July is a busy month for statewide tournaments in Georgia, concluding with the Georgia Open at the Legends at Chateau Elan.
The month also includes the GSGA’s premier championship, two more Georgia PGA tournaments and a unique women’s event that features some of the all-time greats from the LPGA Tour with current collegiate golfers.
July begins with the Championship at Berkeley Hills, which will be played for the fourth time July 8-9.
The tournament features a field of club pros and amateurs, with two of the Georgia PGA’s top players winning the event the past two years.
Bill Murchison scored his first Section victory at Berkeley Hills in 2011, winning a lengthy playoff over Jeff Hull, who has since moved into the Carolinas PGA Section.
Stephen Keppler, one of the Section’s most successful players over the past 25 years, won last year, holding off a fast-finishing Craig Stevens. Keppler opened with a 64 on the par 72 layout and followed it up with a 69 for an 11-under 133 total, two ahead of Stevens who shot a final round 65.
Sonny Skinner, who was 2nd in the first Berkeley Hills Championship in 2010, was 3rd at 137, completing a 1-2-3 finish by the Georgia PGA’s top trio of senior players. All three have top-10 finishes in each of the tournament’s first three years.
Stevens will have a conflict that week, as he is playing in the U.S. Senior Open in Omaha, which begins two days after the tournament at Berkeley Hills ends.
Berkeley Hills, which has also served as a qualifying site for top Georgia PGA and GSGA events, is a short layout by modern standards, measuring under 6700 yards from the tips. While the course has yielded some low scores, it is far from a pushover, with relatively tight tree lines and some of the more challenging putting surfaces in the metro area.
The greens at Berkeley Hills are not particularly large, but feature ample of amounts if slope and speed, with some extremely demanding putts from above the hole. They are the primary defense on a course that allows the state’s top club professionals and amateurs to hit short irons into a majority of holes.
Only two par 4s are longer than 406 yards from the back tees, with the par 3s ranging from short to medium and two par 5s that are easily reachable after an accurate tee shot.
The layout rewards skilled shot-making, with precision play a greater asset than power because of the absence of length.
The Georgia Amateur also begins two days after the tournament at Berkeley Hills ends, and will be played July 11-14 at Pinetree CC in Kennesaw.
This will be the fourth time Pinetree has hosted the GSGA Championship, with David Noll, the state’s top mid-amateur, winning the last time it was played there in 2003.
Noll won the 2011 Georgia Amateur at Cherokee T&CC and was 2nd last year behind Lee Knox, who also won in 2010 at The Landings in Savannah. Noll has been a frequent contender in the championship, and heads up the state’s mid-amateur contingent that has not been able to keep up with Georgia’s growing list of talented college players who have taken over the tournament in recent years.
Three players who have won the tournament since 2005 are currently playing on the PGA Tour – Brian Harman, Harris English and Russell Henley, who won back-to-back titles in 2008 and ’09. Only one other mid-amateur has won the championship since Noll’s first title in 2003.Thanks to the two wins by Knox, who has completed his college career at Alabama, college players have won seven of the last nine State Ams and nine of the last 13 dating back to 2000.
There is a long list of potential winners among this year’s college field, even with the state’s most prominent collegians from Georgia Tech and Georgia not competing.
Among the college players exempt into the field are Jimmy Beck (Kennesaw State), Franco Castro (Charlotte) and Sepp Straka (Georgia). Among those who had to qualify are Straka’s teammates Brian Carter and Mookie DeMoss. Georgia Southern will have as many players in the field as in a college tournament, led by No. 1 player Scott Wolfes.
Kennesaw State also has a multi-player contingent, as does Georgia State and Armstrong Atlantic, whose contingent includes recent Atlanta Open champion Corey Griffin.
Pinetree has been renovated since it last hosted the Georgia Amateur, adding length (it can now be stretched to over 7100 yards), with some changes to greens complexes.
Since the renovation, Pinetree is a stronger track, with no player breaking par in the qualifier for the State Am played at the club. The course still offers a number of scoring opportunities, with a trio of short par 4s and only one par 5 measuring longer than 530.
