I first played in the tournament in 1984 (Rawlings Golf was the sponsor and the grand prize giveaway was a little Dodge car), then it became Kool Max, then DuPont. I played the first 16 years before missing a few when I moved to California and have played sporadically since. The original entry fee was $175 and they only had beer and BBQ at the convention center and if I recall right, the convention center/19th hole was only on Thursday night. The courses you play have always been hit or miss in quality and service, however you typically get a good course or two. In over the 25+ times I’ve played I’ve seen it go from being the sandbaggers open to a first class tournament. The $600 (early entry) fee it is now does not seem too expensive for all you get, golf, gifts and the 19th hole (hell I probably drink $400-$500 of bourbon and need to detox when I get home).
I spend less on this tournament that I do on my club’s member guest (Pine Needles/MidPines/Southern Pines – $650 last year- and that’s just 3 days golf and 2 days of cocktail parties)
So in my opinion it’s still a great value, the only issue I have is the Grand Prize has gotten worse (1 year they gave away a condo among other great prizes in different years)