading, “In Honor of Robert (Bob) C. Bidwell, Head Starter at Wakefield Plantation since June 27th, 2000, Veteran, Teacher, Coach, Father, Grandfather, Mentor and Friend,” everyone would agree, that says it all about him. In addition to the large crowd of members attending, there were more than twice that number of current and former members who contributed to the plaque and special honorarium given to Bob.

After seeing it in person and hearing how the plaque would be set on No. 1 at the party, Bob quickly announced, “That’s where my ashes are going.” With laughter already in the air, Bob humbly thanked everyone for everything and mentioned how “this is unbelievable.” He even explained, “As I have told my daughter before, I do want my ashes out on No. 1 … but for goodness sakes don’t put them in the bunker!” The celebration would continue with jokes throughout the evening, setting the tone of how special this man’s presence is to their club.

Now as you approach the first tee, you will not only see Bob himself but also his special plaque permanently mounted in stone, recognizing his unique contributions to making Wakefield Plantation such a wonderful place to enjoy golf.

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