Originally created 03/02/05

Camellia Classic remains in limbo



The Regions Cup schedule is out, but an additional event could be added during the season.

The status of the Camellia Classic at Thomson's Belle Meade Country Club, which has been played since 1999, is up in the air.

It was played in late June last year, but that won't happen this year. The course is closed for renovation and is scheduled to re-open in August.

If the weather and other factors cooperate and the course re opens on time, the Camellia Classic would be played Aug. 20-21, which is an open weekend on the Regions Cup schedule.

But don't count on it. When Jimmy Rigsby of Regions Bank and Regions Cup executive director Brooks Blackburn made up the 2005 schedule, the Camellia Classic wasn't on it.

"I don't know whether it's going to work or not," Rigsby said. "For the time being, you have to say it's uncertain."

The other nine Regions Cup events from last year will return at their regular dates, but one event is changing venues.

The Gordon Uhl/Golf Capital Invita¤tional will be played at Augusta's Forest Hills Golf Club after a six-year run at Midland Valley Country Club in Graniteville.

Midland Valley will still have two tournaments ñ the Orville White Cup and the Midland Valley Senior Invitational.

Forest Hills will continue to hold the Augusta City Amateur.

The Golf Capital's move to Forest Hills also means the series, which started in 1988, is now split evenly between Georgia and South Carolina courses.

The other courses in the series are Augusta Municipal Golf Course, North Augusta Country Club, Persimmon Hill Golf Club, Goshen Plantation Golf Club and Pine Ridge Country Club.

The Regions Cup series, which runs from late April to late August, has had the same 10 tournaments for the past three years. However, in recent years, other courses have showed interest in playing host to an event, but they have been turned down by Rigsby.

"I don't think we're going to add any," Rigsby said. "If we were to lose one, we might be interested in adding one."

Rigsby noted that golfers who play in all 10 tournaments will pay more than $1,000 in entry fees.

North Augusta renovation: This summer, North Augusta Country Club will become the latest area club to undertake a major renovation project.

The course will be closed from June 26 to mid-September, North Augusta head golf pro and club manager David Usry said Tuesday.

Forest Hills Golf Club was closed from early-April 2003 to mid-November 2003 for extensive work, and Belle Meade Country Club is currently closed for renovation. It is scheduled to open in August.

This will be the first renovation at North Augusta, which opened its first nine holes in 1962 and its second nine in 1966. Les Hall designed both nines.

"The changes the club is going to make will be significant and are long overdue," Usry said. "It's got to the point now where we have to renovate to keep up with the competition in the area."

The North Augusta greens still have their original foundation and Bermuda grass.

"Forty-three years, that's unheard of in this day and time," Usry said of the age of the greens, which will be changed to Champion, a strain of Tift Dwarf grass.

Changes will be made to nearly every hole, Usry said, and area golf course architect Bill Boswell will do the design work.

The major design changes include:

  • Eliminating the par-3 17th hole. A new par-3 will be built behind where No. 17 had been, and it will play as the 12th hole on the course.
  • Moving the ninth green down the hill to the clubhouse side of the pond.
  • Moving the tee on No. 1 back to where the putting green is now and shifting the green back and to the left, making the hole more of a dogleg left.
  • Moving the 18th hole's tee box to the right, in front of where the old No. 17 green was.
  • Building a new green on what is now the 15th hole and lengthening the hole.
  • In all, more than 200 yards will be added to the 6,448 yard course.

    "It's going to look totally different," Usry said.

    Local Pro honored: When lists of the nation's top instructors are released each year, Tommy Brannen's name is usually on them.

    The Augusta Country Club head pro is on two recent ones ñ Golf magazine's top teachers by region ranking and a U.S. Kids Golf list.

    Golf recognized Brannen among the top teachers in the Southeast, which includes Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina and Tennessee.

    He's the only instructor from Augusta to make that list, which is based on "a keen knowledge of the swing, a sharp and discerning eye and great communication skills," according to the magazine.

    U.S. Kids Golf picked Brannen as one of "America's top 50 Kids Teachers."

    Teachers on that list came from 28 states. The selection criteria included "success in organizing and administering youth programs, as well as teaching," U.S. Kids Golf said.

    "This is a very experienced group of men and women who have made a commitment to helping kids not only learn the game of golf, but also develop a love for the game that lasts far beyond their days in junior golf," said Dan Van Horn, the U.S. Kids Golf president.

    U.S. Kids Golf is an Atlanta-based company that specializes in equipment, instruction and tournaments for juniors.

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