Originally created 10/10/01

Series solidified with help from sponsors

The Augusta area's top amateur golfers made their feelings known about the Regions Cup golf series at last week's season-ending Regions Cup Matches.

At a dinner that followed the final round of the matches, won by Georgia over South Carolina, executive director Steve Foss thanked Regions Bank for sponsoring the two-day event at Belle Meade Country Club in Thomson.

That brought applause, followed by a standing ovation from the players. They were thanking Boone Knox, the chairman of the central Georgia Regions Bank, and Jimmy Rigsby, the president and CEO of central Georgia Regions Bank, for sponsoring the series. Both men attended all of the functions connected with the matches.

The nine-tournament series, which Cadillac started and sponsored from 1988-1997, has only gotten stronger since Regions Bank took over in 1999.

There was no sponsor in 1998.

After the 1998 season, Knox saw a newspaper article that said a sponsor was being sought to take over the series. He quickly called Rigsby.

"Boone said, 'Jimmy, we need to do that; we need to take that over,"' Rigsby recalled.

"It was something we couldn't pass up," Knox said. "Not with Jimmy's and my passion for golf and competition and camaraderie, which I thought was all a part of the deal. I've found out it's even more a part of the deal than I thought."

At the time, Regions Bank said it would sponsor the event for three years and see how it went. Those three years are now up.

"Jimmy and I are both happy with the way it's progressed," Knox said. "We're going to continue to do it until somebody tells us we can't do it anymore. We're in here for the long run."

That's great news for local golfers. The regular season series is strong, and the matches, which are for the top 12 players from both Georgia and South Carolina who qualify based on their finishes during the season, are greatly anticipated.

Starting with its first year of sponsorship, Regions Bank has allotted more and more money to the matches. It goes to pay for player-of-the-year plaques, a banquet the night before the matches, shirts, balls and gloves. There is another dinner after the matches.

The matches and dinners are held at Belle Meade, which Knox, a shareholder at the club and resident of Thomson, wants to be the permanent site.

The players are treated like kings, which is the way it should be. It's their reward for qualifying for the teams.

"We give them the run of the barn," Knox said. "They can do anything they want, as long as it's legal."

Knox was so fired up after watching Georgia win the matches 29-25 that he wants to get in on the action.

Knox issued this challenge: He and Rigsby will take on the player of the year (Jay Blackburn) and senior player of the year (Michael Benham) at any course of their choosing in the area. Knox and Rigsby will pick up the tab.

There's one catch. Knox said he and Rigsby would have to get some handicap shots. Blackburn and Benham shouldn't have any problem with that.

Reach David Westin at (706) 724-0851.


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