Golf Central Mag- Vol 23 Issue 3

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2022 NGCOA National Golf Course of the Year Sweetgrass Celebrates 15 Years of Golf Excellence!

Long recognized an Epson Tour favorite, Sweetgrass draws players from all over the world seeking their LPGA card. 2023 marks the 12th Island Resort Championship at Sweetgrass, held June 23-25.




Under New Ownership, Heritage Golf Group. Now exclusively private offering championship golf and fun social events for Members and their invited Guests. New Modernized Clubhouse and Bar area featuring seasonally inspired local menus and craft cocktails. Experience a recreational haven in the popular Wilmington, NC market.


Unstoppable Shannon Coates

It is with great pleasure and immense pride that Golf Central Magazine celebrates 21 years with our Editor in Chief, the “Unstoppable Shannon Coates.” Loyal, strong, “a porsche with no brakes!”  For the past two decades, she has kept an unwavering dedication to this publication, sending the benchmark of excellence to the moon!  Her relentless pursuit of perfection has shaped our publication›s success! Her crazyfun personality has crafted a beloved colleague and friend, not only to me, but to all who experience her invincible self. She has always been willing to lend a helping hand, provide guidance, and support those who she works with.

I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude for her unwavering dedication, unparalleled work ethic, and the significant impact she has made over the past 21 years. Her contributions have played an instrumental role in shaping the success and, “sometimes questionable” reputation of Golf Central Magazine.

Seems like everybody’s got a price! The news of the merger between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf shocked the world and stirred the pot, or rather, the purses. The world of golf has swirled in a media frenzy since the spring of 2022 when Greg Norman launched LIV Golf, the non-traditional, controversially-Saudi-backed Golf league that financially challenged the PGA Tour right from the tee. For the last year and a half, players who participate in LIV Tournaments have been restricted from playing on the PGA Tour and also faced restrictions and fines from the DP World Tour. Nevertheless, LIV affiliates played through and legal battles waged.

Post-covid, golf came back into the media spotlight with a monumental resurgence. However, success was accompanied by tension between players, fans, and members of the industry with the future of golf in mind. Suddenly our phones were blasted with news that the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and LIV have started on a course to a merger, allowing LIV golfers to apply for membership on the PGA and DP World tours, putting an end to litigating action.

Happy Father’s Day to All My Good Father’s

Publisher: Terrie L. Purdum (

Edi tor in Chief: Shannon Coates (

Graphic Design: Melahn Cable

Social Media Manager: Nafanua Marlowe

Golf The Wise Way: Greg and Beverly Wise, Photojournalists

Photojournalist: Greg Corbo

Photographers: Lynn Pelham, Brion Price, Peter Hakansson

Mike Coonan, Becky Galloway, Madison Coates, Mac Carraway

Senior Correspondent: Rick Harris, Sr.

Contributing Writers: Jay Golden, PGA; Bob Bolton, Greg Corbo, Elisa Gaudet, Holly Geoghegan, Mike Jamison, Mike May, Anthony Williams

Editor Emeritus: Joel Jackson, CGCS Retired

Regional Partner: Doug Hollandsworth, Founder-Georgia Golf Trail

Turf Pirate: Anthony Williams

Video Visionary: Amy Fox

Media Partners: DSP Media; John Gerber, JP Peterson, Nick Geddes, Holly Geoghegan, Golf Insiders, GMS; Tony Leodora, Traveling Golfer

Golf Central Magazine is published monthly by: Sand Hill Publishing & Public Relations 4313 Berwick Dr, Lake Wales, FL 33859

NEW PHONE: 863.875.6863


©2023 Golf Central Magazine. No portion of this publication may be reprinted without the prior written permission of the Publisher. Editorial contributions are welcome, but Golf Central Magazine assumes no responsibility for unsolicited proposals, manuscripts and photographs. All materials submitted not accompanied by a selfaddressed stamped envelope will not be returned. Mailing, electronic mailing or faxing of contributions constitutes an expressed warrant on the part of the contributor that all material is original and does not infringe on the rights of others. Golf Central Magazine retains all reprint rights and reserves the right to edit any submitted material to meet our specifications for publishing and or use in advertising or promotion. The Publisher and staff are not responsible for any loss or grievance by any person or persons whatsoever, due in any way or in part to the content of this publication. The Publisher reserves the right to refuse to accept any material deemed inappropriate or in bad taste.

6 Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 3 from the publisher
Volume 24, Issue 3
2009 North Florida PGA Amateur of the Year
Must be 21 years or older to enter the casino. Gambling Problem?Call 1.800.9.WITH.IT or text INGAMB to 53342! With Pete Dye’s modern gem and a classic Donald Ross course together at the same resort (plus casino action after your rounds are in the books), southern Indiana hits that sweet spot of golf and gaming. French Lick Resort’s Pete Dye and Donald Ross Courses #1 & #2 in Indiana, 12 straight years | Golfweek’s “Best You Can Play” Top 100 nationally, 10 straight years | Golfweek’s “Best Resort Courses” Get started at Secure your tee time (888) 936-9360 Group planning (8+) (812) 936-5825 2X 2Xthe PLAY TIME SCAN TO PLAY
8 FEATURE 10 Island Resort & Casino Cart Girl 18 Alex Celebrity Corner 26 Nate Bargatze Father's Day 12 The Norman Family 24 Tom McKone Sr. & Jr. Florida Golf Central 28 Golf in Venice Golf Bachelor 14 Matthew Delatorre Golf Bachelorette 22 Erin Rowland Growing The Game 36 Five Iron Golf Fashion Forward 34 Lohla Sport Turf Life 50 Landscapes Unlimited 52 Ballen Isles 54 Turf Pirate 56 USGA– The Green Section 58 John Williams Departments 16 Fore Your Health 30 PGA Tour 32 Georgia Golf Trail 38 Leader on the Links 40 LPGA 42 Product Showcase 44 KYPGA 46 NFPGA 48 SFPGA FeatureArticlePg10 WWW.GOLFCENTRALMAG.COM 2022NGCOANationalGolfCourseoftheYearSweetgrass Celebrates15YearsofGolfExcellence! LongrecognizedanEpsonTourfavorite,Sweetgrassdrawsplayersfromallovertheworldseeking theirLPGAcard.2023marksthe12thIslandResortChampionshipatSweetgrass,heldJune23-25. Volume 24, Issue 3 48 56 14

Island Resort Championship at 12 Years Strong

The Island Resort Championship

at Sweetgrass – June 23-25 – has become such a staple on the EPSON Tour that for the past several years, its winners have been automatically exempted into the LPGA Tour’s major in France, the Evian Championship.

Though such a perk creates some tall expectations for a host tournament, the U.P. resort has lived up to the reputation on several levels, including earning 2022 National Golf Course of the Year.

Since its inception in 2011, the Island Resort Championship has truly been a melting pot for competitors from around the world. Following its first four years, which were dominated by

Americans, the Championship has produced numerous winners from outside the U.S. These were followed by Michigan native Daniela Iacobelli in 2019, who won the tournament at 11-under par. The 2022 defending champion is Ssu-Chia-Cheng of Chinese Taipei.

“The players love it (at Sweetgrass) because it’s such a hidden gem of a golf course, and if you haven’t been there, it’s the most unexpected place,” said Liz Nagel, a native of DeWitt, Michigan. She previously played in the Island Resort Championship but has had her LPGA Tour card for several years now – which is the entire point of the EPSON feeder tour.

“Most out-of-state golfers write off Michigan and especially

the U.P., but once players get up there, they fall in love with the crisp air and the plush grass.

“I’ve had over a dozen people tell me it’s their favorite course we play all year and it’s been a great staple on the Epson Tour schedule – with an even better sponsor,” Nagel added.

Saying that the Escanaba region has welcomed the golfers and the tournament with open arms seems cliché, but not only does Sweetgrass golf course shine, it is one of the top charity-dollarraising tournaments on the feeder tour. The tournament is doubleand triple-circled on the resident’s summer calendars due to its massive popularity for kids and families, and all for a good cause.

10 Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 3 feature




Sweetgrass and Sage Run: dramatically different, but equally exceptional!

Award-winning golf has become a centerpiece of the Island Resort & Casino, home to both Sweetgrass and Sage Run Golf Clubs. Sweetgrass is consistently ranked among Golfweek’s Best Courses, featuring an open layout with some of the game’s most fun greens to putt. Sweetgrass proudly hosts The Island Resort Championship at Sweetgrass — part of the Epson Tour - “Road to the LPGA” and the future of women’s golf. Sage Run Golf Club provides a different kind of golf experience, where holes flow through hardwoods and around a ridge, providing a thrill ride for golfers of all abilities.

5 5 4 4 8 8 2 2 4 4 5 28 16 10 31 23 27 131 127 75 75 94 94 43 90 196 75 90 94 80 90 Green Bay Madison Eau Claire Iron Mt. Ironwood Ashland Dubuque Milwaukee Grand Rapids Chicago Lansing Detroit Grayling Traverse City Makinaw City Escanaba Houghton Makinaw Marquette
Late Season, Double Occupancy

Golf is Generational

My father, Horace Norman, played on the PGA Tour in the 1940s and teed it up with the likes of Ben Hogan and other beloved greats. He eventually stepped away from the tour but still stayed in the game as a PGA Golf Club Professional in a small West Texas town. When I came along, naturally, he placed a golf club in my hand at young age taught me the infamous “Ben Hogan Swing.”

I played golf through middle school, high school, and college and decided to follow in my dad’s footsteps and go into the golf business. Just like my father did with me, when I began to have my own children, they were quickly introduced to greens, sand traps, and rides in golf carts.

My wife and I have been blessed with four beautiful children: three daughters and a son, who is my youngest. I

introduced all my children to golf, but it was my boy, Aaron, who really took to the game like the generations before him. And, you guessed it, I continued following my father’s tried-andtrue teaching and introduced my son to the “Ben Hogan Swing.”

Aaron was a natural. He played in many golf tournaments, both as an individual and as a member of his school golf teams. He was an incredible all-around player, but he was especially a force from the tee box. Very few could outdrive him.

My son began to experiment with drug use in his late teens. Our relationship could sometimes be difficult because of this, but when we played golf together, the addiction and strained relationship would melt away for those several hours. It was just father and son, ball against the green. We always had golf.

