Originally created 04/14/02

Golf galore



Golf pro Lee Hammett, though better known as pro Charles Howell III's first teacher than an interior designer, played off her love for the game in furnishing her Grovetown condominium.

She chose leather, pewter and wood - elements reminiscent of a good set of clubs - for the decor.

She's sentimental about "old stuff," such as her collection of 30-year-old wineglasses, embossed in gold, from the Augusta National Golf Club, or the Ping golf clubs she used for 18 years, now hanging over wooden tees along her stairway wall.

Framed pictures of golf courses, such as the Augusta National, and magazine covers from the 1950s featuring golfers are hung in the living room and over the stairway.

She is working on a corner on Augusta-native Howell with whom she worked for about two years and who made his debut in the Masters Tournament this year. "I feel I need to dedicate a little portion of my home to him because he has sure been kind to me mentioning me in interviews," said Ms. Hammett, who started teaching him in 1986.

For his first lesson, she recalls a 7-year-old boy in white tennis shorts and a baby blue shirt, so small he looked like a 4-year-old. But a year later he was blowing away tournament competition.

"I never believed there was such a thing as a natural talent for golf until I saw (him)," she said. "I think of myself as a spiritual person, and he had the most God-given talent I have ever seen."

Ms. Hammett also never thought she would buy a home of her own - she just didn't want to be tied down - but four years ago she became a homeowner for the first time.

The condominium was then a year old, long enough for the seller to upgrade insulation, carpeting and appliances and install mirrors on the side-by-side closets in the master bedroom.

He also installed hardwood flooring and molding and a showy mantel in the living room of the 1,200-square-foot, 2-bedroom, 2 1/2 -bath townhouse.

She offered him $5,000 over the asking price without blinking. "I didn't even try to get this guy to come down," she said.

Besides golf memorabilia, keepsakes from family and friends turn up in every room.

She used an oak bed dating from Civil War days for the master bedroom. Rats had gnawed the legs before she rescued it from a friend's barn. No modern mattress would fit the rails, barely 5 feet in length, so she got new metal ones to extend the bed.

Ms. Hammett persuaded friends to help her build an armoire to store her large sweater collection. "I am a sweater freak as you can see... (The armoire is) full of sweaters," she said swinging open the cabinet doors. "We golfers are crazy in a way."

When she and her friends started the armoire project, they had no plans. "I'm an eye-baller," she said.

They would make a box, she told them, and if it didn't work out, "we will store it and use it as a casket for the three of us to share - me and these two other friends of mine ... We will be frozen ... We will all be buried in it," she said.

But the armoire, made of a "conglomeration of" oak and pine scrap and birch plywood, turned out. Ms. Hammett stained the wood and applied a protective finish with steel wool. Beaten brass hinges add to the old-fashioned look.

Woodworking in a condominium presents its own challenges. She stashes tools under the stairway. Cutting is done outside.

When she and friends made a hutch for her dining room, "it started raining on us. I would run outside and somebody would hold the umbrella. I would cut a piece and run back inside," she said.

A hall runner between the entryway and living room was custom-made with her design depicting a golf flag.

She used cut-off golf clubs for legs on her coffee table and for a lamp base. Clubs are attached with Winn grips.

Ms. Hammett flirted with golf when she was a teen-ager in Gaffney, S.C., but took the game up seriously about a decade later. In the 30 years since, the game of golf has shaped her life.

"The good Lord knew where I needed to be, so he finally put me there. But he let me grow up enough that I wouldn't be too cocky with it," she said. "I mean it from the bottom of my heart - I found my niche in life."

Reach Virginia Norton at (706) 823-3336 or vanorton@augustachronicle.com.