Golf Central Mag- Vol 24 Issue 9

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Gaylord Golf Mecca —

Swing into the "Sweet 16" W W W.GOLFCENTR ALMAG.COM

HIT THE LINKS! NATURALLY FLORIDA After a round of golf, paddle through the peaceful Werner-Boyce Salt Springs State Park or unwind on the beach at Anclote Key Preserve State Park to experience the serenity of Mother Nature.

Tee up along Florida’s Sports Coast to discover the best golf excursions. With a wide variety of courses, every round of golf here is both challenging and enjoyable.

Lake Jovita Golf & Country Club


Getting to BOYNE Golf has never been easier... Whether flying 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 2024 trip today.

from the publisher

The Gift of Presence

Publisher: Terrie L. Purdum ( Editor 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,

December is here. Again! Can you believe another year has

passed and brought us to this month of celebrations? Maybe you celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah, Kwanza or Three Kings Day, Saturnalia or St. Lucia Day. Maybe you enjoy Festivus (for the rest of us!). Or maybe you’re like me and take advantage of them all (I mean, who doesn’t love a good party?). However you enjoy the days of December, there’s a good chance it’s a time of gift giving for you. May I point out that a gift many of us enjoy on a regular basis and may never give a second thought is the gift of presence. The presence of each individual that devotes their time, effort, and loyalty to contributing to this publication is priceless. If you know us, you know we bring our presence in support of the TURF LIFE. TURF LIFE started as a seed planted by Golf Central Magazine in April 1999, with Live Golf features. TURF LIFE is the brand that salutes the consumer and industry “players” everywhere whose lives involve the games we play and the jobs we do. TURF LIFE showcases sports, businesses, education and our enjoyment of the outdoors that revolves around turf grass in all its many forms. TURF LIFE honors the presence of the people that compete on, grow, and maintain turf grass. These people were the unseen and unsung who faithfully, patiently and painstakingly provide us the surface we enjoy so much. Back in 2017, Trevor Ogden said it well: “So I was asked to tell, “What is TURF LIFE” to me. I pondered on this for a while this morning. What is TURF LIFE? Is it a sense of ego, environmental stewardship, pride, compassion, accomplishment? Is it the feeling of turning nothing into something? It isn’t to get rich or famous. TURF LIFE people are the ones in the front of the firing line that no one ever sees. We are the bullet takers for the bad hop in baseball. The missed putt in golf. The bad footing in football or soccer. We are never the person that is praised for quality. So, again I asked myself over and over. The best answer for what is TURF LIFE has already been answered. TURF LIFE!!!!! It is impossible to explain to those that aren’t in it. It is impossible to explain to those that aren’t in it. It is such a variety for words that I believe that just one word or sentence can describe it.” TURF LIFE is our tip of the visor to those heroes, who gift us their presence in order for us to be present in our time on the turf. We’ve planted TURF LIFE to grow the presence we bring each holiday season to play our lives.

Tres Fenton, 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 Oversight Officer/Uber Driver: Rocky Miller 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 E-mail: ©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.

Your present is your presence! 2009 North Florida PGA Amateur of the Year 6

Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 9

Volume 24, Issue 9

38 FEATURE 10 Gaylord Golf Mecca Florida Golf Central 20 Soleta Caibbean Golf Central 30 Quivira Golf Club 32 Jamaica Carolina Golf Central 28 High Hampton

— Gaylord Golf Mtoecthcae "Sweet 16" Swing in

W W W.





Cart Girl 14 Jamine Elbert



ticle Pg 1

r Feature A


Golf Bachelor 22 Pedro Valencia

Golf Fore Charity 18 The Wuerffel Foundation

Golf Bachelorette 23 Melanie Martinez

Golf Travel 38 Big Cedar Lodge

22 Private Times

Living on the Links 52 The Abaco Club

30 Young Guns

Special Events 12 CGX

44 Golf Fitness


Stay & Play 42 Shangri-La Resort Turf Life 54 Turf Pirate 56 Eagle Creek 58 Wayne Mills 60 FloriTurf 8

20 Georgia Golf Trail 28 Fore Your Health 34 Special Events 46 SFPGA 47 NFPGA 48 KYPGA 50 HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 9

feature 10

Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 9

Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 9


special events

Interested in Playing College Golf?

