Top Georgia PGA events at familiar sites
Barnsley Gardens, Frog, UGA among hosts
By Mike Blum
The 2011 Georgia PGA tournament schedule has a familiar feel, with most of the Section’s top events to be played at courses that have served as frequent tournament hosts.
The Section’s two open championships will be played at two of the state’s top layouts, each designed by the Fazio brothers.
The Ziplocal Georgia Open will be played at Barnsley Gardens in Adairsville for the third time in four years after taking a trip to the Georgia coast last year at Savannah Harbor. The tournament has moved up one week on the calendar, and will be played July 28-31, two weeks before Atlanta Athletic Club hosts the PGA Championship.
Samuel Del Val, a rookie tour pro who played his college golf at Berry, is the defending champion, with Nationwide Tour player Roberto Castro of Alpharetta winning in 2009, the last time Barnsley hosted the Georgia Open.
Dating back to the late 1990s, tour players have won the tournament all but two times, with Georgia PGA members Tim Weinhart (2004) and Jeff Hull (2007) the only club professionals to win the event since Stephen Keppler captured back-to-back titles in 1994-95.
The Yamaha Atlanta Open is scheduled for June 13-14 and will be played at The Frog in Villa Rica. This will be the first time the course has hosted the Atlanta Open, but the standout Tom Fazio design has been the site of the Georgia Open (2001-02) and other Georgia PGA events.
Amateur Dave Womack won last year’s tournament at Georgia National, his home course, the second time in four years an amateur has won the tournament. Bob Royak won at the Standard Club in 2007. Weinhart won in ’09 at Heron Bay, with Matt Peterson the 2008 winner at Newnan CC.
The E-Z-GO Georgia PGA Championship will again be played at Sea Island GC, with this year’s event returning to the famed Seaside course, the site of the PGA Tour McGladrey Classic. This year’s dates are Aug. 29-31, just six weeks prior to the PGA Tour stop at the club.
Craig Stevens won last year at the Retreat course, which has been the host course for the Section Championship four of the last seven years. The last two times the championship was played at Seaside, Weinhart won in 2005, with Clark Spratlin capturing the title in ’08.
Sonny Skinner, Peterson, Greg Lee, Hull and Chan Reeves are among the event’s champions over the past decade, with Reeves winning back-to-back at Seaside in 2002-03.
The Yamaha Match Play Championship is back at the UGA course in Athens, but has a new date, moving from April to Oct, 3-5. The event was played at Callaway Gardens from 2006-09 before shifting to Athens last year.
David Potts was last year’s winner, knocking off three former champions along the way, including Weinhart in the finals. He beat fellow Country Club of the South instructor Shawn Koch and Skinner, a veteran tour player/instructor, before taking the title match over Weinhart.
Eight different players have won the tournament the last eight years, including Spratlin, who won three times in a four-year span from 2001-04.
The Georgia PGA schedule begins March 15 with the Club Car Pro-Pro Scramble at the Standard Club. The Section’s two Nationwide Tour qualifiers will be played March 28 at Rivermont CC (South Georgia Classic) and April 11 at the UGA course (Stadion UGA Classic).
The first two-day points event is the TaylorMade-adidas Chicopee Woods Players Championship May 16-17, with Weinhart the defending champion.
Newnan CC will host the Yamaha Georgia Senior Open the following week (May 23-24), and while it is a new home course for the event, it is one the state’s senior players are very familiar with in tournament competition.
Tour player Javier Sanchez won the last two years at Callaway Gardens, ending a two-year run by amateurs (David Nell and Rocky Costa).
The E-Z-GO Georgia PGA Championship will be played Sept. 12-13 at Green Island CC in Columbus, which hosted a Champions Tour for one year. The tournament also serves as the Section’s qualifier for the Senior PGA PNC Championship.
The Georgia Women’s Open is back at SummerGrove GC in Newnan, with UGA golf team member Emilie Burger looking to defend her title. Amateurs have won the event five of the last seven years, with Mariah Stackhouse, the state’s top junior, winning in 2008, and current UGA assistant coach Margaret Shirley the 2006 and ’08 champion.
The only professional to win in that span is Diana Ramage, a college teammate of Shirley’s at Auburn. Ramage now lives in the in the city where she went to college and is no longer eligible to compete in the tournament, which has struggled to draw the state’s top female players in recent years. This year’s dates are July 6-7.
The Berkeley Hills Championship is on the Georgia PGA schedule for a second year (July 11-12), with Chris Nicol winning the inaugural event last in 2010.
After a year off, the Griffin Classic is looking for an open spot on the Section’s schedule, with the original Spring dates abandoned due to a conflict with other tournaments that draw large numbers of state club professionals. An effort is being made to find dates during a crowded Fall schedule.
In addition to the Match Play Championship, the biennial Peters Cup match against the GSGA is scheduled for Oct. 16-17 at Capital City Club’s Crabapple Course, with the Section’s PGA PNC qualifier to be played the following week at Settindown Creek (Oct. 24-25).
The two courses are among the elite venues in the state, with Crabapple hosting a World Golf Championship event in 2003 and the site of an upcoming NCAA Championship. Among Settindown’s tournaments are the Nike (now Nationwide) Tour Championship and the U.S. Women’s Amateur.
The schedule concludes with the Pro–Pro Championship, slated for Dec. 12-13 at Sea Island GC, with the event played on the Seaside and Plantation courses.