But there are also six par 4s averaging almost 450 and a strong group of par 3s, with hazards in play on several of par 3s and par 5s. The greens are large and typically fast, with enough movement to place serious pressure on players trying to two-putt from long range.
The Judson Collegiate & Legends Pro-Am Challenge returns to the CC of Roswell for a second year, with the tournament’s unique format pairing college golfers with players from the LPGA Legends Tour.
The tournament begins with a pro-am July 12 including one player from the Legends Tour, one collegian and three amateurs, with the teams competing in scramble format.
Tournament competition begins the next day, with each group consisting of one Legends player and two collegians. The Legends event will consist of 18 holes, with the college players competing over 54 holes, with their tournament ending July 15.
The Judson Collegiate & Legends Pro-Am made its debut last year, with Alicia Dibos taking the Legends title with a 68 to earn the winner’s check of $15,000. Sherri Steinhauer was 2nd at 69, followed by tournament host Rosie Jones at 70 and Beth Daniel at 71.
Dibos, Steinhauer and Jones will be in the 30-player field at CC of Roswell this month along with fellow LPGA Legends Amy Alcott, Pat Bradley, Betsy King, Nancy Lopez, Liselotte Neumann, Jan Stephenson and Kathy Whitworth, who will compete in the pro-am.
Lopez, who lived for a number of years in Albany, is one of several players in the Legends field with Georgia ties. Tifton’s Nanci Bowen and Peachtree City’s Cindy Schreyer are both Georgia natives and former college standouts at Georgia. Jones is a long time Atlanta resident, with Jenny Lidback and Luciana Bemvenuti joining her in the metro area. Lidback is the aunt of PGA Tour standout Roberto Castro, with Bemvenuti working at CC of Roswell since she retired as a tour player.
The defending champion of the Judson Collegiate – Ohio State’s Rachel Rohanna – has since turned pro. The college field will include some players with Georgia ties as well, including UGA golfer Amira Alexander of Alpharetta and Mercer’s Lacey Fears from Bonaire.
For more information on the tournament, visit www.judsongolf.com
The Volvik Georgia Women’s Open has a new title sponsor, a new host course (Brookfield Country Club) and has expanded its reach to include players from outside the state. The tournament will be played July 15-16.
Because of the late eligibility change and some restrictions on the Georgia PGA’s efforts to contact players from outside the state, the field is expected to consist primarily of Georgians.
The tournament faces conflicts with different groups of players. Defending champion Kendall Wright is one of several Georgians competing on the Symetra Tour, the development tour for the LPGA, which has a tournament in Albany, N.Y., that ends the day before the Georgia Women’s Open begins. Recent UGA golfer Emilie Burger, who won the event as an amateur in 2010, has joined Wright on the Symetra Tour. Dori Carter, who won in 2011, is playing on the LPGA Tour.
There are also conflicts for the state’s college and top amateur players, including Riverdale’s Mariah Stackhouse, who won the Georgia Women’s Open while still in high school in 2009.
Among the players who have entered are Carmen Bandea, a frequent contender in the tournament, and Mari Chun, both Atlanta area residents who compete on the Canadian Women’s Tour. Bandea is in the top 10 on the tour’s money list, tying for 6th in the season opener, and had a runner-up finish in Canada last year. Bandea has five top-5 finishes in the Georgia Women’s Open since 2005, including a playoff loss to two-time champion Margaret Shirley in 2008.
There will be three divisions in the tournament, one for pros and top amateurs, one for amateurs not competing in that flight, and one for seniors. Each of the three divisions will play from separate tees.
Brookfield hosted an LPGA tournament from 1977-84 and its champions included JoAnne Carner, Amy Alcott and Kathy Whitworth. The course has been extensively renovated in recent years, with significant changes in bunkering and some of the greens complexes.
With a handful of exceptions, Brookfield is not an especially lengthy layout, but is relatively tight off the tee, with out of bounds within reach on a number of holes. There is also a decent amount of trouble in play, including a pair of stout par 4s on the opening nine and a pair of par 5s on the back.
The renovated greens complexes are among the primary challenges, with the putting surfaces on the quick side, many of which include considerable movement.
For information on the tournament, visit www.georgiapga.com or call 678-461-8600.