Bob Gillespie



Home Course: Robbie Biershenk

Posted 10/24/2013 12:19:00 PM

On a Thursday morning in June, Robbie Biershenk was following Interstate 85 – and a lifelong dream – from his home near Mauldin toward the Atlanta area to compete in a weekend Peach State Tour golf tournament. It’s a typical story from the mini-tour lifestyle: long car drives, living on shoestring budgets, purses that are hardly life-changing.

And Biershenk, 35, couldn’t be happier. OK, he could if, say, he were to play his way up to the million-dollar lifestyle of the PGA Tour. But for now, he’s content to take baby steps. Take his current situation.

“What I like about this tour,” the Spartanburg native says, “is it’s 1 ½-2 hours from home, so I can drive there and back, or stay with a buddy. That’s more convenient for me and less expensive; (the tour has) $550 entry fees and the payout is good for what you pay in.

“For me, it’s about gaining experience, trying to be smart. (His play) has been up and down, a few good tournaments, a few bad. But I can only get better.”

For the past two decades, Biershenk had a vicarious look at that lifestyle. His older brother, Tommy, chased the mini-tour dream all the way the PGA Tour in 2012. Robbie, who says he made “bad decisions” when he was young and one of South Carolina’s top juniors – unlike Tommy and younger brother Nick, who both played at Clemson, he failed to capitalize on his golf gifts, dropping out of Spartanburg Methodist College – sees his current pursuit as a better-late-than-never challenge.

Too, the middle Biershenk brother has enjoyed the family’s most notoriety. Owner of Shanks Driving Range in Mauldin (Shank is his nickname) and a one-time dabbler in long-drive competitions, Robbie’s “Tin Cup” lifestyle drew Golf Channel to feature him on its “Big Break: Indian Wells” reality series, and then last year as co-star of “Chasing the Dream,” which chronicled his Tour aspirations. That part of his life hasn’t changed.

“I still have to juggle work (at the range) with golf,” he says. “I wasted a lot of years, but now my dream is to make up for lost time.” His parents help run the driving range when Robbie competes, and he and Tommy share expenses when their mini-tour schedules overlap.

“I’ve had to reschedule some because of work, since I need the range to fall back on” for income, he says. There are other benefits, too; Tommy’s son Trace, 13, works there now and as a result also has been bitten by the golf bug. “He’s to the point he knows he wants to do this, too,” Robbie says.

No wonder. The Biershenk family is the closest thing to a Spartanburg golf dynasty; four generations have played, starting with the brothers’ grandfather through Tommy Sr. and now Trace. And Robbie, despite his late start, still hopes to take it to the top level.

“It took me a while to figure it out,” he says. “Tommy warned me if I thought I could cut grass four days (at the range), not touch a club, and then get back on a tee box (in competition), I was in for a rude awakening – and he was right.

“Next year, I’ll be better mentally. I have to think only about each shot, not what’s going on at home.” For now, though, he juggles home and golf, and chasing the dream.

Hometown: Spartanburg; lives in Mauldin

Bio: Dominated S.C. Junior Golf Association’s age-bracket ranks, finishing runner-up in the S.C. Junior when he was 14; played two seasons at Spartanburg Methodist College; has owned and operated Shanks Driving Range, “open 8 (a.m.) to 10 (p.m.) every day,” since 2006.

Highlights: Appeared on Golf Channel’s “Big Break” and “Chasing the Dream” reality series; won a playoff to advance from first round of U.S. Open qualifying in 2012; reached several national finals of Re Max Long Driving competition.

Where I play: “In the Upstate, I like Thornblade, and then the Hejaz Shrine Golf Course, which has been around forever. A good friend of mine is the superintendent there, and he does a great job; they’ve made a lot of improvements, and it’s a challenging course, inexpensive, lot of grass on it – plus it’s only two miles away (from Shanks Driving Range). Woodfin Ridge near Boiling Springs is a good driving course with (out of bounds) on both sides of fairway; you’ve got to find the ‘popsicle stick’ (150-yard marker). I love Green Valley in Greenville; they’ve got a new owner, made a lot of improvements, and have the best practice facilities I’ve ever seen.

“Outside the Upstate, I really like Bulls Bay near Mount Pleasant for its wide-open nature, and their new mini-verde greens are real slick and unpredictable, plus the wind can get up to 20-30 mph. And they have awesome practice facilities. In Myrtle Beach, I like River Hills in Little River. The back nine has the most challenging closing holes on the coast, no doubt. It’s a demanding course; you’ve got to hit some golf shots.

“Around Columbia, Woodcreek Farms is a good one. I played (the Golf Club of South Carolina at) Crickentree as a junior and it’s a good course, the toughest public course in Columbia. I tell people, if you get a guy who says his handicap is 7, you can almost double that at Crickentree.”

Where I eat: “I’m a Mexican food junkie. There’s plenty of high-end places in downtown Greenville, but I don’t go there. I like Azteca in Mauldin, which is one mile from the range; I think I paid their power bill last month. My favorite dish is the chimichangas with extra white sauce. I do like the Ale House in downtown Greenville, whatever’s on menu is always good; it’s a sports bar, big-screen TVs. In Spartanburg, I like Wade’s, just good country/family cooking. Of course, there’s The Beacon, and for seafood I like The Flounder off New Cut Road behind Waccamaw Pottery.”

What I do for fun: “I like to go to the beach and just relax. And I like to fish for whatever I’ve got an opportunity to catch. In Charleston, I go deep sea fishing, and I fish on Lake Hartwell. One time there, I had run out of bait, so I stuck a wad of bubble gum on the hook, and I caught a pregnant bream. Beach-wise, I like Folly Beach in Charleston. If I’m in Myrtle Beach, I’m probably playing golf, but if I just want to kick back and relax, it’s Hilton Head or Charleston; you have more privacy. If I go, I’m there for the beach, though I got to admit I’ve never gone to the beach strictly for vacation. My clubs are always in the trunk.”