Originally created 12/29/04

Championship returns strongly



If you looked closely at the annual year-end list of area club champions in this space last week, you might have noticed a new golf course entry.

Not a new course in terms of age, considering it's 78 years old, but one that hasn't held a club championship in decades.

Before this year, it had been more than 25 years since Augusta's Forest Hills Golf Club crowned a club champ.

"Probably the reason we hadn't had one is because it was never implemented inside the shop to do one," head pro and general manager Robby Watson said. "We used to have so many tournaments, it was tough to find the right time to do it. I decided that was something I wanted to do."

Watson, who added the general manager title to his head pro duties in July, said the potential for lack of participation was another reason a club championship hadn't been held.

Watson didn't believe that, and he was right - 67 of the 150 club members turned out for the June event.

"We had a tremendous turnout for the first one," Watson said. "After the fun they had, with word of mouth, I think next year we're going to have over 100."

After the two-day, 36-hole tournament was over, Watson personally thanked every member who participated.

Many of them thanked Watson right back for having the club championship.

"Everyone with whom I talked enjoyed doing it and said what a great time they had with it," said Jimmy McLeod, who won the senior division club championship. "Robby ran the tournament in a very professional way. He made everyone feel welcome."

"They loved it; they really did," Forest Hills assistant pro Scott Allen said of the members.

As listed last week, the winners were Brendan O'Connell (men), Helga Mele (women) and McLeod.

McLeod, 58, has been a member at Forest Hills since Augusta State University took over the course in 1979.

"We were very happy Robby started this," McLeod said of the club championship. "It was a very successful tournament."

"It's something that will continue to always be done," Watson said.

BRINGING IT BACK HOME: The Durand brothers - Bert and Tracy - returned home to Augusta from Pebble Beach, Calif., last week with a pre-Christmas gift for University Hospital's Health Care Foundation.

Bert, 31, and Tracy, 41, teamed to finish 10th out of 195 teams in the Lexus Amateur Championship.

They won $1,000, which they donated to the health care foundation.

The 54-hole tournament was played at Pebble Beach Golf Links, Spyglass Hill and Spanish Bay, all located on the Monterey Peninsula.

Charles Durand, the Durand brothers' father, bought the trip during an auction at the University Hospital-sponsored Harry Jernigan Memorial at Aiken's Woodside Plantation in May.

Charles Durand followed his sons on every hole of the tournament, watching them shoot 14-under par.

"They were so excited (about the donation)," Charles Durand said.

WITHIN RANGE: For all those golfers who love to spend time at driving ranges, they might want to take the short trip to Statesboro, Ga., and visit one of the top ranges in the country.

For the fourth consecutive year, Hackers Golf Park has been voted one of the top 100 ranges in America by Golf Range magazine.

Hackers Golf Park, which is located at 2802 Old Register Road, was one of just two ranges in Georgia to make the list, and the only one near Augusta. The other was The Swing Factory in Cumming, Ga.

PUTTING ON THE RITZ: The Ritz-Carlton Lodge at Reynolds Plantation in Greensboro, Ga., which features 81 holes of golf designed by three architectural giants, has been named the North American Golf Resort of the Year by the International Association of Golf Tour Operators.

The award was based on customer satisfaction, quality of courses and service, value for the money and accessibility of tee times.

The three golf courses at Reynolds Plantation are the Jack Nicklaus-designed Great Waters course, the Tom Fazio-designed Plantation Course and the Rees Jones-designed Oconee Course.

Great Waters and the Oconee course are 18 holers. The Plantation course is 27 holes.

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