In January of 2021, at the age of 28, our son passed away unexpectedly in his home. We were told that he passed peacefully, dressed in golf slacks and shirt. We figure he must have been

12 Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 3 father's day

coming or going from the course. Three months after his death, we finally learned the cause: fentanyl poisoning.  My wife and I had never even heard of fentanyl before. We were given a crash course on the dangers of this drug, especially to our young population, and we have since become involved in spreading awareness as to the dangers of fentanyl.

To honor our son and his addiction that was caused by mental health issues, we created The Aaron Norman Memorial Golf Tournament. All proceeds are given to Phoenix Center, a local organization that provides free mental health support to local families and children.

There is not a single local course that Aaron hasn’t played on. My golf buddy is gone, but he is still everywhere, slamming balls into these beautiful Texas sunsets. I’ll forever be so grateful to this great game for giving me so many beautiful memories with Aaron.

13 Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 3

Where were you born? Did you grow up there? Born Long Island, NY and raised in Winter Springs, FL.

What do you do for a living? I run a marketing company’s satellite offices.

What would you like to do for a living? Play golf!

Aside from golf; what do you prefer for fun and relaxation? I love traveling, beach, events, anything outdoors or on the water.

What golf apparel do you like to wear? Nike and (of course) Turf Life.

Whom do you most admire for their inner and outer beauty?

My Nana is the most beautiful women in my life, but I have to say Penelope Cruz still got the looks.

Tell us about your first kiss? In a tree house when I was 10 yrs old.

Steak, chicken, or seafood? Steaaaaakk... medium rare!

Tell us something about yourself that only your closest friends know. I tend to humm or whistle when I am happy.

What three things would you need to survive on a deserted island? Knife, flint, fishing lure.

What do you find to be the most annoying habit people demonstrate on the golf course? Playing too close behind.

Name the three most important things to you in this world. Family, friends, and sleep.

Given the choice; would you select love, success, or money to keep yourself happy? Success!

What do you fear the most? Losing those closest to me.

What three people would you most like to play with in your fantasy golf foursome? Robert DeNiro, Jim Carrey, Johnny Depp.

What are some of your great accomplishments? Starting my own business and finally working for myself.

Last time you spewed something through your nose from laughing so hard? When I took mushrooms.

Last book you read? Harry Potter

News, current events; hardcopy or on-line? Online

Favorite magazine? Golf Central Magazine

Favorite charity to support? Food for the Homeless.

14 Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 3 golf bachelor
15 Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 3

As a young lady, I was intrigued by the excitement of golf… the comradery, competition, sportsmanship and the joy it brought to many. Little did I realize, that my lot in life was to utilize the game of golf as a

way for healing and hope!

I founded Fore Hope in 1989, a unique golf therapy grassroots program for my father, Guy.

Dad was an avid and proficient golfer who became ill early in his retirement years.

He became isolated and depressed. Everyone in our small town knew his talents and love for the game. I could not let my dad lose his way in life to a health condition that challenged his day to day, I needed to do something.

Dad’s influence in golf impacted my life and my two brothers.

Brother, Kim, is a Golf Course Superintendent in our home village. Younger brother, Kevin, a former PGA Teaching Professional, currently works with a Grounds Crew at a public course near our home town.

Today, Fore Hope is OhioHealth Fore Hope in Columbus, Ohio. In 2017, Fore Hope became a part of OhioHealth Healthcare System and remains using golf as therapy for those patients treated within the Neuroscience Center. I remain as Ambassador. 10,000 plus patients have been served over Fore Hope’s long tenure and the first ever grassroots golf therapy program absorbed by a major Healthcare System. Fore Hope is nationally recognized for our work.

I know the impact of golf and health recovery. My passion speaks as I “walk the talk” in living with MS and the thousands served. Individuals past and present, who experience (d) aging, brain injury, MS, Parkinson’s, stroke, and other chronic health conditions, along with care partners and families, have witnessed the therapeutic powers of golf.

I now am “taking” my passion and expertise to audiences everywhere to understand how “Golf Care” truly improves lives. For more information about my Wellness and Golf platform, please visit

16 Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 3 fore your health
Mindy Derr Mindy Derr and her father, Guy

Situated in Pennsylvania’s majestic Laurel Highlands, you will discover a golfer’s paradise at the always-adventurous Nemacolin.

Nemacolin presents two breathtaking courses designed by the legendary Pete Dye: Mystic Rock and Shepherd’s Rock, delivering thrilling shot values, sweeping mountain views, and esteemed recognition.

Golf Digest 2022 Best Golf Resorts in the Mid-Atlantic

Golfweek 2022 #1 & #5 Best Courses You Can Play in Pennsylvania

Golf Digest 2022 Editors’ Choice: Best Golf Schools & Academies

Sharpen your skills at The Nemacolin Golf Academy, where expert instruction, state-of-the-art technology, custom fittings, and multi-day bootcamps improve your game.

Book an ultimate getaway to this incomparable destination for golf, spa, world-class cuisine, art, wine, and all-season adventure. Your trip of a lifetime awaits!

All experiences are exclusive to overnight guests and members. 844.873.1708

Alexandrea Walkley

Are there any golfers in your family? Both of my brothers.

What do you feel makes Mission Inn Resort and Club special? It’s a family place.

What is your favorite part of being a cart attendant?  Meeting people from all over and being in the sun

What is your memorable moment working a cart attendant?  I don’t know about moment but my most memorable day was with a group that comes every year. The McCartney’s are a blast.

What type of music do you prefer? Country

Where did you grow up? St.Ignace, Michigan

Which group of people did you associate most with in high school? Everyone!

What is your favorite sport to play?  Ice hockey

Favorite to watch? hockey & football

What hobbies do you enjoy?

Powerlifting, strongman, painting and hiking

Favorite comedian? Matt Rife

Favorite movie or movie type? Definitely Hallmark romantic movies.

18 Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 3 cart girl
TALAMORE 36 Holes by Arnold Palmer & Rees Jones Historic Village of Pinehurst Area of North Carolina (800) 552-6292 FREE $50 RESORT CREDIT Mention Code: GOLF CENTRAL Where You’ll Always Get More... • Access to 30+ Area Golf Courses • Luxurious, On-Course Accommodations • Daily Breakfast Delivered to Your Door* • Carolina Pig Pickin’ with All the Fixin’s* • New! Toptracer Range & Putting Course

Gaylord Golf Mecca Offers the Perfect Vacation Experience– and Great Golf, Too!

It’s called the Gaylord Golf Mecca for a reason. The area promises a valued Mecca pilgrimage to those who love golf, but also to anybody who enjoys being outdoors on perfect, extra-long summer days.

For 36 years the unrivaled top golf courses in the Gaylord, Michigan, area have marketed together as the Mecca and built a reputation as America’s summer golf destination. The Mecca offers an elite combination of quantity and quality golf in the heart of Michigan’s beautiful land of lakes and trees.

“I’ve lived and worked in other parts of the state, but in the summer, this is Michigan’s best place for golf, for really everything you might want to do outside,” says Corey Crowell, the general manager at Indian River Golf Club. A classic and historic member of the Mecca, Indian River is celebrating its 100th year as a golf club this summer.

There are courses, from classical to modern design for all levels of golfers in multiple places. Garland Lodge and Golf Resort, Treetops Resort, Otsego Resort, The Natural at Beaver Creek Resort, Lakes of the North Golf Course, The Pines

at Michaywe’, Black Lake Golf Club, Gaylord Golf Club and of course, Indian River Golf Club, together provide 17 courses. It takes more than one trip to play them all, but each visit can be customized with the perfect lodging, fabulous dining experience and perhaps a hike, boat ride or great spot to watch a beautiful sunset at the perfect price point.

The Mecca has 21 lodging partners, who together count almost 1,400 rooms. Visitors can have anything they want or desire, from luxurious to rustic, from traditional to modern, from campfire to a fireplace that starts with the flip of a switch. Our resorts offer wonderfully appointed options and amenities. Prefer hotel experiences? The most trusted brands are here and more. For those of you seeking something completely different we have partners who will find you

20 Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 3 golf travel
Indian River Golf Club Black Lake Golf Club Photo Credit: Datema Media

a condo, vacation home or cabin.

As for dining, in the handy Northern Michigan Golfer magazine you can request or access for free at, there are about 40 restaurants in the dining section. The Mecca has it all, and our official publication includes dining options at the golf courses and the extra-large selection of downtown and communitywide dining destinations.

If you desire water, as in swimming, fishing rafting, kayaking, jet skiing and more, you should note that Michigan is the Great Lakes State. Gaylord holds up its end of the bargain with over 90 inland lakes and the headwaters of 5 major rivers. Otsego Lake County Park and Otsego Lake State Park are sweet places to check out, especially for boaters and anglers.

If hiking is more your speed, there are exciting rustic trails in the Pigeon River Country State Forest or manicured paved pathways in Aspen Park. Gaylord also has a diverse cycling scene, with their crown jewel of trails, the North Central State Trail, running 73 miles from Waters to the Mackinac Bridge.

Finally, there are extra-long days for being outdoors, as in playing golf or enjoying nature in the area until almost 10 p.m. during the

peak of the summer. Gaylord is located in the heart of Northern Lower Michigan and in the Eastern Time zone where Daylight Savings makes you wait just a little longer for a beautiful sunset over our

lakes, ponds and courses.

Sunrise to sunset, you can experience the best vacation, buddy trip, family reunion, class reunion, any type of gathering in Gaylord. It’s truly a Mecca for golf and more.

21 Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 3
Lakes of the North Golf Course Otsego Resort Lodge

Where were you born? Did you grow up there?

I was born in Las Vegas, Nevada, but after one year moved to Louisville, Kentucky to be closer to family. I have lived in Louisville ever since.

What do you do for a living?

I am the Foundation Coordinator for Golf House Kentucky. I work with different programs under our Foundation including PGA HOPE, Drive Chip and Putt, PGA Junior League, and donations.

Aside from golf; what do you prefer for fun and relaxation?

I love to spend time with my family and friends. I love going out and doing activities with them, but I also love staying in and watching movies together.

\What golf apparel do you like to wear?

My favorite golf apparel I like to wear is either Nike or Lululemon because I think it is so comfortable and it is high quality.

Steak, chicken, or seafood?

I prefer seafood the most. Whenever we go out for a nice dinner, I am always choosing seafood, especially on vacation.

What do you find to be the most annoying habit people demonstrate on the golf course?

