Originally created 07/12/00

Westin: Golf club gets clubhouse



The River Golf Club is close to placing the final piece in its puzzle.

Work on the clubhouse of the 18-month-old North Augusta course started in March and could be done as early as September, according to head pro and general manager Chris Verdery.

Since the course opened to favorable reviews in April of 1998, Verdery and his assistants have worked out of a modular facility.

As modular facilities go, it's a nice one, but it's still a glorified trailer.

Moving into a $1 million clubhouse that has a Colonial design and a 360-degree deck will be quite a change for Verdery.

"It will be great to be able to offer members as well as daily fee golfers a complete golf experience when they come out," Verdery said.

"The most important thing is the golf course," he added. "It's been terrific and people have really taken to it. We've established a great reputation as far as offering a first-rate experience once it comes to the golf course because of the conditioning and layout of the course and service. At this point, it's going to be nice to complement the golf course with the clubhouse that meets the quality of the course itself."

The clubhouse will feature a grill, locker rooms, a room that can be rented for activities and a room geared for members.

"I think people will be pleased once they see the final product," said Verdery, who added that membership has picked up dramatically because golfers have seen the work-in-progress clubhouse.

GSGA CHAMPIONSHIP:

With 156 of the Georgia's top amateur golfers converging on West Lake Country Club this week for the Georgia State Association Amateur Championship, you'd think the course record from the back tees would be in danger.

It's probably not, since the record is a mind-boggling 11-under-par 61, by Augusta pro Scott Parel. He did it in September of 1998.

The 72-hole state amateur begins Thursday. Rick Cloninger of Dacula is the defending champion.

Fifteen area golfers are in the field, headed by Clemson golfer John Engler and businessman Jeff Knox. That pair lost a three-way sudden death playoff for the title two years ago to Bill Roberts of Pine Mountain.

West Lake previously played host to the Amateur Championship in 1980 (the winning score was 1-under-par 287). The GSGA wanted the course be the host course for the 1990 event, but the course was going through major renovations at the time. The last time the state amateur was in Augusta was nine years ago, at the Augusta Country Club.

U.S. JUNIOR:

Alex Hamilton and Kevin Kisner of Aiken have qualified for the U.S. Junior Amateur, scheduled for July 31-Aug 5 at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in North Plains, Ore.

In a qualifier at the Orangeburg Country Club, Kisner was the medalist with rounds of 71-71 -- 142. Hamilton was one of the other two qualifiers with rounds of 72-72 -- 144. There were more than 80 entrants.

The Orangeburg site was one of more than 60 sectional qualifiers around the country. The starting field will number 156 players who have not reached their 18th birthdays by Aug. 5.

Kisner, 16, will be a junior at South Aiken this fall while the 17-year-old Hamilton will be a senior.

"This is the biggest tournament you can play in as a junior; this is it," Hamilton said. "It's the high point in my carer, as I'm sure it is for most people who play in it."

Hamilton is the son of Jimmy Hamilton, one of the top amateurs in the area. Jimmy, a former pro, was his son's first teacher. Though Alex has had other teachers, Jimmy still works with him.

In fact, Jimmy has been so busy working with his son that he's cut back on the number of Regions Cup events he plays in this year.

"I'm spending more time with him; I'm having more fun than I was when I was playing more," Jimmy Hamilton said.

Jimmy Hamilton said his son has made "huge" progress since he dropped other sports three years ago to concentrate on golf.

"It's made a big difference, but he's also worked at it to make himself a player."

Reach David Westin at (706) 724-0851.