Originally created 09/22/05

Jags' event to be moved



Teams pulling out of the Augusta State Invitational golf tournament prompted the Augusta Golf Association to make a change Wednesday.

The group that runs the school's annual golf event decided to sever ties with Augusta State's home golf course for the 28th annual college tournament and beyond. The Administaff ASU Invitational will move from Forest Hills Golf Club to Champions Retreat Golf Club in Evans for the 2006-08 events.

The private, 27-hole tract was designed by golf legends Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Arnold Palmer. The scenic course, which is bordered by the Savannah River, opened in June.

"It was a little bittersweet," Augusta Golf Association president Will Weston said. "No offense to Forest Hills, but we wanted to take it to the next level. Our goal is for every college golf team in America to want to play in our golf tournament."

The main reason for the move is college teams simply were unhappy with Forest Hills, which was redesigned in 2003. In the past two tournaments, just one team finished under-par for the 54-hole event.

In recent years, Augusta State beefed up its field for its home event. In 2004, seven of the top-20 teams in the nation participated.

In April, Forest Hills played host to eight of the top-20 teams, including eventual NCAA Division I champion Georgia, Duke and Wake Forest. All three teams pulled out of the 2006 event, which includes just five of the top-20 teams, according to the 2004-05 Golfweek final rankings. The lone top-10 team in the field is Augusta State.

"College golf is changing," Jaguars coach Josh Gregory said. "We play so many golf tournaments at places like Isleworth and Vegas and Hawaii. We're getting to the point where we're getting spoiled. We're playing some of the best courses in the nation.

"(Champions Retreat) gives us the venue to host the best teams in the nation."

Augusta State athletic director Clint Bryant said moving the tournament to Champions Retreat is the first move in a threefold process. Bryant said the school wants to soon play host to an NCAA Regional and then the NCAA Division I Championship.

Weston said the AGA would like to hold the national championship as soon as 2009 or 2010.

"It depends on the first three years and how the tournament goes," he said. "It's going to be a real challenge for us. We're coming to a different place. We're going to be expected to do good things."

Reach Chris Gay at (706) 823-3645 or chris.gay@augustachronicle.com.