School dedicates Norvell house

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J. Fleming Norvell grew up with either a golf club in his hand or a golf bag on his back.

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Augusta State University athletic director Clint Bryant (from left), Sandra and J. Fleming Norvell, women's golf coach Laura Coble and men's golf coach Josh Gregory cut the ribbon Wednesday dedicating Augusta State's new two-story golf house named after Norvell.  Chris Thelen/Staff
Chris Thelen/Staff
Augusta State University athletic director Clint Bryant (from left), Sandra and J. Fleming Norvell, women's golf coach Laura Coble and men's golf coach Josh Gregory cut the ribbon Wednesday dedicating Augusta State's new two-story golf house named after Norvell.

He caddied and worked in the golf shop at Augusta Country Club. He played on the Richmond Academy, Augusta State (then Junior College of Augusta) and Auburn golf teams. He played golf when he spent two years in the Air Force.

Later, he worked in the golf shop at Augusta National Golf Club.

It's his lifelong love of the sport that eventually led him, and his wife, Sandra, to donate $250,000 in Augusta State's fundraising campaign for a golf house to accompany its practice facility behind Christenberry Fieldhouse.

With hundreds of Augusta State golf fans in attendance, the school dedicated the two-story building to Norvell in a Wednesday afternoon ceremony.

"This is just overwhelming," he said. "I just feel like I owed it to golf. And I don't feel like I've done enough for golf with what it meant to me."

The J. Fleming Norvell golf house features an adjacent teaching facility with indoor/outdoor hitting bays and state-of-the-art camera equipment. In the main building, there are offices for director of golf/men's coach Josh Gregory and women's coach Laura Coble. There are also team meeting and locker rooms, a computer lab and kitchenette. The conference room has been dedicated to the late Sam Mays, Coble's father.

Gregory said the unveiling of the golf house is his top moment since he arrived in 2002.

"We've had a couple of good chances to win a national championship and been as high as No. 2 a couple of times," he said, "and those were pretty special. But this is the best."

Augusta State president William A. Bloodworth Jr. called Wednesday an important day.

"This is a historic occasion reaching back to 1934," said Bloodworth, citing the year his school first fielded a golf team that competed against Furman, Georgia and Yale.

The past is not the key to the building. Instead, it's the future and the school's potential to bring in top-notch talent. That's why Norvell solicited donations from his golfing friends throughout the U.S. - two of the notable names on a plague hanging from the hallway listing donors: Phil and Amy Mickelson.

The school and its Collegiate Golf Campaign raised $850,000 for the golf house. This facility brings Augusta State up to par with other major golf programs, including the likes of Clemson, Georgia and Oklahoma State.

"To attract players, you've got to have facilities for them to practice, a golf house, a locker room," Norvell said. "All these other universities have budgets five times the size of ours."

"In order for us to compete we've got to keep up," Gregory said. "This golf house in addition to our practice facility will give us if not the best, one of the best, practice facility/teaching centers in the country. This will step up recruiting greatly."

The completion of the golf house (Bloodworth said it's not 100 percent finished since the front door needs to be changed out) marks a near decade-long effort Norvell's had raising funds for Augusta State. Bloodworth first called him when the school decided to start the women's golf program. Norvell then helped bring the practice facility to fruition. And then the golf house.

Norvell said he dedicated his time and resources because of his love for Augusta State. And for another reason.

"It's my next-door on neighbor on Walton Way," Norvell said.

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


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