Athens – Web.com
By Mike Blum
The Stadion Classic at UGA is the latest in a long line of Georgia tournaments to lose its spot on the calendars of the major professional golf tours.
The University of Georgia announced recently that it would no longer host the tournament, which has been a part of the Nationwide/Web.com Tour the last eight years.
That leaves the South Georgia Classic in Valdosta as the lone
Web.com tournament in Georgia for 2014, with that event in the last year of its contract with the tour.
UGA was unable to secure a title sponsor willing to cover the increased cost of having the tournament televised on Golf Channel, and elected not to continue as host without TV exposure.
The tournament began in 2006 as the Athens Regional Foundation Classic, and was played for four years at Jennings Mill Country Club, located just outside Athens in Oconee County.
In 2010, the event moved to the University course, with Stadion Money Management taking over as title sponsor. The Stadion Classic at UGA became one of the most popular stops on the Web.com Tour, with the University course annually ranking among the most difficult courses on tour, as well as one of the most highly regarded by tour members.
Each of the last three tournament champions played their college golf at Georgia, beginning with Russell Henley, who was a senior on the golf team when he won in 2011. Hudson Swafford, a teammate of Henley’s, won in 2012. Brendon Todd, a member of the Bulldogs’ 2005 national championship team, was the 2013 champion.
Henley won his first event as a PGA Tour member in Hawaii earlier this year. Swafford joins him on the tour for the 2013-14 season, with Todd returning to the PGA Tour full time after his victory in Athens. The 2013 tournament was reduced to 54 holes, as the final round was washed out by heavy rains which saturated the course over the weekend.
The South Georgia Classic, played at Kinderlou Forest since 2007, will take the date of the UGA tournament on the 2014 Web.com Tour schedule, and will be played May 1-4. This will give the Valdosta event a stronger field, as it will now be played opposite the PGA Tour event in Charlotte.
In the past, the South Georgia Classic has been played opposite the PGA Tour stop in New Orleans, which does not draw one of the stronger fields on that tour and annually included a sizeable number of players who would otherwise have been competing in that week’s Web.com event.
Athens joins Macon in losing an event on what is now the Web.com Tour. Macon was one of the original hosts in 1990, when the Ben Hogan Company was the tour’s title sponsor. The tournament lasted until 1995, with its last winner also an ex-Bulldog, current UGA Golf Course head professional Matt Peterson.
Roswell’s Settindown Creek was the site of what was then known as the Nike Tour Championship in 1995 and ’96, with Georgia residents Allen Doyle and Stewart Cink the two tournament champions.
The PGA Tour plays three events in Georgia – the Masters, Tour Championship and McGladrey Classic — and has lost two long-running tournaments. Atlanta Country Club and TPC Sugarloaf hosted an event on that tour that ran from 1967-2008, with Green Island CC in Columbus and Callaway Gardens the site of a tournament that began as the Southern Open in 1970 and lasted until 2002.
The Atlanta Athletic Club hosted the PGA Championship in 2001 and 2011, but with East Lake becoming the permanent host for the Tour Championship, the likelihood of a major returning to AAC has been reduced. The club is hosting the U.S. Amateur in 2014.
Chateau Elan also hosted an unofficial tournament that was played at the conclusion of the PGA Tour season in the late 1990s – the Sarazen World Open.
The Champions Tour plays consecutive weeks in Georgia, beginning with the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf, the event that started the tour in the late 1970s. That event has been played at Savannah Harbor since 2003. The Gwinnett Championship was added to the 2013 schedule and is played at TPC Sugarloaf, which was the site of Atlanta’s full field PGA Tour stop for more than a decade.
Courses in the north Fulton suburbs also hosted Champions Tour events for more than a decade, with Horseshoe Bend the site of a tournament that was played for three years in the late 1980s. Country Club of the South and Golf Club of Georgia were the hosts for an event that ran from 1991 to 2000.
The Champions Tour also made one visit to Columbus and Green Island CC the year after the PGA Tour event at Callaway Gardens was played for the last time, but the tournament was quickly dropped from the schedule.
The LPGA Tour has not played in Georgia since 2006, but the state hosted at least one LPGA event every year but two from 1950 until the tournament at Eagle’s Landing CC ended in ’06. An event in the Augusta area was played for several years in the 2000s just across the Savannah River in South Carolina, but vanished as quietly as it appeared.
Augusta was also the site of an LPGA major, played annually at Augusta Country Club during the 1950s and ‘60s.