When people are slow! I love playing a fast-paced round, and when people play super slow, it throws me off of my game.

Given the choice; would you select love, success, or money to keep yourself happy?

I would choose love because there is no better feeling than surrounding yourself with the people who love you.

What three people would you most like to play with in your fantasy golf foursome?

The three people I would love to play with are Rory McIlroy, Scottie Scheffler and my dad.

Relaxed evening at home, or nightclub and cocktails?

It depends on the kind of mood I am in, but now I would choose an evening at home, but surrounded with friends.

Favorite television channel?

I do not have a channel I watch a lot, but my favorite TV Show is Friends.

Favorite charity to support?

My favorite program I support is PGA HOPE. I work with it every single day, and I think helping our local Veterans by playing golf is something that is so special to me.

Erin Rowland

22 Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 3 golf bachelorette

Tom, Sr., what is your current job title? Director of Golf

Who is your employer?

It is “Invited Clubs”

(formerly Club Corp)

Like Father… Like Son…

What Golf Course are you at? East Lake Woodlands a 36 Hole Private Course

What was the progression to get to where you are with this job today? I started working at golf courses when I was 12 years old. I have done everything from caddie, cart attendant, driving range attendant, Assistant Golf Professional, Head Golf Professional, General Manager and Director of Golf Who inspired you the most in learning about this job? I have had a lot of mentors along the way. Mike Glenn, Rich Unger, Marc Carter and Rich Crowe are just a few that have mentored me along the way and we still talk on a regular basis.

How long have you been doing this job? I have been in my current position for a year now. Although I have been a

PGA Member since 2005.

Do you have a favorite Quote from someone that inspires you or motivates you? When I was in college I was in a fraternity and the motto for the organization Phi Kappa Theta National Fraternity was “Give expecting nothing thereof.” I have continued to lead my life by this.

What is one thing that you wish every golfer understood about your job? Being a PGA Member… we all love to play golf, but we are Golf Professionals not Professional Golfers. Our dayto-day functions are running tournaments, giving lessons, merchandising, and most of all, providing a memorable experience for our members and their guests.

If there was one thing that you could tell every golfer… what would it be? To play fast and have fun.

24 Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 3 father's day
Tom McKone, Sr Tom McKone, Sr with his son, Thomas McKone,Jr

Were you excited about your son’s future when he showed the largest interest in what you do and decided to follow in your footsteps?

I was honored that my son chose to get into the golf business. He chose the Golf Course Superintendent side of the operation which maintaining of the golf course. He is very strong in continuing his college requirements at Penn State to achieve that certification. Truly makes a dad proud.

How did that make you feel? I was happy for him. If my son is happy and enjoys going to work every day is all that really matters. It is rewarding seeing him be successful at such a young age. We talk daily about what he does and what he continues to learn.

Thomas… what is your job title? 2nd Assistant Golf Course Superintendent

Who is your employer?

Old Memorial Golf Club

What was your first experience with this job? I first started off working in the cart barn at in high school at Lansbrook Golf Course. When Covid hit it changed a lot of things. I was transferred inside as an assistant in the pro shop. Although I love the golf business… I learned that being constrained inside was not the best for me. That is truly when I decided to pursue a job in agronomy and working on the golf course to help create those incredible views.

Who inspired you the most in learning about this job? My father

How long have you been doing this job? I have been in the golf industry as my only job, but on the agronomy side, I have been doing it for two years.

What was the progression to get to where you are with this job today? Started off as a normal worker on the agronomy side. Old Memorial saw my passion for agronomy and was promoted to AIT (Assistant in Training). I then

took over the spray tech position, and now have been promoted to Second Assistant Superintendent.

Do you have a favorite Quote from someone that inspires you or motivates you? There are so many good quotes out there that all inspire me to succeed… I would really have to think about my favorite.

What is one thing that you wish every golfer understood about your job? It’s not just growing grass. It is a science. Yes, you may be able to maintain your lawn to perfection but expand that to over 100 acres. Then add in that you are cutting grass lower than .100th’s of an inch, while making sure you don’t have any insect pressure or fungal outbreaks that can affect the look of the turf or even kill it. Now all of a sudden it isn’t just a routine job.

If there was one thing that you could tell every golfer… what would it be? To leave the course in better condition than when you first walked on it. For example, filling divots, fixing your ball mark “plus one” that someone else may have missed, and raking your footsteps out of the bunker. It’s not that we aren’t going to maintain the course, it is more of the respect for who is playing behind you on the course.

25 Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 3
Thomas McKone, Jr Old Memorial #2 Old Memorial #12

Hailed as “The Nicest Man in Stand-Up,” by The Atlantic Magazine and a “Rising Star,” by CBS Morning, 2021 Grammy nominated comedian and podcaster Nate Bargatze is selling out shows around the world.

An Old Hickory, Tennessee native, Bargatze followed in the showbiz footsteps of his father, a former clown turned world class magician, who’s influence is seen on his’s 2015 debut Comedy Central special, Full Time Magic and his debut album, Yelled at By a Clown, which reached #1 on the iTunes Comedy Charts and remained on Billboard’s Top Ten Comedy Charts for weeks.

Bargatze’s half-hour Netflix Special The Standups, premiered in 2017 and his first solo one-hour Netflix special, The Tennessee Kid, premiered globally with rave reviews in 2019. In 2021, he released his critically acclaimed second Netflix special, The Greatest Average American, which received a Grammy nomination for Best Comedy Album. On January 31st, Nate released his latest and third 1-hour special, Nate Bargatze: Hello World, on Amazon Prime which now holds the record as Amazon’s most-streamed original comedy special in its first 28 days of viewership.

In 2020, the comedian launched his weekly podcast, Nateland. The podcast tackles the meaningless issues that we face day to day to give listeners a much-needed mental break from fighting the good fight. New episodes release Wednesdays, with video available on Nate’s YouTube

Nate Bargatze

channel and audio available everywhere you get podcasts.

Bargatze’s comedy is both clean and relatable, evident in his 12 appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. He also appeared on Conan four times and has appeared on Seth Meyers and James Corden respective late night shows. He was a recurring guest on @midnight and had his

own Comedy Central Presents in 2011. Off-screen, Bargatze was part of Jimmy Fallon’s Clean-Cut Comedy Tour, and has performed live shows for the troops in Iraq and Kuwait five times.  In addition to touring the country as a headliner, Nate toured arenas with Chris Rock on his 2017 Total Blackout Tour. He has performed at SXSW, Oddball Comedy Festival, Sasquatch, Clusterfest, and the JFL Montreal Comedy Festival, where he’s received critical acclaim multiple years in a row.

Nate was featured as one of Esquire’s “Best New Comedians” by Jim Gaffigan, one of Marc Maron’s “Comedians to Watch” in Rolling Stone, one of Variety’s “10 Comics to Watch” for 2015, and as #1 on Vulture’s ‘50 Comedians You Should Know’ in 2015. He also appeared on the cover of Variety’s annual comedy issue in 2022.

Bargatze is currently on his The Be Funny Tour with all new material. For more information go to:

26 Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 3 celebrity corner


Golf in Venice Under New


“Coral Hospitality has over 25 years of experience successfully managing clubs,” said Chris Schaeffer, Partner, Coral Investment Group. “We are delighted to be able to include these three new Golf in Venice clubs into our growing portfolio. We look forward to welcoming their members and guests into the Coral family.”

Well-renowned for its hotel and resort management, Coral Hospitality’s other golf properties located in Florida and Georgia include Arrowhead Golf Club, Eagle Ridge Golf Club, Misty Creek Country Club, Jacaranda West Country Club, Riverwood Golf Club, Rosedale Golf and Country Club, Brasstown Valley Golf Course, Georgia Veteran’s Golf Course and Wallace Adams Golf Course.

Golf In Venice, cited as three courses anyone can play and voted best in Venice, FL, is under new ownership and management. Coral Hospitality in Naples, FL, has been selected to manage the clubs, bringing its golf management portfolio of golf courses and country clubs to 12, an increase of one third. Coral Investment Group, along with its long-term partner, ITG Group, have acquired the three golf clubs in Venice, which grows the number of owned properties to eight.

The Golf in Venice threecourse portfolio features 63 holes of championship caliber golf at Calusa Lakes Golf Club, Waterford Golf Club and Capri

Isles Golf Club. The clubs provide members and the public a variety of course options in a market dominated by private clubs.

Coral Hospitality is offering a unique opportunity for golfers to join all three Golf In Venice courses with just one membership.

Calusa Lakes Golf Club is situated in a beautiful wooded

28 Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 3 florida golf central
Calusa Lakes #9 – photo by Gary Flach Capri #12

terrain which highlights the natural setting of this outstanding 18-hole course. The spacious course is nestled in a natural environment, with the homes set back from play. The rolling fairways, fair-landing areas and Paspalum Grass greens offer a unique and enjoyable golfing experience for players of all abilities.

Capri Isles Golf Club, a par 72 layout, offers challenges that are guaranteed to capture the interest of not just the serious golfer, but the casual player, as well.

Waterford Golf Club is a semiprivate course situated within two upscale home developments. Each of the 27 holes has distinct, picturesque features combined with abundant natural landscape and wildlife. Play any combination

of the Turnberry, Gleneagles or Sawgrass courses and enjoy the experience of three uniquely designed 9-hole courses. The

combination of Waterford’s rolling fairways, undulating greens, hazards and water will sharpen the skills of all golfers.

Waterford Turnberry #4

Block’s Magical Performance A Double Eagle For PGA of America

The 2023 PGA Championship, held on Oak Hill Country Club’s famed East Course in Rochester NY, is in the history books with a healthy and unyielding Brooks Koepka capturing his third PGA Championship win and 5th major of his career. It came alongside PGA club professional Michael Block nearly stealing the moment with a stunning, shot heard round the Twitter world, hole-in-one on the par 3, 15th hole on Sunday, and a magical up and down out of the heavy rough approaching the 18th hole, to achieve a top-15 finish which qualified Block for next year’s PGA.

Michael Block, 46, was not a household name at the beginning of the week, as he entered the championship along with 20 of his fellow PGA club professionals who qualified. But what a difference a week makes as he catapulted from 3,580 to 577 in the Official World Golf Ranking.

The head PGA professional from Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club in Mission Viejo, California, finished at 1-over 281 the best finish since 1986 when club pro Lonnie Nielson tied for 11th place. This would come as no surprise if you were an astute golfer, especially from the West Coast.