This New Camp Connects Juniors Directly with Coaches For competitive junior golfers

and their families, the dream of playing on a college golf team looms enticingly large no matter in what level of collegiate golf they want to compete. Whether the destination is DI, DII, or DIII, parents see talent and potential in their junior golfer and want to support their dreams. However, they don’t always understand the recruiting process or how to get the attention of the college coaches. For golfers looking to compete at DIII schools, the rigor of playing college golf is still present, but the overall golf schedule is less demanding with academics being just as if not more important. With highly ranked academic 12

schools, DIII programs offer a wellrounded college experience while still competing at a high level. College Golf Experience (CGX) connects junior golfers and their parents with college coaches and educates them on all thing’s college golf and the recruiting process so they understand the path to finding their right fit and program. CGX’s first ever DIII Top100 Girl’s and DIII Top100 Boy’s Exposure Camps, presented by adidas Golf, will be held at Mission Resort + Club in Orlando, FL on February 3-4, 2024. The girl’s and boy’s DIII Top100 Exposure Camps are now open for registration and will feature 12 top coaches (six men’s and six women’s) connecting with

72 juniors ages 13-18 who want to level up their game and build relationships with DIII coaches in an immersive educational environment. To register click on These camps allow coaches to interact and get to know the players and their personalities, while helping guide them to their right program fit. Carnegie Mellon University Men’s and Women’s Head Golf Coach, and 2023 Men’s National Champion Dan Rodgers is looking for just that at the CGX DIII Top100 Exposure Camp. “So much of the value in these camps lies in the personal interaction that we get with the players. That time with each other opens the lines Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 9

of communication that may not

Head coaches confirmed for the upcoming Top100 Exposure Camps are:

coaches to help each junior discover how to find the be there otherwise,” Rodgers right collegiate program explains. “Also, getting to fit. Players will also be see who players really are, outfitted by adidas Golf each DIII Top100 Boys Exposure Camp: from a goals and personality day of the camp like what Dan Rodgers – Carnegie Mellon college golfers experience standpoint, and them seeing playing on their teams. Jamie Coleman – Christopher Newport who we really are, helps us be “As a former DIII player at John Sjoberg – Emory University open with them about their Emory, part of CGX’s vision Jim Ott – Illinois Wesleyan journey to finding their fit from the beginning has been Steve Conley – Methodist University in college golf. There are so to connect top coaches across David Wetterich – Wittenberg University DI, DII, and DIII schools with many opportunities out there junior golfers and parents to that are going unnoticed. For help navigate the challenging DIII Top100 Girls Exposure Camp: players of all levels, if you pathway of playing college CheyAnn Knudsen – Centre College want to play college golf, there golf at top-ranked programs,” Kelsie Warren – Methodist University says CGX Founder and CEO is a place that you can play.” Joshua Jacobs. “We want all Jamie Zantua – Redlands junior golfers to recognize For juniors and their Dave Reinhardt – Washington University in St. Louis that regardless of what parents these camps are Jane Hopkinson-Wood – Washington & Lee collegiate Division they a great opportunity to and Tomas Adalsteinsson – Williams College play in, there is always a experience comprehensive right fit to help guide them education sessions led by towards. Bringing them the marquee coaches about and their parents together how to become a college practice and tournament rounds, with coaches creates the golfer. They will learn about simulated practice sessions, vital connective tissue between the unique DIII recruiting pathway, as well as real-time evaluation junior golf and college golf.” on-course management and and personalized feedback from Visit strategy sessions during simulated

Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 9


cart girl

What is your favorite part of being a cart girl? What is your least favorite part? If you weren’t a cart girl, what would you be doing? If I wasn’t a cart girl, I’d probably teach and choreograph at my dance studio. What type of music do you prefer? Country What hobbies do you enjoy? Cooking, pilates, and shopping. What is your idea of “the perfect date”? A day at the beach and going to dinner and ice cream after. Favorite comedian? Jo Koy What else would you like for us to know about you? Something I want people to know about me is I was a Bucs cheerleader finalist for this year and I plan on auditioning for a few NFL dance teams next year.

t r e b l E e n J a sm i

Where did you grow up? I was born and raised in Brooksville, FL Which group of people did you associate most with in high school? I stayed close to my 3 best friends throughout high school. What is your favorite sport to play? Favorite to watch? I did competitive dance for 15 years, if that counts as a sport. other than that, I’m not interested in watching sports. Do you enjoy playing golf? Are there any golfers in your family? I’ve only played a few times with friends, it’s fun and relaxing. Nobody in my family plays though. What do you feel makes this club special? This club is special because of the relationships I have with the members. Everyone is very kind and treats you like family.


Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 9


1 2 3

18-Hole Championship Golf Course, 15 Har-Tru Tennis Courts and four new pickleball courts, plus a state of the art Sports Center.

The 80,000 square foot clubhouse is complete with two separate restaurants and bar areas.

Members can enjoy the added perk of playing golf while traveling, through the exclusive Heritage Network.

(561) 864-8500


georgia golf central

By Mike May

Jekyll Island

Georgia's Grandest Getaway Croquet at the Jekyll Island Club Hotel When it comes to the ‘stay’ part of your Jekyll Island adventure, one property stands out from the competition -- the Jekyll Island Club Resort, which is one of the ultimate ‘rest & relaxation’ destinations in the U.S.

Question: Where in the U.S. can you

find ten miles of marvelous oceanside beaches, kayak tours, bicycle rides, bird watching, tennis, paddle boarding, horseback riding, fishing, boating, canoeing, croquet, world-class accommodations, delicious seafood to eat, and 63 holes of golf?

Answer: Jekyll Island, Georgia, located roughly 90 miles north of Jacksonville and 65 miles south of Savannah.

