Originally created 10/06/04

Event off the beaten course



Once the players in the Asahi Ryokuken International Championship golf tournament hit Sweetwater Road, they enter a strange, new world.

The two-lane stretch of country road that takes them from North Augusta to Mount Vintage Plantation Golf Club in Edgefield County is not the typical route to an LPGA Tour event.

On a typical day on the winding road, they might see cows, deer, goats, horses and even a donkey.

"You don't see that very often," Christina Kim said.

"This is as far remote as we ever get," said Janice Moodie, the 2002 Asahi Ryokuken champion.

Kim, who earned her first career victory at the Longs Drugs Classic two weeks ago, is in her second year on the tour.

Like most of the players, she feels the out-of-the-way location of the Asahi Ryokuken gives the tournament a distinct feel.

"It's nice because you like to be able to differentiate every event from one another," Kim said. "That's definitely the reason that this tournament is special. Not just because you've got true Southern hospitality, but it's so far away from everything we're used to. It's very neat."

"Normally, we're in big housing developments and cities and everything is around," Moodie said. "I like the feel to this tournament."

Kim is staying at a hotel just off Highway 25, near the entrance to Sweetwater Road, because she likes to support the community where a tournament is located.

Most of the players stay in hotels in Augusta, which is about 15 miles away from Mount Vintage.

"I like it because it's nice to come to a tournament that's sort of away from the city," Kim said. "You get so used to the hustle and bustle of metropolitan areas."

That stretch on Sweetwater Road to Mount Vintage only takes about 10 minutes to drive, but it can seem much longer.

"This is the fourth year I've been coming," Moodie said, "and each time you think, 'it's (the course) around this corner, no it's around this corner.' It's kind of funny driving up here."

"The first time I was driving to the course, I thought I'd gotten lost," Kim said.

"I had no idea where the golf course was, and at the same time you're getting a little anxious because you're getting far away from the rest of civilization. It's very remote here, and at the same time same it's relaxing."

Once the players get to Mount Vintage, they enter another world, one of Southern hospitality.

"People are very friendly here," Heather Bowie said. "I think it's just this part of the country. I live in Texas, and it's similiar there. People seem to be excited we come to town and are very nice to us."

"I like the country cooking in the clubhouse," added Moodie, who is from Scotland.

"People smile more here, and when they ask you how you're doing, you can tell they care," Kim said.

Reach David Westin at (706) 724-0851 or david.westin@augustachronicle.com.