Block’s playing resume is long and impressive. Among the highlights, he has appeared in 25 PGA Tour events,

he won the 2001 California State Open, three Southern California PGA Championships (2017, 2018, 2022), and the 2014 PGA Professional National Championship. He has been awarded the Southern California PGA Player of the Year nine out of ten years from 2012 to 2022 and was named the 2022 PGA Professional Player of the Year.

The guy’s got game.

His performance, competing against and beating the top touring pros including world #1 Jon Rahm, was captivating, riveting and was equally matched by his good guy, wearing it on his sleeves, “don’t make me cry” personality, that made him a media darling by the end of the championship. (Seriously, was he previous-

30 Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 3
north florida PGA north florida PGA north florida PGA north florida PGA north fl PGA Tour PGA Tour PGA Tour PGA Tour PGA Tour PGA Tour PGA Tour PGA Tour PGA Tour PGA Tour

ly profiled in Wikipedia?)

As a career public relations professional in the golf industry, this PGA Championship was a major league home run (pun intended) in terms of media exposure for the PGA of America. Block proceeded to do a post-championship media tour that typically is reserved and touted exclusively to promote the winners of major tournaments. My at-a-glance number crunching would say advantage Michael Block over Brooks Koepka, for better or worse, as Block’s dead last finish and missed cut at The Colonial the following week would reveal. Nevertheless, Block was the Cinderella story of the 2023 PGA Championship golfers won’t soon forget.

Back to the publicity windfall for the PGA of America. There has been some media attention recently, including a special report by Golf Digest entitled “The Club Pro Crisis,” that has raised some eyebrows within the PGA and its membership.

At the PGA of America annual meeting in November 2021, post Covid, Seth Waugh, the CEO summed it up this way, “We’ve gone from a demand problem in terms of players to a supply problem. The lack of supply is hours in the day, lack of balance in our members’ lives and a lack of a pipeline of talent to replace our aging population … virtually everyone has been asked to raise the bar, to do more with the same, to work insane hours. It’s absolutely unsustainable, and there’s a crisis brewing for facilities that don’t get in front of it.”

There are 29,000 PGA club professionals who’s daily job includes teaching, managing, retailing, operations and administration. And as we learned from Block, he rarely has time to work on his game.

“I’m one of them. 100 percent. I’m just your local club pro,” said Block after his second round at the PGA. “That’s what I do. I don’t hit balls. People think I’ve got the best job in the world. I do have a great job. I have a very supportive club that lets me go play, but the amount of times I hit

a bucket of balls is not even once a week.”

The PGA of America seems to have a public relations problem both inside its ranks as well as outside the ropes with everyday golfers. Ask around, and many golfers and fans don’t know the difference between the PGA of America and the PGA TOUR. This brain fog seems to worsen every year when the PGA Championship, now the second major of the season, is in the spotlight.

So, here’s your quick golf history lesson. The PGA Organizing Committee was formed in January 1916 when American department store magnate and visionary, Rodman Wanamaker gathered a group of prominent industry people and notable golfers including legendary club professional, Walter Hagen, for a luncheon in New York City. The PGA of America charter

of America is made up of club and teaching professionals whose mission is to inspire golfers to learn and enjoy the game and grow participation in the game.

What became loud and clear during and after the 2023 PGA Championship, thanks to Michael Block, is the role of the PGA of America and a better understanding of the who, what, why, where and how each of the 29,000 PGA professionals contribute their passion and dedication to make the game better and more accessible for the rest of us.

No doubt those club pros raised their heads a little higher and their shoulders felt a little broader as they arrived for work at their home club on Monday morning after the PGA. Perhaps even their competitive juices were reconstituted, after observing the way 46-year-old Block kept his

was officially signed in April, and 78 members elected. Wanamaker funded the $2,500 for the first PGA Championship held that October, including the 27-pound trophy that bears his name today. In 1968, the PGA TOUR was born and spun off as a separate organization for tour players only. The PGA TOUR is the sole organizer of all professional golf tours and tournaments in North America. The PGA

perspective and held his own against the best tour pros in the world.

“I live it, breathe it,” explained Block. “I’m going to go to the golf course no matter what, whether I’m working outside service cleaning clubs on the weekend or cleaning shoes or running the club. I don’t care what it is. I’m going to drive over that hill, and I’m going to go to the golf course in a polo and live my dream.”

31 Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 3
Seth Waugh, PGA of America CEO, in the press room at the 2023 PGA Championship

Golfers Find Magnificent Mountain Golf –and Places to Dine– in North Georgia


best mountain golf along the Eastern Seaboard is not restricted to New England, Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, or North Carolina. When compiling such a list, you must include Georgia, which is often overlooked. Many golfers are pleasantly surprised to know that three of the finest mountain golf locations in the eastern U.S. are located in Georgia – specifically, Brasstown Valley Resort & Spa in Young Harris; Valhalla Golf Club in Helen; and the Sky Valley Country Club in Sky Valley. Not surprisingly, those three golf courses are also members of the Georgia Golf Trail.

“There isn’t a better golf getaway, especially in the late spring, summer, and early fall, than North Georgia,” said Doug Hollandsworth, Founder, Georgia Golf Trail. “Georgia’s mountain golf courses are terrific.”

Nestled among the mountains of North Georgia, Brasstown Valley Resort & Spa (706-379-4613) is the quintessential mountain golf getaway. Even though Brasstown Valley is located in a mountainous terrain, the golf course was built in a valley, which justifies its name – Brasstown Valley. Just a two-hour drive from Atlanta to

the south and Chattanooga in the north, Brasstown Valley is easily accessible for golfers in the Southeast. At Brasstown Valley, the mountain air is clearer, cleaner, and crisper. The atmosphere is refreshing and re-energizing. The golf course is very well maintained and entertaining to play. The golf course winds its way through wildlife preserves, ponds, and streams, as you have spectacular views of the surrounding mountains. From the golf course, you can see Brasstown Bald (elevation: 4,784 feet), the

32 Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 3 georgia golf trail
By Mike May
Sky Valley Country Club Stone Mountain Carving (Lee,Jackson & Davis) Brasstown Valley 11th Green

highest peak in Georgia. FYI: After golf, eat lunch or dinner inside the lodge at either Brassie’s Bar & Grill where the Big Brassie (1/2 pound burger) is a popular choice or in The Dining Room, where the Bison meatloaf is delicious.

The Valhalla Golf Club (706878-2100) is located in Helen and is nestled in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of North Georgia. Some golf pundits have referred to Valhalla’s par-72 layout as “Alpine mountain golf at its finest.” Others have referred to the Valhalla golf experience as “affordable golf in priceless surroundings.” FYI: The most memorable shot at Valhalla will be the downhill tee shot on the parthree 15th hole, where the descent from tee to green is at least 150 feet.

When you arrive in Helen, you’ll notice a strong German theme to its architecture. When visiting Helen, you will feel an Octoberfest-like celebratory atmosphere. FYI: An ideal place to relax, unwind, and spend the night in Helen is at the luxurious Valhalla Resort, which

is adjacent to the Valhalla GC.

Sky Valley Country Club’s (706746-5302) average elevation of 3,500 feet makes it one of the highest elevation golf courses in Georgia. The Sky Valley CC is surrounded by the Nantahala National Forest. The many tee shots struck from raised tees add an element of excitement, intrigue, and strategy to the Sky Valley golf experience. Sky Valley CC’s tee-to-green course conditions are exemplary. FYI: Before heading to Sky Valley, check out its 24-hour camera: https://www.resortcams. com/webcams/sky-valley-ga/.

In North Georgia, a great place to eat is The Dillard House (706-7465348) in Dillard. Here, breakfast, lunch and dinner are served “familystyle” -- Southern cooking at its finest, 365 days a year. Each menu item at The Dillard House comes from a Dillard family recipe. From the dining room, you can see the Blue Ridge Mountains. FYI: Famous patrons of The Dillard House include former President Jimmy Carter and the late, great country & western singer Waylon Jennings.

If your travels to North Georgia also involve visiting Atlanta, play golf at the Stone Mountain Golf Club (770-465-3278), located just east of Atlanta. Located within Stone Mountain State Park, the golf club features “One Lake. One Mountain. Two Incredible Courses.” Those two courses are Lakemont and Stonemont. Both courses are also part of the Georgia Golf Trail.

At Lakemont, water is present on eight of the first 13 holes. The course is not heavily bunkered, but its biggest defense mechanisms are the pine tree-lined fairways and Stone Mountain Lake. FYI: Some part of Stone Mountain is visible throughout the course.

‘Peaceful’ is one way to describe the setting at Stonemont, a par70 layout, designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr. It features gently rolling fairways flanked by Georgia pines with many dramatic views of Stone Mountain. FYI: Putts at Stonemont tend to break away from Stone Mountain.

BTW: Inside Stone Mountain Park, you’ll find first-class, comfortable accommodations at the Atlanta Evergreen Lakeside Resort, which has a familyfriendly outdoor pool complex and where many rooms have scenic views of Stone Mountain Lake.

P.S. After visiting the Georgia Golf Trail (www.GeorgiaGolfandTravel.), it won’t be easy leaving Georgia, but it will be easy returning.

33 Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 3
Stone Mountain Country Club Stonemont Back Nine Valhalla Golf Course Sky Valley Country Club

Indy 500 & Golf: Who Would’ve Thunk?

• Lisa O’Hurley founded LOHLA SPORT 2-1/2-years ago and its premium ladies’ golf-lifestyle apparel is already extremely popular in sporty country club and resort circles.

• Annika Sorenstam is LOHLA SPORT’s global ambassador and a mind behind Fizzy Beez, maker of readyto-drink cocktails.

Collection featuring race-inspired, straight-line designs of polos, shorts, pants and outerwear.

It’s the brand’s first foray into menswear and it’s only available for a limited time.

So, take a quick look at the nine style-color combinations of polos, five for outerwear and three apiece for shorts and pants in navy, black, laps, racing red and midgray. The Race Team Collection ($130 to $200) could be yours for purchase through Labor Day.

“Loyal buyers of our premium ladies’ golf-lifestyle apparel have been asking for LOHLA SPORT clothing for their husbands,” says O’Hurley. “With our brand’s annual participation in the Indy 500, we figure it’s an opportune time to get behind the wheel of a men’s collection.”

