By Mike Blum
The 2012 Georgia PGA tournament schedule gets off to an earlier-than-usual start this year, as one event makes its return and another changes its date from near the end of the season to among the first to be held.
The Griffin Classic, which was last played in 2009, is back on the schedule this year, but instead of its traditional mid-Summer date, will open the Georgia PGA season March 5-6.
The tournament, which was first played in 1992, has included most of the Section’s top players among its champions. Stephen Keppler won the second Griffin Classic in 1992, shooting an opening round 62 in which he played his last 10 holes in 10-under par.
Among other winners since then are Phil Taylor, Ed Everett, Tommy Brannen, Tim Weinhart, Sonny Skinner, Clark Spratlin, Craig Stevens, John Godwin, Jeff Hull and Shawn Koch. Skinner won the event in 2000 while he was still a full-time tour player, with current PGA Tour member Kris Blanks winning in ’03 while an assistant at The Landings in Savannah.
Jennings Mill assistant Seth McCain won the last Griffin Classic in ’09, scoring his second straight Section victory of the season. The most memorable Griffin Classic was played two years earlier, when Hull scored a hole-in-one on the 18th hole of the final round to break a tie with Stevens, who had won the tournament three years earlier.
The Georgia PGA Match Play Championship has been played at various times during the year, and was held late in the schedule in 2011. This year it returns to an earlier spot on the calendar, and will be played March 26-28 at the UGA course in Athens. Last year’s tournament was scheduled to be played at UGA, but was switched to Chattahoochee GC in Gainesville.
The 2011 tournament drew a smaller field than usual, with this year’s earlier date likely to attract a larger field, with less chance of conflicts for some of the Section’s top players.
Weinhart won the Match Play Championship for the second time last year, defeating Winston Trively in the finals. The last time the tournament was played at the UGA course, David Potts scored a somewhat surprising victory, defeating Koch, Skinner and Weinhart en route to a season-opening victory in 2010.
Matt Peterson, the head professional at the UGA course, won at Callaway Gardens in 2009, with other recent winners including Koch, Greg Lee, Skinner, Weinhart, Spratlin, Gregg Wolff and Stevens.
The rest of the 2012 Georgia PGA schedule will be almost identical to that of 2011 other than some new sites.
The Georgia Senior Open will be played May 14-15 at Newnan CC, the second straight year the tournament has been played there. Stevens won in his first Senior Open start in 2011, running away from the field in the final round. Tour player Javier Sanchez had won the two previous years at Callaway Gardens, but did not play last year due to a conflict with a senior mini-tour event.
Chicopee Woods and Berkeley Hills will again host Section tournaments, with those events scheduled for May 21-22 and July 9-10 respectively. Spratlin won the Chicopee Woods event in 2011, with Bill Murchison outlasting Hull in a 7-hole playoff at Berkeley Hills.
Chattahoochee GC will be the site of a Section tournament for the second straight year, hosting the Atlanta Open June 11-12. Stevens won last year at The Frog. The tournament has had 15 different winners the last 15 years.
The Georgia Open is back at the Legends at Chateau Elan for the first time since 2005, with the tournament scheduled for Aug. 2-5. The Legends hosted the event three times between 2002 and ’05, with Weinhart scoring a rare win by a Georgia PGA member in ’04. Former tour players Jody Bellflower and Tim Conley were the other two
champions at the Legends during that stretch.
Tour player Jay McLuen, a frequent recent contender in the tournament, won last year at Barnsley Gardens, the site of the event three of the last four years.
The Section Championship will be played at its long time host Sea Island GC Aug. 27- 29, but this will be just the second time the tournament has been held on the Plantation Course. Peterson won on Plantation in 2007, with Seaside and Retreat the more frequent hosts in recent years.
Keppler, who had not won a Section event in more than seven years, captured his fourth Section Championship title in 2011, but just his first since 1996.
The Section’s qualifier for the PGA PNC, the national club professional championship, moves to the Standard Club and will be played Oct. 1-2. This will be the first time the Standard Club has hosted the event, with the 2007 Atlanta Open the only other Section points event played at the club.
Weinhart won last year at Ansley Golf Club’s Settindown Creek, wrapping up his seventh Player of the Year title with a playoff victory over Spratlin. Weinhart will lead a group of 10 Georgia PGA members into the 2012 PGA PNC, which will be played June 24-27 in northern California.
The Georgia PGA Senior PNC will be played Sept. 10-11 at Pinetree CC, with that event serving as both the Section’s Senior Championship as well as its qualifier for the Senior PNC. Danny Elkins won last year’s event at Green Island CC in Columbus.
After 17 years at Canongate courses on Atlanta’s south side, the Georgia Women’s Open moves to Callaway Gardens and will be played on a weekend (June 23-24) for the first time. Dori Carter won last year in a playoff over Lacey Agnew, with both players competing on the LPGA Tour this year.
Team events in 2012 include the Pro-Pro Scramble (March 20 at Sugarloaf); the Pro- Assistant (May 28 at Marietta CC) and the Pro-Pro Championship (Dec. 10-11 at Sea Island GC).
The biennial Peters Cup between the Georgia PGA and GSGA is moving from odd to even years beginning in 2012 to accommodate the GSGA tournament schedule. The Georgia PGA won decisively last year at Capital City Club’s Crabapple Course to break a four-match losing streak.
This year’s matches are scheduled for Oct. 21-22, and are expected to move to Capital City Club’s recently renovated Brookhaven course.