NORTHFIELD - The Greater Atlantic City Golf Association is tired of seeing golfers bypass their courses in favor of Myrtle Beach, S.C., and Ocean City, Md.

Armed with $250,000 from the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority and the support of the state, the newly reorganized GACGA is trying to turn South Jersey into a top-notch golf destination.

"The (GACGA) has a great product and they made that clear to us," CRDA executive director John Palmieri said Wednesday during a news conference at Atlantic City Country Club. "We have a great casino sector here, but we need to grow the non-casino sector. We're very excited."

Having a bigger and stronger organization will help the effort.

Several local golf courses previously considered the other properties as rivals. At one time, the GACGA featured only nine members and did not wield much clout in the golf industry. As the result of a reorganization meeting on May 10 There are now 18 courses in Atlantic, Cape May, Gloucest, Ocean and Salem counties, as well as Atlantic City Golf Vacations and

"It's true that the different courses do compete," said Blue Heron Pines owner Ron Jaworski, who was also named the GACGA's Ambassador of Golf on Wednesday. "We compete to be the very best we can. That being said, we have to have our arms around each other and work together to help grow the game and help make this the greatest golf community not only in the region, but in the country."

The first step is to promote the area's golf courses so that they prevent golfers and vacationers from taking trips to places like Myrtle Beach and Ocean City, Md.  

The GACGA will use the CRDA's $250,000 to develop a marketing campaign that touts its courses, as well as the restaurants, hotels, casinos and other amenities that distinguish the Atlantic City area from some other vacation destinations.

Sullivan, who is general manager of McCullough's Emerald Links in Egg Harbor Township, said displays have already been placed at Atlantic City International and Ocean City, Md., airports and there are billboards in Myrtle Beach.

"We've actually had people from North Jersey and New York coming to our airport (Atlantic City International Airport in Egg Harbor Township) to fly to another golf destination," GACGA president Tom Sullivan said. "We want those people to look at Atlantic City as a premier golf destination.

"Ocean City, Maryland has 17 courses and we have 18. Combine that with our beaches, boardwalks, restaurants and casinos and we feel like we have much more to offer than Ocean City and Myrtle Beach."