Tarver doesn't give up on land

The Georgia Golf Hall of Fame's once-opulent botanical gardens are gone but by no means forgotten.

Legislation that would have brought the 17 acres between Reynolds Street and the Savannah River under ownership of the city of Augusta never passed as the General Assembly ended this year's session Friday.

Sen. Ed Tarver, D-Augusta, had drafted a plan to dissolve the Hall of Fame Authority and turn over its land -- and its six signature bronze statues of famous golfers -- to the city for $1. Because that did not work out, he said he plans to introduce it as a standalone bill for consideration next year.

The Hall of Fame's board, having lost most of its state funding, announced intentions earlier this year to dissolve the organization and eventually reconstitute itself as a private, nonprofit group that might be headquartered somewhere besides Augusta.

Hall of Fame Chairman Bryan Persons, of Macon, said last week he was expecting legislation to abolish the Hall of Fame but was under the impression the organization would be able to keep the statues and other property, excluding real estate.

"I am not aware of Sen. Tarver's bill but part of our resolution was to have the assets of the GGHOF, other than the real estate, conveyed to our new entity," he said, referring to a long-range plan to reconstitute the organization as a private, nonprofit group.

Mr. Tarver noted that the statues -- valued at about $100,000 apiece -- were mostly sponsored by Augusta industries and benefactors and would be best displayed locally.

The likenesses of Jack Nicklaus, Bobby Jones, Byron Nelson, Arnold Palmer, Ben Hogan and Ray Floyd are in storage.

"I don't think it would be appropriate to give them to an entity that did not provide access for the public to them," he said, adding that he has heard several ideas for displaying the statues, such as in the trade-exhibit-and-event center the city is planning for Reynolds Street.

Whatever happens with the property and the statues probably won't become final until next year.

The Hall of Fame, meanwhile, is continuing to sell off its remaining inventory of souvenirs and apparel but is limiting such sales to orders through the Hall of Fame's Web site.

"We don't have a whole lot left, and since we don't have a large inventory, we didn't make plans to set up shop somewhere," said marketing director Robyn Jarrett. "We've sold a lot of what we had and are having a big sale through our Web site."

The site, with discounted merchandise, is the "pro shop" link at www.gghf.org.

The absence of the gardens this year doesn't mean there are no golf attractions for visitors.

One annual event held at the golf gardens in past years is the popular Mayor's Masters Reception, scheduled for Monday.

This year's program, which includes a tribute to 1979 Masters Tournament winner Fuzzy Zoeller, and offers samples from 40 local restaurants, will be held -- for the first time -- at the Augusta Common, between Broad and Reynolds streets. It begins at 5:30 p.m.

Augusta Museum of History and National Science Center's Fort Discovery are offering a weeklong series of exhibits and programming titled, "Behind the Swing: The History and Science of Golf."

The History of Golf exhibit at the museum includes "Stories and Legends: Remembering the Augusta National," which traces the club's beginnings in 1934, when Clifford Roberts and Bobby Jones proposed an annual tournament to patrons who included Bing Crosby and President Eisenhower.

Also this week, the movie, Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius , will be playing in the museum theater. The film and exhibition are included in the cost of regular admission, which is $4 for adults, $3 for seniors, $2 for children ages 6-18, and free for children ages 5 and younger.

Science of Golf will be displayed at Fort Discovery with an analysis of the physics, math and technology behind the game.

Morris News Service reporter Walter Jones contributed to this article.

GEORGIA GOLF HALL OF FAME TIMELINE

1982: The concept of a golf hall of fame in Augusta is first discussed by city officials.

JANUARY 1989: Bobby Jones is inducted into the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame.

1997: About 17 acres are acquired along Reynolds Street for the project from 12 landowners that included Easter Seals and Johannsen's Sporting Goods

SEPTEMBER 1998: An artist's rendering of the proposed 55,000-square-foot Hall of Fame building and rotunda is displayed at a fundraiser.

NOVEMBER 1998: Augusta National Golf Club donates $1 million to Fore! Augusta, a fundraising arm of the Hall of Fame project.

JANUARY 1999: Construction begins.

NOVEMBER 1999: A "sneak peek" event for local officials is held to generate interest in the botanical gardens under construction behind the serpentine brick wall on Reynolds Street.

MARCH 2001: The Hall of Fame's temporary building and botanical gardens open, with projected visitation of 300,000 people annually.

APRIL 2002: The Bobby Jones statue is moved from a temporary location into the gardens, joining Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Byron Nelson, Raymond Floyd and Ben Hogan.

OCTOBER 2004: Hall of Fame officials court private development interest in hopes of getting a permanent building on the site through a public-private partnership. It failed to materialize.

DEC. 28, 2006: The Hall of Fame, in a news release, calls 2006 "a landmark year" with continued membership growth.

MARCH 22, 2007: Board member Glenn Cornell warns legislators in Atlanta that an "exit strategy" must be considered if funds are not appropriated soon.

APRIL 2007: A putt-putt style "Signature Mini-Course" opens on the site during Masters Week, with hopes of boosting visitation.

MAY 30, 2007: Gov. Sonny Perdue vetoes a planned $633,685 appropriation for the hall and gardens, saying it was an unreasonable increase over amounts from previous years.

JUNE 6, 2007: Board chairman Bryan Persons announced to staffers the site would close June 30 because of a lack of operating funds.

SEPT. 5, 2007: One by one, the bronze statues of Jack Nicklaus, Bobby Jones, Byron Nelson, Arnold Palmer, Ben Hogan and Ray Floyd were carted away to a storage shed. The gardens have withered.

MAY 20, 2008: Georgia's Legisla-ture approves $110,000 to keep the Hall of Fame operating, although without its gardens, for fiscal 2009. Discussions arise to offer its land back to its original owners.

FEB. 5, 2009: Mr. Persons announces plans to abolish the organization, with the possibility that it could someday be reconstituted as a private, nonprofit group -- not a state board.

MARCH 17, 2009: Augusta Commissioner Jerry Brigham drafts a resolution from the city, asking that the Golf Hall of Fame find a way to display the statues during Masters Week.

APRIL 1, 2009: State Sen. Ed Tarver of Augusta drafts legislation to abolish the Hall of Fame and deed its property to the city of Augusta for $1.