Originally created 02/11/99

Clubhouse to receive marker



An Augusta golf landmark targeted for demolition just a year ago will be one of the first sites in Georgia to qualify for a bronze historical marker under a resurrected state program.

"We'd like to hold the unveiling Wednesday of Masters Week," said Ross Snellings, an Augusta Historic Preservation Commission member who led efforts last year to save the Forest Hills Golf Course clubhouse.

The old building, which has fallen into disrepair, is where Bobby Jones won the Southeastern Open Championship in 1930, setting the stage for his Grand Slam performance during the five months that followed.

"Bobby Jones was quoted repeatedly, time after time, that he felt it was his finest performance, won by 13 strokes," Mr. Snellings said.

The building is owned by Augusta State University and governed by the Forest Hills Golf Club management committee, which decided early in 1998 to demolish the building to make way for a practice green and chipping area.

Mr. Snellings helped convince the university to preserve the building and created the Grand Slam Clubhouse Committee to raise money to renovate and restore the clapboard structure.

The historical marker, approved in January by the Georgia Historical Society, will be among the first such markers since the statewide program was reinstated last fall, said Erick Montgomery, executive director of Historic Augusta Inc. and a Georgia Historical Society board member.

"It was one of a group of eight considered for the first go-round," Mr. Montgomery said. "Everybody felt it was a good application and a good marker, especially with its significance to golf."

The marker will cost $1,500, of which half will come from Historic Augusta, the Grand Slam Clubhouse Committee, the Richmond County Historical Society and the Augusta-Richmond County Historic Preservation Commission.

The clubhouse was built around 1926 and hosted many of the golf legends of the 1920s and 1930s, including Walter Hagen, Henry Picard and Gene Sarazen.

"There's no question it's a major landmark. If it takes a bronze plaque to show how historic it is, so be it," Mr. Snellings said.

Early estimates indicate the building could be restored for about $400,000, which includes $75,000 for exterior work and removal of non-historic features added in later years.

"We'd like to restore it to what it looked like during Bobby Jones' day," Mr. Snellings said.

Initial plans include renovating the interior for use by Augusta State University's golf team -- lockers, showers, facilities for men and women and a trophy room.

The committee also would like to create a historical museum room and offices, Mr. Snellings said.

"It will be something people visiting Augusta can go to, free and open to the public, and see something truly historic having to do with Bobby Jones," he said.

Robert Pavey can be reached at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 119, or rpavey@augustachronicle.com.