Dustin Johnson has taken laps at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Jeff Gordon is reportedly a birdie machine. For decades, PGA, Champions and LPGA Tour events were contested at Brickyard Crossing golf course, a stone’s throw from the world’s most famous track.

That’s proof that golf and fishing aren’t the only correlating sports.

It also brings us to a theatrical story about a golf-racing crossover with these actors:

• Don Cusick of Cusick Motorsports is a shareholder in LOHLA SPORT and entered a race car in the Indy 500 the past three years.

• Graham Rahal, son of legendary Bobby Rahal, drove Cusick’s car No. 24 two weeks ago in Indy with the LOHLA SPORT and Fizzy Beez logos front and center.

Easy to follow, eh?

All this leads to O’Hurley turning her brand’s participation at the Indy 500 into a business opportunity. Enter the LOHLA SPORT Men’s Race Team

Lo and behold, each garment features some of the world’s finest fabrics for sport, including the men’s version of LOHLA SPORT’s popular The Very Pant” for women.

Check out sleek The Rees Polo, its namesake being Paul Rees, LOHLA SPORT’s head designer who’s famous for his work at Burberry and Aquascutum.

Before the curtain closes, there’s one more actor who appeared at the Indy 500 wearing the Race Team Collection. It was John O’Hurley, husband to Lisa, who played J. Peterman on “Seinfield,” hosted TV’s “Family Feud” and starred in Broadway’s “Chicago.”

34 Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 3 fashion forward
Lisa O'Hurley and Annika Sorenstam at 2023 Indianapolis 500 Men's Race Team Collection (The Stefan Polo) Men's Race Team Collection (The Rees Polo)

Getting to BOYNE Golf has never been easier. Fly into nearby Traverse City (TVC) — or our newly renovated private 5200’ airport at Boyne Mountain. Our 10 magnificent courses are closer than you think. Call 855.427.6316 to plan your 2023 trip today. THE TRIP, EASY.

Leader of the ‘Modern Golf’ Movement Now Offering Franchise Opportunities

Earlier this year, the National Golf Foundation announced that more Americans are now playing “offcourse” golf than on green grass.

Since opening its first location in 2017, Five Iron Golf, the nation’s leading indoor golf experience, has been a major catalyst for this never-beforeseen change in playing habits.

To accelerate expansion beyond its current footprint of 18 locations across 11 U.S. cities (with plans for 26 corporateowned facilities by 2024), the company recently announced it will now offer franchise opportunities for both single unit and multi-unit development.

“Independent data supports our position that the future is very bright for modern, non-traditional golf experiences,” says Jared

Solomon, CEO and co-founder of Five Iron Golf. “The shift in consumer behavior mirrors our growth strategy, as we’ve opened eight locations since the start of 2022 with five more coming online later this year in cities like Atlanta, Cleveland and Detroit.”

Brand versatility is a key Five Iron Golf factor that makes it appealing to diverse audiences of avid golfers and entertainment seekers. The company has been recognized as a leader in the “Modern Golf” movement as it seeks to make the game more inclusive and accessible.

“Moving forward, our franchise program will serve as an accelerant for additional growth, so we can keep pace with increased consumer demand,” adds Solomon. “As operators ourselves, we have experienced and perfected all

aspects of the business, from build outs to programming and service. We’re excited to attract franchisees who, like our team, are passionate about the game of golf and eager to increase its approachability and accessibility.”

This emphasis on making the game more welcoming for all is combined with a track record of operational excellence. All Five Iron Golf facilities feature worldclass technology like simulators from TrackMan Golf, the latest club offerings, and a wide range of programming options to cater to the diverse needs and interests of its customers. The formula has proven so successful that Callaway became an investor (to the tune of $30 million) in 2021.

“Five Iron Golf has built a strong brand and leadership position in the evolving indoor golf market

36 Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 3 growing the game
Jared Solomon, Co-Founder & CEO

by creating technology-driven, eye-catching venues appealing to avid golfers, pure entertainment seekers, and everyone in between,” says Chip Brewer, President and CEO of Callaway. “This innovative business aligns with Callaway’s belief that the future of golf will be more accessible and inclusive.”

In addition to its exceptional golf offerings, Five Iron Golf has perfected a premium food and beverage program, adding an extra touch of excellence to the overall experience. This ensures customers remain engaged and satisfied beyond their time in the simulators.

“We’ve established strong relationships with trusted suppliers in the industry,” says Solomon. “Franchisees will have access to these supplier relationships, enabling them to source highquality equipment, products, and

services to deliver a consistent and outstanding experience at their own Five Iron Golf venues.”

Franchisee support is comprehensive and covers various aspects of the business, including development advice, operational playbooks, marketing expertise, business development, and partnership support. Franchisees will have access to the knowledge and guidance of experienced professionals who have successfully navigated the challenges of establishing and operating Five Iron Golf venues. In addition, franchisees will benefit from Five Iron Golf’s technology and enterprise systems, which have been refined and optimized to ensure seamless operations and an exceptional customer experience.

Five Iron Golf plans to host its first discovery days in

June and October, inviting prospective franchisees to tour existing operations and attend presentations from department heads and senior leadership.

Adds Solomon: “With a diverse range of revenue streams, including memberships, simulator rentals, lessons, events, and a full food and beverage program, Five Iron Golf franchises offer exciting opportunities for dedicated operators to be part of a community that is revolutionizing the golf industry.”

The current franchise investment range is set between $1.4 and $4.2 million, while initial franchise fees for a single-unit franchise are $50,000. The operating royalty fee is 7%. Inquiries for additional details about the franchising opportunity can be made at

37 Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 3

Florida-based former national sportscaster, upcoming author, turned movement maker, Rachel Joy Baribeau is on a mission to spread joy in a dark world. And who doesn’t need more joy?

Baribeau was the first female host on SiriusXM collegiate channels, votes for the prestigious Heisman award, and served as the official host of the first five college football playoff title games. In 2016 she noticed a problem in college athletics, particularly college football, with misbehavior running rampant with both players

and coaches. A self-described “do-something girl,” Baribeau says God gave her the idea that she could help. Her first talk was to FSU football in 2016 on purpose beyond athletics, her own experience with domestic violence and how to find what sets your soul on fire.

Since then, the movement she created ImChangingtheNarrative. org has worked with over 60 colleges and universities, many on a yearly basis, the Big Ten, the Big 12, US Customs and Border Patrol,

Florida Sheriffs Association, the Attorney General in the State of Alabama, halfway houses, high schools, k-5 schools, churches and more. Her message now has expanded to good love for yourself so you can have good love for others, mental health, soul care, legacy, joy and interpersonal relationships, and more. She says, “my message is for ages 6-96. If you’re still breathing, you still have purpose.” Rachel is also newly married and the bonus mom of 4 amazing kiddos, and a

fur mom too! Of all the titles she has answered to, she loves wife and bonus momma the most. She also counts solo golf as one of her tried ways to sooth her soul!

You can grab your advance copy of Baribeau’s upcoming book, Relentless Joy, wherever books are sold. For more information on joining her movement or booklaunch team, learning to become a better speaker, starting your own movement, or simply having more joy in your life, drop Rachel an email at

38 Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 3 leader
the links

Elevate With Your Game

A seemingly weightless precision shoe equipped with an EVA upper that hugs your foot, yet remains flexible, giving you both reassurance and very little resistance in your swing.

Add a shock absorbing, dual density mid-sole, and get into a game improved technically, and made more enjoyable.

Welcome to Biion Golf.

Try on a Biion for 25% off with promo code: GOLFCENTRAL


My favorite golf shoe hands down

On a Mission for a Championship at El Campeon

How do you really celebrate a birthday? For Jiwon Jeon, Daegu, Republic of Korea… it is firing a 7-under par 66 in the opening round to take the lead at the 2023 Inova Mission Inn Resort and Club Championship.

Jeon followed up the first round, with a second round even par 73. She found herself one shot behind Linday Duncan of Plantation, Florida who had fired a 6-under par 67 to take the lead at -8.

Sunday’s final round was sure to be a shootout with 7 ladies within 4-shots of the lead.

El Campeón – a championship, 18-hole championship course was designed by Chicago-based course architect, George O’Neil and built in 1917 – with further enhancements in 1926 by Charles E. Clarke of Troon, Scotland. One of the South’s oldest golf courses and blends unusual Central Florida elevation changes of more than 85 feet with features of traditional golf design, including spectacular rolling fairways and undulating greens.

Jeon started making a birdie run on the fifth and seventh holes, and was tied at 9- under and. We a bad tee shot in to the greenside bunker, Jeon found she had a terrible lie and ended up hitting her second shot into the water. Electing to hit from the bunker for her fourth shot, hit to within 8-feet of the hole and made the putt for a double bogey 5, moving her to 7-under 2 shots behind.

With a small stumble on the par 3 15th hole, hitting just short to the bulkhead lined green. With her wedge in hand Jeon played from the drop zone and stuck shot to within 18-inches to assure her bogey.

After a solid tee shot on the par 5, 17th hole, the decision was made to go for the green in 2 on the signature hole at Mission Inn. Putting her second shot in the bunker behind the green, Jeon blasted out perfectly with her ball coming to rest 2 feet from the hole to assure her of the lead

at 10-under par and a two-shot lead heading to the final hole.

Alyaa Abdulghany, already in the clubhouse at -8 and Jeon’s playing partner Lindy Duncan was 8-under as well, could only watch as a great tee shot across the lake hit the middle of the fairway, and the approach from 135-yards put Jeon on the green to 2-putts to secure her first EPSON Tour Victory at the 2023 Inova Mission Inn Resort and Club Championship.

So… the moral of the story is to never tell anyone your wish on your birthday as you blow out the candles until with wish has come true. Congratulations Jiwon Jeon… 2023 Inova Mission Inn Resort and Club Champion.

Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 3 40 north florida PGA north florida PGA north florida PGA north florida PGA north fl Ladies Professional Golf Association Ladies Professional Golf Association Ladies Professional
“Mission Inn is not an easy golf course. Every single hole you have got to be really patient. You have to have a good game plan and stick to it. But it’s a beautiful golf course.”
By Beverly and Greg Wise
– Jiwon Jeon
Jiwon Jeon Jiwon Jeon
41 Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 3
Lindy Duncan Pinyada Juvanun Alyss Abdulghany Erika Smith

Bettinardi Golf’s HLX 5.0 Forged Wedges

Robert J. Bettinardi has taken his wedge line to a new level of performance with a perfected redesign of technology and appearance in his all-new HLX 5.0. Engineered and crafted from Soft Carbon Steel, each wedge aims to provide a greater focus on player performance and versatility for any wedge shot, in all conditions. The deeper Tour-inspired face milling allows players to have exceptional spin control for any approach shot or around the greens. The center of gravity in each head was re-engineered to be 5% higher by replacing the Honeycomb milling on the back flange with a finer ladder milling, allowing golfers to keep their wedge shots at a lower trajectory and ultimately improve their short game. Using our patented High Helix Cut machining tool, Robert was able to engineer and craft his softest forged wedge face to date. By using this process, the machine cuts the metal at a high rate that generates a more pronounced groove depth, creating maximum spin on the golf ball. This master-crafted tweak allows for Tour quality flighting and uncontested control around the greens.

The HLX 5.0 Forged Wedges are available in Chrome or Graphite PVD and come in both a C-Grind and RJGrind.

TRUE Linkswear

TRUE Linkswear has long been known for developing comfortable and versatile golf shoes. Born out of selfish ideation, our founders set out to design golf shoes that they actually wanted to wear. This year, TRUE has introduced a new design to the All Day family. The new All Day Knit III takes everything great about its predecessor and makes it even better.  Consistent with the last version, it is constructed with a TRUEknitfully breathable one piece upper that provides a casual yet sporty aesthetic, is machine washable, and a sole made from all natural rubber that extends the life of the tread and flexes naturally with the foot. The Knit III now features an anti rub heel pad to provide comfort right out of the box, a more athletic and stable fit that forms to your foot, and a microsuede heel overlay that adds stability and the ability to put your logo on them! Now with the Knit III, TRUE has the ability to laser etch logos, initials, signatures, etc. on the heel! The Knit III is designed to be your all day, every day shoe. Whether you are heading to work, the gym, the golf course, or anywhere in between, the Knit III will be your new go-to shoe.

SHOCK’D Golf Balls

Get your hands on the PGA SHOW AWARD WINNING golf balls that are taking the golfing world by storm! SHOCK’D Golf Balls are the World’s LOUDEST Golf Balls! These prank / novelty golf balls are a great way to add some fun to your rounds of golf. Tee one up in front of your golfing buddies without telling them and watch their priceless reactions! You will never have more fun hitting a golf ball than you will when hitting a SHOCK’D Golf Ball!

Father’s Day is right around the corner! There is no better gift to give the father in your life! Dads have always been extremely hard to shop for, but not anymore! Gift them with SHOCK’D Golf Balls and watch the fun that they will have with them! They will want to continue to get these golf balls as gifts for Christmas, Birthdays, Valentine’s Day, or any other gift giving occasion!

If you have never seen SHOCK’D Golf Balls in action, check out their Instagram or TikTok @SHOCKDGOLFBALLS to see their multiple VIRAL videos that have been sweeping across multiple social media platforms! The reaction videos of people pranking their friends with SHOCK’D Golf Balls are hilarious to watch and will make you want to have these golf balls in your bag at all times! Their videos with hundreds of millions of views across their social media platforms show how much people love SHOCK’D Golf Balls, and you will too! Don’t miss out! Get yours today!”

42 Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 3 product showcase

strong for the first few holes being two-under par after three. It was until the seventh hole that they started playing lights out. Going into the last hole, Team Kentucky was four-under par with a shot to tie the lead. They finished strong with a par on a very difficult and long par four where they finished second for the tournament.

All teams were able to celebrate the opportunity of being in this event by going to the practice rounds on Monday and Tuesday for the PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club. We want to thank all of those who were involved in the 2023 Secretary’s Cup for putting on such a quality event for our local Veterans.

On May 14-15, Penfield Country Club in Rochester, New York hosted the 8th annual Secretary’s Cup for our PGA HOPE Veterans. Twelve different teams across the country came together to compete against one another for the Secretary’s Cup title. Team Kentucky consisted of PGA Professional Chad Martin and our four Veterans, Curtis Graffam, Dan Brown, Dwight Griffith and Evan Brown.

The weekend started off with a meet and greet for all of the Sections to get to know one another before we kicked off with a practice round, dinner, opening presentations, a competitive tournament and so much fun for everyone that was involved. The comradery around the whole event was amazing to watch and it was nothing short of an outstanding weekend.

Team Kentucky started off

Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 3 44 PGA Kentucky PGA Kentucky PGA Kentucky PGA Kentucky PGA Kentucky PGA Kentucky PGA K



PGA HOPE Serves Over 250+ Veterans

PGA Members are gifted Professionals, but did you know they can use their skills in a life-changing activity in the lives of Veterans?

PGA HOPE (Helping Our Patriots Everywhere) is the flagship military program of PGA REACH, the charitable foundation of the PGA of America. PGA HOPE introduces golf to Veterans with disabilities to enhance their physical, mental, social, and emotional well-being.

The program introduces the game of golf through a developmental 6-8 week curriculum, taught by PGA Professionals trained in adaptive golf and military cultural competency. Training includes learning about

military culture and how to assist each person’s unique physical, learning, sensory, or cognitive need. All programs are funded by PGA REACH and affiliated with PGA REACH North Florida, so the cost of programming is free to all Veterans.

Throughout each session, PGA Professionals will teach and coach each Veteran how to swing, chip and, putt all at their own pace. These sessions serve not just how to be a better golfer, but how the game of golf can build community. Our Members leave each session being more than just a coach, but a friend.

“Like many of our PGA HOPE participants, I started the game later in life after serving in the Marine Corps. Golf is a great opportunity to

get out, get active, and meet like-minded people.” - Bryan Kipnis, PGA HOPE Instructor With our seven sites for PGA HOPE training across the North Florida area including Jacksonville, Orlando, Melbourne, Ken Juhn Tampa, Citrus County, Sarasota, and Lakewood; we have over 50 fully trained and PGA HOPE certified Members. With this many certified, we are coaching approximately 250+ Veterans!

Golf is more than just a game, but a way we can teach the ones who’ve given so much. This is our way of saying “thank you.” We are so proud of each of our Members for taking steps to teach our Veterans the game we love most.

To learn more about PGA HOPE, please visit

46 Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 3 north florida PGA north florida PGA north florida PGA north florida PGA north florida PGA north
By Jorja Gust

South Florida PGA Foundation Hosts Second Annual

Women’s PGA HOPE Clinic

Over the course of two-weeks, 15 female Veterans were afforded the opportunity to learn the game of golf and meet other women similar to themselves during four sessions taught by all-female PGA Professionals.  “A lot of us suffer from military sexual trauma and unfortunately it is still difficult for some to be around men,”

Since 2015, the South Florida PGA Foundation has administered nearly 80 PGA HOPE Programs across south Florida for veterans

with disabilities. “By giving an all-women golf clinic, the least we can do is introduce the game of golf,” Kokell stated.  Helping teach alongside Kokell were golf professionals; Pam

48 north florida PGA north florida PGA north florida PGA north florida PGA north florida PGA north south florida PGA south florida PGA south florida PGA south florida PGA south fl PGA south flor Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 3
PGA HOPE Ambassador, Mary Anderson-Kokell explained.

Elders, PGA, Sue Boyer, PGA, Terry Farino, PGA, Connie Capanegra, LPGA and Trish Beucher, LPGA.  The clinic consisted of four, twohour sessions involved around, learning the rules of golf, swing technique and putting practice. On the clinic’s last day, the participant’s skills were put to the test in a scramble at PGA Nationals Par-3 Staple Course.  At the end of the clinic, South Florida PGA Foundation Manager, Brianna Alonso explained the Foundation’s gratitude towards those participants within the PGA HOPE Program. “The more people we are able to impact, the greater our program will grow and the more lives we will be able to touch,” she said.  With a mission of serving the South Florida community through the game of golf, this year the Foundation was able to conduct another successful PGA HOPE Women’s clinic and hopes to have another available this coming fall!  To learn more about the South Florida PGA Foundation,

49 Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 3

Landscapes Unlimited Makes Major Host Course Sahalee Even Better

We love it when great golf courses get even better.

To wit: Sahalee Country Club, 30 minutes east of Seattle, squarely fits the bill.

To boot: Several of our Florida brethren of golf professionals and recreational players make the cross-company journey to visit this gem, returning with rave reviews. Thumbs up: Landscapes Unlimited, in collaboration with Rees Jones, Inc., recently completed a bevy of enhancement projects at the private Sahalee.

Work on the nine-hole north, south and east courses primarily included shaping and strategically moving select bunkers to enhance playability for low and high handicappers alike.

The company also implemented the first phase of Jones’ golf course master plan. Focus was primarily on the bunkers. They include improvements to their shapes, sizes, locations and depths, and installation of new drainage, modern liners and bunker sand.

All work contributes to bunkers built for efficient maintenance and longer life spans.

Just in time for Sahalee’s hosting the 2024 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.

“Sahalee is a Pacific Northwest treasure,” says Jake Riekstins, Chief Development Officer of

Sahalee Players Championship.

Ranging from 5,712 to 7,003 yards, three nine-hole courses played in different combinations inject fun, variety and challenge to experiences.  Heavily forested, tall evergreen trees frame fairways laid over rolling topography ideally suited for golf. Strategically placed bunkers and water hazards often create daring moments.

Landscapes Unlimited.  “Any time there’s an opportunity to smartly add modern infrastructure to a storied golf course while achieving a golden age style, the results are ‘wow’ experiences for different generations.”

The 27-hole Sahalee is famous for hosting the 1998 PGA Championship, 2002 WGC-NEC Invitational, 2010 U.S. Senior Open, 2016 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship as well as the

Sahalee opened in 1969, its three nines designed by Ted Robinson and renovated by Rees Jones from 1996 to 1998.  The original clubhouse was replaced in 2001 with a new, 43,000-squarefoot structure.  The first head professional was Paul Runyan who won 29 times on the PGA TOUR, including the 1934 and 1938 PGA Championship, Landscapes Unlimited is the recognized leader in golf course development, construction and renovation. Sister company Landscapes Golf Management boasts a portfolio of 55-plus golf courses, country clubs and resorts nationwide.

