Golf statues get closer to museum

The chairman of the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame board is ready to hash out a plan for getting the six bronze golfer statues out of storage and back into the light of day.

 

Bryan Persons, of Macon, Ga., said in a telephone interview Monday that he's working to set up a meeting with the four statue donors who sent the golf hall a letter last month urging that they be put back on display, and he would like the Augusta Museum of History to be at the table, too.

"I certainly think it would be a logical place," he said of the museum, which has been in talks with the golf hall about housing the statues in its rotunda.

The sculptures of Bobby Jones, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, Ray Floyd and Byron Nelson were locked up in a maintenance building at the former botanical gardens two years ago this month. The hall of fame's botanical gardens had closed the summer before after Gov. Sonny Perdue vetoed a $633,885 appropriation, and the golf hall wanted to keep its most valuable assets in a safe place.

But plans to revive the golf gardens faltered, and the statues lingered in the dark.

In a letter dated Aug. 27 on Augusta Tomorrow letterhead, four of the donors asked the golf hall to keep the statues in Augusta and help put them in "a worthy venue."

"Our businesses would not have sponsored these exhibits if they were to be located someplace other than in Augusta," the letter says, "since the motivation for our businesses was to foster tourism in Augusta and recognition for our local businesses."

The letter said each sponsor paid $250,000 -- $90,000 to $100,000 for the sculptures and the rest to maintain a permanent exhibit. It was signed by Richard Fairey, CSRA market president for Palmer statue donor Wachovia bank (then Bankers First Corp.); William S. Morris III, CEO of Nicklaus statue donor Morris Communications Co.; Walter Dukes, region vice president of Hogan statue donor Georgia Power Co.; and Phil S. Harison Jr., president of Nelson statue donor the Creel Foundation.

Missing from the letter were Floyd statue donor Club Car, where John Reynolds, vice president of global business development, is on the Golf Hall of Fame board; and Jones statue donor Callaway Golf Co., which is in California.

With the golf hall in the process of merging with the Georgia State Golf Association, giving it a home and financial resources again, Mr. Persons said the time is right to find a place for the statues. He said he's willing to come to Augusta to meet with the donors or talk to them in a conference call.

"Let's just get it all out on the table and see if we can accomplish all the goals to everybody's satisfaction," he said Monday.

Any plan would have to go before the board for a vote, Mr. Persons said. While the board is likely to lean toward keeping the statues in Augusta, he said, it's unlikely to agree to give up ownership of them because there's still a chance the Golf Hall of Fame will find a permanent building.

Mr. Persons said whoever gets the statues will have to pay the moving costs.

Museum Executive Director Nancy Glaser said she could line up a forklift and a flatbed. She said she would then put the statues on pedestals with caster wheels, so they could be rolled out of the way on holidays when the museum is closed or when weddings are held in the rotunda. Six pedestals would cost about $1,000, and she said she's hoping private donors or the city could help.

In the rotunda, which is the museum's front lobby, even nonpaying customers could see them, Ms. Glaser said.

"I'm a happy camper," she said of Mr. Persons' desire to set up a meeting. "As I've said all along, I would like to keep them in Augusta, and we're happy to be the home."

Reach Johnny Edwards at (706) 823-3225 or johnny.edwards@augustachronicle.com.

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