Tee Sheets Filled Up In May

Donald MacPherson's opening drive barely made it off the Great Southern Club's first tee. Fortunately, he still had five days to perfect his swing. "This was one of the destinations that was within two flights," MacPherson said, as he described why he flew from Bermuda to play golf in South Mississippi. "We heard a lot about the golf here. So we came down and tried it out."

Once a year, MacPherson and two dozen other islanders book a seven day golf get away in the U.S. Past trips took them to Myrtle Beach and Florida. "If we find a place and we get comfortable and we like it, the courses are good, the accommodations are good, the people are nice, we usually stick to it five or six times," he said.

They spent six straight years in South Carolina, five years in Florida. The coast could be their next long term destination. "So far, so good," said MacPherson.

According to Gulf Coast Golf Association director Kevin Drum, so far, so good is a pretty fair description of the 2003 golf season. "We've exceeded our expectations," Drum said. "But our goals, we haven't reached all our goals yet."

After a sluggish snowbird season, golf courses rebounded in May. Golf packages jumped 22% compared to a year ago. Drum was encouraged by that result. "What we did is we positioned the gulf coast for success in the future," he said.

According to Drum, future success means extending the coast golf season beyond the first four months of the year.

The golf industry may get a boost this week. Almost two dozen Canadian tour operators are in South Mississippi. They're here to put together vacation packages that can be sold to Canadian golfers.