The 2015 Georgia PGA schedule includes several familiar sites, but is losing an event at one of the most popular tournament hosts in the state.
The Georgia Open is returning to Pinetree Country Club for a second straight year, while historic Peachtree Golf Club will again host the semifinals and finals of the Georgia Match Play Championship.
The Atlanta Open moves to White Columns and is scheduled for June 15-16. The Section Championship again is being played at Sea Island Golf Club, with the Plantation course the site for the third time since 2007.
Dunwoody Country Club, the site of the 2006 Atlanta Open, will host the Section’s Professional National Championship, the qualifier for the national club professional championship.
The number of points events for Georgia PGA members has been reduced from eight to seven, as the Chicopee Woods Players Championship has dropped off the schedule after being played the last seven years.
The Rivermont Championship, which was played for the first time in 2014, will take the Chicopee Woods’ mid-May dates, moving from early April, with the Championship at Berkeley Hills again being played in early July.
The Georgia PGA’s two most prominent senior events will also be played on courses well known to the Section’s veteran players. The UGA course in Athens will host the Georgia Senior Open for a second straight year, with the PGA Senior Championship also playing at the same site as last year – Ansley Golf Club’s Settindown Creek.
The Match Play Championship opens the 2015 schedule, but takes more than five months to complete. The 64-man field begins play on March 15, with players having approximately one month to play each of their first four matches.
The field is divided into eight brackets, six for players from the Section’s North chapter and one each for East and Central chapter members. The four quarterfinal winners advance to the semifinals at Peachtree Golf Club on August 24, with the finals being played that afternoon.
Fox Creek instructor Brian Dixon, whose only previous Georgia PGA victory was the 1997 Match Play Championship, defeated Greg Lee of Chicopee Woods 2&1 in the finals after knocking off top-seeded Craig Stevens on the 20th hole in the semifinals.
Stevens, an instructor at Brookstone CC, will be looking for his fourth Georgia Senior Open title in five years when the event returns to the UGA course April 27-28. The UGA course, which hosted the Web.com Tour for four years, gave the state’s top seniors a battle last year, with Stevens winning with a 2-under 140 total for 36 holes.
Tying for second at 143 were long-time Champions Tour member James Mason and amateurs Bob Royak and Rusty Strawn, with Royak leading Stevens and Strawn by five after an opening 65, the only sub-70 score in the tournament.
The Rivermont Championship will be played May 18-19, with Georgia Golf Center assistant Chris Nicol winning the inaugural event in a playoff over Travis Nance of Coosa Country Club. The two players tied at 6-under 136, with Nicol winning on the second extra hole.
Sonny Skinner, who went on to win his second Player of the Year title, tied for third at 137 with seven-time Player of the Year Tim Weinhart, who had the lead at the turn in the final round. Weinhart placed second in the 2014 Player of the Year standings. Mason was fifth at 138 after a final round 65.
The win was one of eight for Nicol in Georgia PGA events last year, including four individual victories in Assistants’ tournaments and three team titles. He also tied for third in the Atlanta Open and was fifth overall and the low club pro in the Georgia Open.
Hank Smith, the head pro at Frederica Club on St. Simons, played in only three individual events in 2014, but won two, both of them majors. He won the Yamaha Atlanta Open at Atlanta National, and will defend his title this year at nearby White Columns. Smith won by three shots with a 6-under 138 total, three ahead of Cateechee Director of Golf Jeff Gotham.
The Championship at Berkeley Hills has had amateur winners the last two years, with Chatsworth’s Tyler Mitchell scoring a surprise victory in 2014. Mitchell, who played his college golf for Dalton State’s fledgling program, won by one shot with a 6-under 138 total over fellow amateur Matt Luckett, a Berkeley Hills member.
Nance and Kyle Owen of Dunwoody Country Club tied for third at 140 to share low pro honors, with Owen winning the event at Chicopee Woods earlier in the season. Nicol, who won the first Championship at Berkeley Hills in 2010, briefly held a share of the lead in the final round in his attempt for a second win in a Section event last year. This year’s tournament will be played July 6-7.
The Kilted Tilt Georgia Open is scheduled for August 6-9 at Pinetree, which hosted the event for the first time last year. Mini-tour player Jay McLuen scored his second runaway victory in the tournament, winning by seven strokes with a 19-under 269 total.
Kennesaw State golfer Jimmy Beck, who won the Georgia Amateur at Pinetree in 2013, was second at 276, with teammate Kelby Burton and recent Kennesaw State golfer Matt Nagy third at 280. Nicol was the low club professional, tying for fifth at 281 with mini–tour player Eddie Lee.
McLuen also won the Georgia Open at Barnsley Gardens in 2011 by an identical margin, and continued the run of success in the tournament by tour players.
Former Georgia PGA member Jeff Hull (now in the Carolinas Section) and Weinhart are the only two Section members to win the tournament since Stephen Keppler won back-to-back titles in 1994 and ’95 at Lake Oconee courses. Weinhart won in 2004 and Hull in ’07.
The Section Championship will again be played at Sea Island GC, with the Plantation course hosting the event August 31-Sept. 2. Smith, a former assistant at Sea Island GC, won by a whopping 10 shots in the 54-hole event on the Seaside course last year with a 9-under 201 total. No other player broke par for the tournament.
Tying for second were Weinhart, Stevens, Mason, Owen, Keppler and John Wade, who joined the staff at Sea Island GC last year. It was the ninth straight year Keppler has finished no lower than third in the tournament.
Skinner won the last time Plantation hosted the event in 2012, finishing one shot in front of Keppler. Plantation will join Seaside this year as a host course for the PGA Tour McGladrey Classic.
The final Georgia PGA individual event of 2015 will be the PGA PNC qualifier Sept. 28-29 at Dunwoody CC. The top finishers will qualify for the 2016 PGA PNC. Ansley GC Director of Golf Phil Taylor won last year’s PNC qualifier at the Legends at Chateau Elan, and will lead seven Georgia PGA members into this year’s PNC, which will be played June 28-July 1 at the Philadelphia Cricket Club.
Other qualifiers for the PNC are Smith, Brian Puterbaugh, Gary Miller, Skinner, Owen and Clark Spratlin. Taylor won with a 2-over 146 total, one ahead of Puterbaugh, with Spratlin taking a 4-way playoff for the final spot.
The Georgia PGA Championship and Senior PNC qualifier is scheduled for Sept. 14-15 at Ansley Golf Club’s Settindown Creek, which also hosted last year’s tournament. Keppler won the qualifier by four shots with a 6-under 138 total to lead the Georgia PGA contingent at nationals last November in south Florida.
Keppler, Skinner and Mason all qualified for the 2015 Senior PGA Championship May 21-24 at French Lick, Ind., with Mason tying for second in last year’s Senior PNC. The 2015 Senior PNC will be played Oct. 15-18 in Seaside, Cal.
The first of three Georgia PGA team events was the Pro-Pro Scramble, played March 17 at Alpharetta Athletic Club’s East course. The Pro-Assistant will be played May 26 at Athens Country Club, with the Pro-Pro Championship wrapping up the year Dec. 7-8 at Sea Island GC.
The Georgia Women’s Open will be played for the third straight year at Brookfield CC, with the 2015 tournament set for July 13-14. Karen Paolozzi, an assistant professional at Druid Hills GC, won in her first appearance in the tournament last year with a 4-under 140 total, one shot ahead of Augusta State golfer Jessica Haigwood, who played her high school golf at Brookfield as a member of the Roswell golf team.
Haigwood has been the tournament runner-up the last two years, taking second in 2013 behind Margaret Shirley, the 2014 USGA Mid-Amateur champion.