The Paine College Golf Tournament started in September 2009 in response to a travel fiasco.
The golf team had qualified for the PGA Minority Collegiate Golf Championship and was ready to go, then found out at the last minute that there wasn’t enough money in the budget to cover expenses. The team stayed home.
Thanks to the Paine tournament, that problem was quickly solved. Plus, the money raised the past three years has helped turn around the program.
Proceeds from the tournament – $71,000 so far, according to the college – go to the golf program. That money played a role in the Lions’ first Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference golf title last season and their sixth-place finish in the Division II portion of the PGA Minority Collegiate Golf Championship.
The fourth edition of the Paine College Golf Tournament will be Aug. 27 at Gordon Lakes Golf Course.
“The tournament has been phenomenal,” said second-year golf coach Herman Belton. “It’s awesome to have a community rally behind the institution and the golf program.”
Augusta native Jim Dent, a 12-time winner on the Champions Tour, got behind the tournament immediately.
He didn’t hesitate when asked whether he would be the honorary chairman. He has filled that role every year and has said he will do so as long as he’s able.
The money raised from the tournament has been used in three ways, according to Paine athletic director Tim Duncan. It has gone to travel so Paine can improve its schedule, to scholarships and to team apparel.
“But we’re not limiting ourselves to those three,” Duncan said.
The scholarship money allowed Paine to offer 3.07 golf scholarships for the 2012-13 season as opposed to the 1.82 it offered in 2010-11 and 2011-12. The scholarship max for an NCAA Division II program is 3.6.
The bright future of the program helped Paine land Carlos Solis a year ago. As a freshman, Solis earned SIAC player of the year, freshman of the year and MVP honors as Paine won the SIAC Tournament.
He’ll be joined this year by incoming freshman Jerrell Hubbard, from Westover High in Albany, Ga., who won the Region 1-AAA title last season.
“That money helped me recruit a player like Jerrell Hubbard,” Belton said.
“To add a player the caliber of Jerrell Hubbard, that’s tremendous,” Duncan said. “In Division II, it’s extremely competitive because it’s about scholarship dollars. Through the money raised in this tournament, it has helped us be in the same ballpark with other schools.”
There are still spots open for this year’s tournament, which is expected to raise more money than the previous three.
After a successful three-year run at the 18-hole Jones Creek Golf Club in Evans, the tournament has moved to Gordon Lakes. Because the course on Fort Gordon has 27 holes, the field can be expanded from 160 to 200 players.
“Jones Creek was the course that opened its doors to allow us to come in,” said Kenny Larry, the tournament chairman. “They are really responsible for our golf tournament growing the way it has.”
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WHAT A CHANGE: In the Augusta City Amateur, co-runner-up Davis Parker cut 35 strokes off his previous appearance in the first two rounds of the tournament at Forest Hills Golf Club.
Of course, the only other time the former Westside golfer had played in the Regions Bank Amateur Series event was when he was 10.
Now 19 and bound for Presbyterian College on a golf scholarship in the fall, the Augustan shot 72-67-73 to finish three shots behind Jeff Pope. Shad Tutten also tied for second place.
When his father signed Parker up as a 10-year-old, he thought there were age groups in the tournament. There aren’t.
“I was playing with a bunch of 30-year-olds,” said Parker, who said he had trouble reaching the fairways from the tee.
Now, he can hit all the par-5s in two.
He remembers shooting 87-87: “For a 10-year-old, that’s not bad, I guess.”