Georgia Senior Open set for Chattahoochee GC later this month
The Georgia PGA tournament season is underway, with one of the team tournaments already played and one of the Section’s four majors just getting started.
The season opened with the Club Car Pro-Pro Scramble at Rivermont CC, with the team of Peter Jones and J.P. Griffin winning in a 7-hole playoff over the teams of Tim Weinhart-Bill Murchison and Todd Peterson-Jim Goergen.
All three teams shot 12-under 60, with Jones-Griffin and Peterson-Goergen both shooting 28 on the back nine and Weinhart-Murchison shooting 29 on the front.
The playoff began on the 18th and all three teams birdied the hole twice before Peterson-Goergen made par the third time around and were eliminated. After the two surviving teams parred the first hole and birdied 17 and 18, Griffin birdied the first to end the playoff.
Jones, an instructor at Cherokee T&CC, and Griffin, an assistant at Capital City Club, split first place money of $2000. Instructors Weinhart (Heritage Golf Links) and Murchison (Towne Lake Hills), and the Capital City duo of Peterson and Goergen split $1250.
Scott Hare of Collins Hill GC and Uel Kemp of Lake Arrowhead were fourth at 61, with five teams tying at 62.
The first round of the Match Play Championship has already begun, with players having until April 30 to complete their opening matches. The first four rounds are played at sites determined by the competitors, with the semifinals and finals set for Aug. 14 at Peachtree GC.
Weinhart, a 3-time champion, is seeded first in the field, with defending champion Seth McCain of Jennings Mill seeded second. McCain defeated Weinhart 1 -up in last year’s semifinals before scoring a 1-up victory over Sonny Skinner in the title match. Skinner is not in this year’s field.
James Mason of the Orchard, who lost to Skinner in last year’s semifinals, is seeded third, followed by Hank Smith of Frederica GC. To limit the amount of travel for players in the early rounds, the entrants from the Georgia PGA’s East Chapter have been grouped together, with Smith the top seed among them. Todd Ormsby of Highland CC in LaGrange is seeded fifth.
Brian Dixon of Fox Creek, the 2014 champion, is seeded sixth, with Kyle Owen of Dunwoody CC the No. 7 seed and Chris Cartwright of West Pines seeded eighth. Donn Perno, the head pro at Peachtree, is seeded ninth. Perno won the 2013 Match Play Championship at East Lake, with the semifinals and finals played at Peachtree the last three years.
Other former champions in the field are 16 seed David Potts of CC of the South (2010), 18 seed Shawn Koch of CC of the South (2008), Greg Lee of Chicopee Woods (2007) and No. 10 Danny Elkins of Georgia Golf Center (1990).
A number of prominent Georgia PGA members are missing from this year’s field, including Skinner, the 2006 champion, 2015 winner Mark Anderson, and former champions Craig Stevens, Clark Spratlin, Stephen Keppler and Tommy Brannen, all part of the Georgia PGA’s talented group of senior club professionals.
Most of that group will be in the field for the Georgia Senior Open, which will be played April 24-25 at Chattahoochee GC. Stevens, Keppler, Skinner, Mason, Spratlin and Anderson were all among the contenders last year at Chattahoochee, with amateur Billy Mitchell of Roswell winning in a playoff over Statesboro pro John L. Smith, Hank Smith’s older brother, after both shot 7-under 137.
Stevens, who won three of the previous five Georgia Senior Opens, was one shot back at 138, with Keppler and amateur Don Marsh next at 139. Skinner, who won in 2012, tied for sixth at 140 and Mason, the 2015 champion, was T9 at 141.
The next Georgia PGA points event is the Rivermont Championship, a one-day, 36-hole event set for May 8. Perno won a 4-way playoff last year at 2-under 140, making a birdied on the first extra hole to defeat McCain, Mason and Owen. Dixon was one back at 141 with three amateurs. This is the fourth year for the tournament.
The Yamaha Atlanta Open will be played June 13-14 at Echelon GC, considered one of the state’s most demanding layouts. Skinner won in a playoff last year at St. Ives over a pair of college golfers, with the trio tying at 7-under 137. Skinner also won in 2015 at White Columns.