50 Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 3

Sunn 28-0-0


ITEM #160031


Total Nitrogen .......................... 28%

20.2% Slow release Nitrogen

7.8% ......................... Urea Nitrogen

Sunn KTS


Item# 160041


Soluble Potash (K2O) 25%

Total Sulfur (S) ......................... 17% 17% combined sulfur

0% free sulfur

Derived from: potassium thiosulfate

Minors Blend


ITEM #160000


Total Magnesium (Mg) .......... 0.50% Soluble Magnesium (Mg) 0.050%

Iron (Fe) ................... 3.40%

Iron (Fe) 1.60%

Manganese (Mn) 0.25%

Manganese (Mn) ...... 0.25%

Zinc (Zn) 0.10%

(S) combined .............. 3.50% Derived from: Manganese Sulphate, Zinc Sulphate, Iron Glucoheptonate, Iron Sulphate, Magnesium Sulphate.

Sunn 6-0-0 Blend


Item# 160010


Total Magnesium (Mg) .......... 0.50% Soluble Magnesium (Mg) 0.50% Soluble Iron (Fe) ................... 3.40% Chelated Iron (Fe) 1.60% Total Manganese (Mn) 0.25% Soluble Manganese (Mn) ...... 0.25% Soluble Zinc (Zn) 0.10% Sulfur (S) combined .............. 3.50%

Derived from: Manganese Sulphate, Zinc Sulphate, Iron Glucoheptonate, Iron Sulphate, Magnesium Sulphate.

Sunn 12-0-0 Blend


ITEM# 160021


Total Nitrogen 12% 12% Urea Nitrogen

Chlorine not more than .............. 2%

PLANT FOODS Iron as Fe ................................... 6%

as Mn 2% Derived from: Urea, Iron Glucoheptonate, Manganese Glucoheptonate

Manufactured by SUNNILAND CORPORATION PO Box 8001 Sanford, Florida 32773-8001 Share your photos & videos #sunnilandcorp Follow us @sunnilandcorp • 800-432-1130

Ballenisles Country Club Welcomes New Director of Agronomy

BallenIsles Country Club in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. recently welcomed Jeff Reich as the club’s new Director of Agronomy. Reich will oversee the awardwinning private club’s agronomy team and maintenance of BallenIsles’ three championship golf courses, including the East, North and South Courses, plus its expansive golf practice facilities and market leading horticultural and landscape program throughout it’s campus.

Reich has 17-plus years of experience in turf maintenance and agronomy, most recently serving as the director of agronomy at TPC River Highlands, host course for the PGA TOUR’s Travelers Championship in Cromwell, Connecticut. He has an incredible record of accomplishment in preparing and maintaining highquality golf courses as TPC River Highlands is regarded as one of the best-conditioned courses on the PGA TOUR. Reich joined the TPC Network of courses in 2006 as first assistant superintendent at TPC Treviso Bay in Naples, Fla. In 2009, he moved to TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach as the first assistant superintendent on the Stadium Course, home of THE PLAYERS Championship. He became golf course superintendent at TPC Rivers Bend in Ohio in 2012. While at Rivers Bend, Reich received two PGA TOUR Platinum Awards from PGA TOUR Agronomy, an Environmental Leader in Golf Award from Golf Digest, and three PGA TOUR safety awards.

“We are thrilled to welcome Jeff to BallenIsles,” said BallenIsles Country Club General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Ryan Walls.  “His experience in maintaining high quality-level facilities and his leadership in supporting sustainable and environmentally responsible golf courses stood out in the interview process. We are filled with gratitude to be able to add such a seasoned professional to our highly capable leadership team and look forward to Jeff

52 Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 3
Jeff Reich

continuing the elevation of our offering to our membership.”

Reich graduated from the University of Minnesota with a focus on turf management and landscape design. He is a multi-time award winner for environmental stewardship and is an industry leader in his agronomic approach.

For more information on BallenIsles Country Club, visit

About BallenIsles Country Club

In 1963 legendary Florida developer John D. MacArthur and the PGA of America teamed up with golf course architects Dick Wilson and Joe Lee to design a championship-caliber golf facility. Over the next ten years, BallenIsles, then called PGA National Golf Club, hosted numerous major tournaments like the PGA Championship and PGA Seniors Championship and was home for the Professional Golfers’ Association of America.

The Club was also the host site for the original PGA TOUR Qualifying School and held the inaugural PGA Merchandise Show. When the MacArthur/PGA of America agreement expired in 1973, the Club was renamed the JDM Country Club for John D. MacArthur. For the next 15 years, the prestigious local country club hosted many celebrities and professional golfers and staged many events on the three golf courses on the property. In 1988, the three golf courses and surrounding property were sold by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and renamed BallenIsles Country Club. A multi-year and multimillion dollar plan to develop a private country club community was unveiled. Since the early 2000’s, BallenIsles Country Club has been consistently ranked as one of the Top 100 Clubs in America.

A $35 million clubhouse renovation was completed in November 2018, featuring 115,000

square feet of luxurious space; three championship courses with 54 holes of golf; a worldclass 21-court tennis and 9-court pickleball complex; and a stateof-the-art Sports Complex with a full-service Cosmo & Company salon and spa, fitness center, Pilates & group exercise studios and resort-style swimming pool.

The recent $9.3 million golf enhancements to the East Course by Nicklaus Design, practice grounds and ‘71 Golf Learning Center follow the construction of a $1.3 million pickleball complex in 2021; and the 2020 redesign of BallenIsles’ South Course by famed golf course architect Rees Jones. The Club also recently announced a $19 million renovation and expansion project of the Club’s existing Sports Complex. Construction is expected to begin on the phased project in late 2023, with project completion slated by the end of 2024.

For more information visit

Starting at

$10 C M Y CM MY CY CMY K TurfLife_Ad_HalfPg(12172019).pdf 1 12/17/2019 3:23:46 PM

A Turf Pirate's Journal $Try New Things $

The days are getting longer Turf Pirates and that means many of the Ancient and Honorable Tribe of Turf Pirates are facing tough situations and are trying to find that silver lining that we are all chasing. Rest easy Turf Pirates for the victory is at hand. The key that I have found to long tern success is to understand the need for a good foundation of skills and programs that is tempered with the newest and best practices available. You must never stop trying new things! They do not always work but the frame of mind to keep looking and evaluating is what makes the grass greener at your club. Rise up and challenge the status quo. I am what is officially known as a vintage superintendent these days and I have to admit I sometimes like the old ways. However, I would not be where I am today had I not kept learning and evolving. Much has changed in the golf turf industry since I hit the ground running in 1985. Take a look at this month’s photo opportunity. It was taken in 2015 during a photo shoot after a yearlong experiment we were part of using propane powered equipment. The photo features Shelby on the sand pro and me

blowing the green for the B-Roll shots. The results were great but what was even better was the fact that we were looking at ways to be better, all ways, any ways every day. It is a gift to be curious and every successful Turf Pirate has that gift, they want to be better, they want to know what makes things tick. They are not afraid to try new things, they have a sense of urgency that is a favorable wind in the sails of fate.

I acknowledge that for the glass is half empty and broken crowd that I have certainly had some failures along the way, not every new thing I tried worked at least not on the first try. I count the way Thomas Edison did about his many failed attempts at inventing the light bulb, all of the failures were needed to reveal the one that was successful. We must never quit, when we try something new, we look for the lesson, we always glean the positive and find the light of possibility. Times like these reward the innovations of the season but remember to start from your strengths do not abandon the proven until you have confidence in the new way. Just in case you were wondering I am a glass half full and rising sort of pirate. My

nursery green over the years has been a testing ground for many new chemistries and rates and turf varieties. It’s a safe place to answer real questions about the mysteries of turf before they go on stage in front of the golfers and owners. I am after all a Turf Pirate so I only gamble when the odds are in my favor. That said, nothing ventured, nothing gained so I keep moving onward looking for wise ways to better our (owners, members, staff, property and I) situation.

What about it Turf Pirates when was the last time you tried something new? When did you last feel the thrill of a hunch that panned out (reference to gold prospectors panning for gold during the gold rush days and finding that elusive nugget in the sand and water) I just unleashed our two new satellite guided fully linked sprayers. I felt like Captain James T. Kirk, but I have also walked like a million miles with a spray hawk tethered to any number of vintage non-satellite linked sprayers. Big or small try something new this week and shake your fist at mediocrity and see if you can build a better tomorrow for you and yours. This is the way.

54 Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 3 By Anthony L. Williams, CGCS, CGM, MG

Designing Your Next Women ' s Golf Trip

B o o k i n g e x p e r i e n t i a l

g o l f t r i p s f o r w o m e n !

W e t a k e c a r e o f y o u & t h e p l a n n i n g .

Y o u s h o w u p w i t h y o u r

c l u b s & h a v e f u n !

J O I N U S i n 2 0 2 3

J o i n u s o n o n e o f o u r S w i n g & S i p G o l f

E x p e r i e n c e s - s m a l l g r o u p g o l f t r i p s f o r

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a l @ w o m e n o n f a i r w a y s
o l l o w u s o n s o

The Green Section

As you may recall, ahead of the 2022 U.S. Open, Mike Whan made mention of a challenge he had for the USGA’s Green Section. Meeting the media at The Country Club in Brookline, he asked, “In the next 15 years what if we committed $30 million to reduce how much water a golf course needs by 45%?”

As outlined ahead of Earth Day in April, the USGA’s 15-year, $30 million commitment advances key actions that golf courses can use to economically reduce their use of water while continuing to deliver outstanding playing conditions. Importantly, we don’t want the initiative to be interpreted as a mandate, but as a call to action to continue (and accelerate) conserving water. This undertaking will integrate the longstanding expertise our entire USGA Green Section with university researchers, golf course owners, superintendents, the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, Allied Golf Associations, architects, industry allies and water agencies to deliver strategies capable of reducing golf’s median water use in the United States.

The USGA has been advancing the water conservation in golf for decades, and there is much more to come as it relates to how water and resource usage effects golf across the country. We are confident that raising our accelerated efforts to a national level will only help our game for future generations,

and spur both local action and innovation on a broad scale.

More information on water and golf courses can be found at We are excited about the progress we’ve made in the space, and encourage you to learn more about this initiative, as it will impact golf for years to come.

56 Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 3
Turfgrass Research Native Grasses Makef ield Putters 2023 ING Award Winner: Product Ingenuity; Emerging Companies New Year’s Resolution: MAKE MORE PUTTS New half moon T-F and T-F Tour debuted at 2023 PGA Show Visit or email to find out more about these sleek new models

Just a week after celebrating his 65th birthday, a man wellknown in the North Carolina turfgrass industry, John Williams, retired from Oakland Plantation last month after working as the farm manager for 20 years. He started his role at the farm in May 2003 after spending the previous two decades as a golf course superintendent.

