Originally created 04/03/02

Golf fans book up Aiken hotels



AIKEN - It's not that the Masters Tournament guests making last-minute plans don't have a prayer, but hotel managers said Tuesday that the odds of getting a room in Aiken for the week are only slightly better than outshooting Tiger Woods at Amen Corner.

With practice rounds starting Monday, vacancies are scarce, they said.

Aiken's historic Willcox Inn on Colleton Avenue, which had its first major reopening to the public Tuesday after months of renovations, has had all of its rooms reserved since January.

Changes since last year include a new dining room and chef and the addition of a day spa.

Libby Cook, the general manager of the hotel, said people choose Aiken for its relaxed atmosphere.

"You can look up and see horses passing by," she said.

The Hotel Aiken, on the corner of Laurens Street and Richland Avenue, formerly called the Holley House Inn, reported only a few vacancies.

According to co-owner Kishan N. Shah, about 80 percent of the hotel's rooms have been renovated in time for Masters use as part of an overhaul.

The hotel will hold an official grand opening April 25, he said.

As part of Hotel Aiken's improvements, a new restaurant, the Tuscany Grill, opened two weeks ago. It specializes in northern Italian cuisine.

Outside downtown, chain-hotel locations in the city also reported few vacancies.

The Comfort Inn & Suites on Richland Avenue has been sold out for three months, General Manager Nash Champaneri said. He attributed the early bookings to repeat business and convenient access to U.S. Highway 1, a direct route to Augusta.

Those looking for rooms Tuesday had better chances with hotels on the south side of town.

"For some of the nights, we still have rooms," said Sandra Blocker, who was working the desk at the Hampton Inn on Whiskey Road on Tuesday. She said most availabilities were for nights during practice rounds.

Reach Josh Gelinas or Eric Williamson at (803) 279-6895 or scbureau@augustachronicle.com.