Berkeley Hills will host its annual Georgia PGA tournament for the eighth time July 10-11, with amateurs winning each of the last four years. Jacob Bayer, a member at Berkeley Hills who will begin his college career at Georgia Southern this Fall, shot 10-under 134 to finish two in front of Weinhart, who has finished fourth or better five times in seven years.
The Georgia Open returns to Savannah’s Ford Plantation Aug. 6-9, with Savannah resident and former Armstrong Atlantic golfer Shad Tuten winning by three with a 15-under 273 total. Tour players claimed the top eight spots in the tournament, with Savannah’s Tim O’Neal third. O’Neal was second in the Georgia Open the last time it was played in Savannah at Savannah Harbor in 2010. Last year’s tournament was so well-received by players that the Georgia PGA decided to return to the outstanding Pete Dye layout for 2017.
The Georgia PGA Championship will be played Aug. 28-30 at Sea Island GC, with the Retreat course hosting this year’s event for the first time since 2013. Weinhart won last year on Seaside, his first win in the event since 2005, and went on to capture his ninth career Georgia PGA Player of the Year title. Stevens has won the GPGA Championship the last two times it was played at Retreat.
The Georgia PGA Senior Championship will be played July 17-18 at Pinetree, one of the most popular host clubs of Section events. Stevens won the last time the event was played at Pinetree in 2012, and won again at Settindown Creek in 2015. Drew Pittman won last year at Glen Arven in Thomasville, outlasting Spratlin in a 9-hole playoff. Keppler, who won the tournament at Settindown Creek in 2014, was third, one shot out of the playoff.
The Georgia PGA Championship, which serves as the Section’s qualifier for the national club professional championship, is tentatively set for Oct. 16-17 at Champions Retreat. The 2017 PGA Professional Championship will be played June 18-21 at Oregon’s Sunriver Resort, with eight Georgia PGA members in the field from last year’s Georgia PGA qualifier at the Oconee course at Reynolds Plantation.
Weinhart was first in the event at 139, followed by Skinner at 141. Stevens, Paul Claxton of Hawk’s Point in Vidalia and Karen Paolozzi of Druid Hills GC tied for third at 142, followed by Justin Martin of the First Tee of Atlanta, Jeff Frasier of Reunion GC and Anderson, who got the last spot in a 5-way playoff.
After being played the last four years at Brookfield, the Georgia Women’s Open moves to Governors Towne Club with a slightly earlier date that has multiple conflicts with other women’s events in the Atlanta area.
The tournament is scheduled for June 26-27, which conflicts with a USGA Girls Championship qualifier June 26 at Cartersville CC, a U.S. Women’s Amateur qualifier June 27 at Settindown Creek and the Judson Collegiate tournament at CC of Roswell June 27-29. The tournament is no longer limited to Georgia residents, and had its first non-Georgia winner last year – North Carolina’s Meagan Wallace, who won in a playoff over Kaylin Yost, who moved into the state shortly before the tournament.
Virginia’s Shabril Brewer was third, with five Georgia collegiate golfers taking the next five spots, with all of them facing possible conflicts this year.
Georgia PGA award winners:
The Georgia PGA recently held its annual awards banquet at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta. Section award winners were:
Pat Day, Georgia PGA Tournament Director, Professional of the Year.
Shawn Koch, CC of the South, Teacher of the Year.
Brian Conley, Legacy on Lanier, President’s Award for promotion of golf.
Chris Cartwright, West Pines, Bill Strausbaugh Award for community involvement,
Daryl Batey, PGA of America, Horton Smith Award for contributions to professional education.
Chrissy Felton, Sea Island GC, Youth Player Development Award.
Trey Lambert, Crosswinds, Player Development Award.
Will Bartram, Cherokee T&CC, Assistant of the Year.
Merchandisers of the Year:
Michael Dausch, Dunwoody CC (Private).
James Walden, Crosswinds (Private).
Elizabeth Clarkson, Chateau Elan (Resort).
Joey Dixon, Ahead, Salesman of the Year.
Dave Windsor, Adaptive Golf Academy, Patriot Award.
Davis Love, Distinguished Service Award.