Oakland Plantation’s President, Rick Neisler reflected on his time working with Williams as his right-hand man and is thankful for all the strides and memories they’ve made together.

“John is an ambassador in the turf industry so it was good to have that kind of person on our team. It was a plus-plus with his background. Now he’s retiring with 20 years in the golf business and 20+ in the

Celebrating a Turfgrass Ambassador: John Williams Bids Adieu to Oakland Plantation

sod business. He’s probably one of the most well-rounded turf professionals you could probably ever find. He’s worked hard and is ready to enjoy retirement so I’m happy for him,” Rick said.

Rick’s son and Oakland Plantation’s General Manager, Will Neisler, agreed with his dad that John is knowledgeable, well-spoken, friendly and always represented Oakland as best as one could.

“He was dedicated to the farm in a way that you cannot hire someone to be, or even train someone to be.  It’s just a part of who he is to take his job seriously and to go above and beyond, time and again. He wore many hats in his time here, and likely no one person is going to be able to fill all of those roles. Working with him leaves those of us left behind better and more able to fill the voids created by his absence. Hopefully, with some luck, we are able to find someone who is even half as dedicated as he was,” Will said.

Williams’s day-to-day managing of Oakland Plantation included overseeing all of the sod production and working alongside its 25 employees. He would start his day by getting the crew out in the morning and making sure everything was going in the right direction and looking over the

agronomics for the different varieties of grass they grow. Williams assumes he’ll miss the sense of responsibility and will have to let go of worrying about what’s happening at the farm but is excited about retirement.

“I’ve been very fortunate. Everyone at Oakland Plantation, Rick, Will and the entire Neisler family have been so wonderful to work with. My family and I are very fortunate for the turfgrass industry as a whole — it has been very good to me. I’ve been growing or maintaining grass since 1974 in some capacity,” Williams said.

Rick said he was fortunate for the knowledge and network relationships that Williams brought from his experience as a golf superintendent to the farm. Back then, golf jobs were a really large part of Oakland Plantation’s business so Rick considered him the total package when he came on board.

Over the past 22 years, Rick and Williams have had very few disagreements and have made great strides in the business together. “I just can’t say enough about him. He’s going to be tough to replace and we’re going through that process now,” Rick shared.

“The best day I ever had was probably the day I hired him and maybe one of the saddest days I’ll have will be when he leaves.

58 Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 3
John Williams

He was just a great employee. He took care of everything which freed me up to do what I needed to do. It worked out just great and he’s been a pleasure.”

An Impressive Career

Williams’s career started in high school when he first started working on a golf course. He attended NC State University and graduated with a turf degree in 1978 and then went on to work on several golf courses. He was the golf course superintendent for several years at Pinehurst No. 6 and No. 7, and even grew the grass through new construction at Pinehurst No. 7. Next, he went to Keith Hills Country Club in Buies Creek, NC until he came to Oakland Plantation in 2003.

Williams recalls one of the first mentors in the golf industry he worked with was Butch Sheffield who impressed on him to give back to the industry and to try and help others. “Also, to first look after yourself and your family for the long-term, but to get involved in the industry, which has been most of my service. I’ve served on just about every committee you can imagine,” Williams said.

He served on the Golf Course Superintendents of America Association (GCSAA) national committee, the local Triangle Turf Association and he served as president of the Carolinas Golf Course Superintendent Association (CGCSA) in 1997. “My shining moment as president

of the Carolinas was that I was president the year the association moved the conference to the Convention Center in Myrtle Beach and it just took off from there.”

When he got to Oakland, Williams served as president of the North Carolina Sod Producers Association (NC SPA) for two years (2014-15). “The NC SPA is a really good group of farms. It’s not a large organization but everybody gets along and it’s a good group of people. We enjoy getting together at least once a year to share our thoughts and concerns in the industry,” he said.

He explained one thing he’s most proud of from serving as the

President of NC SPA was helping navigate the negotiation process with NC State and Sod Solutions to launch the Turfgrass Research North Carolina which has grown to 16 sod farm members. The TRNC supports the funding and research of new and improved turfgrass lines out of NC State’s Turfgrass Breeding program.

Most recently, for the last four years, he’s been on the Board of Directors of the NC State Turf Center, which helps oversee all the turf research money they’ve gotten from NC State and allocates it over time. Williams shared that it’s been exciting to see the fruits of the labor from NC State’s Turfgrass Breeding program come to fruition as they’ve released both Lobo™ Zoysiagrass and Sola™ St. Augustinegrass in the past two years. He complimented turfgrass breeder, Dr. Susana Milla-Lewis, and her team for their hard work to make that possible.

“The new latest and greatest grasses coming out of NC State, my alma mater, have been really rewarding. It’s important that the program continues to succeed. You’ve got to keep progressing into the next generation,” he added.

Williams sees the turfgrass industry continuing to become much more mechanized and technical in the next ten years. He has utilized some GPS-integrated systems for sprayers and thinks that things will only continue along those trends, especially as the

59 Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 3
2022 Lake Wheeler Field Day

labor pool shrinks and farms find themselves relying on automation. “The bottom line is still all about growing good quality turfgrass. There are a lot of new ideas and ways that will make it a lot easier in the long run. I think there will also be a lot of new grasses, not only out of NC State but all over the country, and they will continue to bring out improved varieties.”

Sod Solutions President, Tobey Wagner, shared his appreciation for John’s hard work at Oakland Plantation and within the turfgrass industry over the years. “I admire and respect John’s farming expertise and leadership. He’s been an example of showing others hard work and dedication to excellence. His legacy and footprint of influence will last for generations. I think John’s most admirable characteristic is his character and faith. He is a man who demonstrates the life of a Godly man,” Wagner said.  Farm Manager’s Farewell

“It’s an exciting time but it’s also time for me to move on to a new chapter of my life and let someone younger come along,” Williams said. He and his wife, Rhonda, have big plans to kick off his retirement. They purchased a large motor home vehicle and the second week of June they took off on a cross-country trip together until the late fall. Along the way, they plan to visit family in Missouri and head west

to see a number of National Parks and sites until they return to the Carolinas in October or November.

“We are both fortunate to have good health and we want to enjoy this while we are able to. We’re starting a new chapter and looking forward to it,” Williams said. They have two daughters and four grandchildren that they both look forward to spending more time with together in retirement.

Ironically, when asked about their most cherished shared experience, Rick and Williams both fondly recalled the day they first crossed paths — an unforgettable occasion that coincided with a turkey hunting excursion serving as Williams’ job interview. Reflecting on that memorable day, Rick reminisced, “He came down and we turkey hunted. We didn’t get a turkey that day but he spent the day with me going around. I knew it was a good fit then and it’s just been a good fit ever since. We’ve done so many things together, collaborated on countless projects and have created too many good memories together to mention,” Rick said.

As Williams expressed his sentiments about his tenure at Oakland, he remarked, “My time here has been very fulfilling. I’ve devoted my entire career to growing grass, and Oakland has provided me with the ideal platform to enjoy many of my other passions, such

as deer, duck, bear, and turkey hunting. The Neisler family is really involved in wildlife and they have given me the opportunity to enjoy that together. It’s ironic that my initial encounter with Rick in 2003 was, in fact, spent turkey hunting.”

Williams’ last day at Oakland Plantation was celebrated with a fish fry and fellowship with friends and colleagues at the sod farm. The gathering served as a fitting tribute, with heartfelt wishes for a fulfilling retirement and collective appreciation for a career well-served. Learn more about Oakland Plantation at

If your publication or website has any future lawn and garden content needs, reach out to us at cecilia@ Sod Solutions has helped successfully develop and release to the market over 20 different turfgrass varieties over the past three decades including Palmetto and CitraBlue St. Augustine, EMPIRE , CitraZoy and Innovation Zoysia and Celebration , Latitude 36 and NorthBridge Bermudagrass. The company is based in the Charleston, SC area.

This article was written by Sod Solutions Media & Content Manager, Cecilia Brown. For media inquiries or hi-resolution photos, email

60 Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 3
John and Rhonda Williams


The pH of this. The growth of that.

Too much moisture.

Not enough moisture. Looking out for the environment. Looking out for the health of the course. And that’s just over coffee.

To learn more visit

So say thanks to your golf course superintendent. Or make that, thanks a million.




Patriot Golf Day® has become the largest grass-roots golf fundraiser in America – a joint initiative of The PGA of America and the USGA, Patriot Golf Day enlists the support of public and private golf facilities across the country. Funds support Folds of Honor, providing educational scholarships to the children and spouses of service members killed or disabled while serving in America’s Armed Forces.

Although the national promotion of Patriot Golf Day is over Labor Day weekend, you can play golf any time of the year to support the families of our fallen and disabled service members. Here are a few ways to get involved.



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Articles inside


pages 62-63

Celebrating a Turfgrass Ambassador: John Williams Bids Adieu to Oakland Plantation

pages 58-61

The Green Section

pages 56-58

A Turf Pirate's Journal $Try New Things $

page 54

Ballenisles Country Club Welcomes New Director of Agronomy

pages 52-53

Landscapes Unlimited Makes Major Host Course Sahalee Even Better

pages 50-51

South Florida PGA Foundation Hosts Second Annual

pages 48-49

PGA HOPE Serves Over 250+ Veterans

pages 46-47

On a Mission for a Championship at El Campeon

pages 40-44

Leader of the ‘Modern Golf’ Movement Now Offering Franchise Opportunities

pages 36-38

Indy 500 & Golf: Who Would’ve Thunk?

page 34

Golfers Find Magnificent Mountain Golf –and Places to Dine– in North Georgia

pages 32-33

Block’s Magical Performance A Double Eagle For PGA of America

pages 30-31

IN VENICE Golf in Venice Under New

pages 28-30

Nate Bargatze

pages 26-27

Like Father… Like Son…

pages 24-26

Gaylord Golf Mecca Offers the Perfect Vacation Experience– and Great Golf, Too!

pages 20-22

Alexandrea Walkley

pages 18-19

Golf is Generational

pages 12-17


page 11

Island Resort Championship at 12 Years Strong

page 10

Unstoppable Shannon Coates

pages 6-10
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