“Jekyll Island is one of the best places in the U.S. where you can go to unwind and relax while enjoying golf, fresh seafood, long walks along the beach, poolside siestas, and time off the grid,” said Doug Hollandsworth,

Founder, the Georgia Golf Trail. “For golfers, the 63-hole Jekyll Island Golf Club features four courses at one location which makes it one of the most popular getaways on the Georgia Golf Trail. For golfers, Jekyll Island is one of Georgia’s most popular stay-and-play destinations.”

Jekyll Island Club Hotel

Jekyll Island Club Hotel

The Great Dunes 16

Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 9

The Wharf Fish Sandwich and Crab Cakes The Jekyll Island Club Resort welcomes guests with its late19th Century charm, historically inspired accommodations, variety of dining venues, many on-site activities, and direct access to the National Landmark Jekyll Island Historic District. This resort also houses a sun-soaked swimming pool with a fire pit surrounded by lounges chairs and umbrellas. There’s also a complimentary shuttle to and from the nearby beach. And, the croquet courts located near the resort’s entrance are a popular outdoor recreation outlet, as well. Back in the late 1800s, the Jekyll Island Club Resort (319 Riverview Drive, Jekyll Island; 912-319-4349) was built to provide overnight accommodations for rich and famous families such as the Rockefeller’s, Morgan’s, Vanderbilt’s, and Pulitzer’s, all of whom used to vacation frequently on Jekyll Island. In addition to rooms in the actual Resort, guests have two other accommodation options – the Jekyll Ocean Club, which is perched along the beach, or one of three on-site historic cottages (Crane, Cherokee, and Sans Souci). Built in 1917, the Crane Cottage features Victorian era architecture with a fabulous garden. Built in 1904, the Cherokee Cottage is an Italian Renaissance structure. The Victorian-style Sans Souci was once owned by the late J.P. Morgan. All three cottages are luxurious destinations. At the Resort, there are six on-site dining destinations: The Wharf, Grand Dining Room, Eighty Ocean Kitchen and Bar, The Pantry, The Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 9

The Wharf Jekyll Island Club – The Pool house

Pool House and The Bar & Alexander Lounge. My favorite is The Wharf which provides fresh and delicious seafood while overlooking the surrounding marshlands. And, as you would expect, the Pool House allows you to eat while lounging poolside at the Resort. When it comes to the ‘play’ part of your Jekyll Island adventure, the Jekyll Island Golf Club (322 Captain Willy Road, Jekyll Island; 912.635.2368) has three 18-hole golf courses and a nine-hole layout. In all, that’s 63 holes of golf. The three 18-hole courses are Indian Mound, Oleander, and Pine Lakes. The nine-hole layout is Great Dunes. Not surprisingly, the Jekyll Island Golf Club is Georgia’s largest public golf resort. Indian Mound, constructed in 1975 by golf course designer Joe Lee, is the shortest of the three 18-hole courses. Water impacts

play on 11 of the 18 holes. Oleander, which measures just more than 6,500 yards from the tips, has been the host course for the Georgia Open on four occasions. Designed by golf course architect Dick Wilson, Oleander is known as the most ‘distinct’ of the three 18-hole golf courses on Jekyll Island. Pine Lakes, designed by Clyde Johnson, was first opened for play in 1968 and it was renovated in 2002. The golf course meanders through ocean forests and natural marsh hammocks. Pine Lakes is peaceful, quiet, and tranquil. Great Dunes was the first golf course on Jekyll Island. The architect of this coastal jewel is the great Walter “Old Man” Travis. Travis was asked to design and build the best golf course that money could buy. He did as he was told. The Great Dunes course opened in 1928. It’s worth noting that the United States Golf Association once used Great Dunes as a testing facility for clubs, shafts, and golf balls. After golf, enjoy a post-round drink or snack at McCormick’s Grill. To book your visit to Jekyll Island, check out or Those ten miles of Atlantic Ocean beaches, 63 holes of golf, and delicious seafood dishes await your arrival. 17

Danny Wuerffel is flanked by former NFL players and members of Florida Gators National Championship teams, Ahmad Black (2009) and Major Wright (2008). Photo credit: Savannah Russell, Wuerffel Foundation

13th Annual Desire Cup “Rivalry for a Cause” Heisman Trophy winner,

University of Florida football legend, former NFL Quarterback and Humanitarian, Danny Wuerffel, hosted the 13th Annual Desire Cup “Rivalry for a Cause,” a charity Golf Tournament & Gala Fundraiser at the acclaimed TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL. Presented by Pilgrim’s and hosted by Danny and The Wuerffel Foundation, this event brings together University of Florida (UF) and University of Georgia (UGA) football alumni, along with a line-up of athletes and celebrities, while serving as the unofficial kick-off to the UF vs. UGA Football Game – The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party - which took place on Saturday,

October 28th in Jacksonville, FL. The Wuerffel Foundation has a mission to inspire greater service in the world. Proceeds from the event will directly benefit Desire Street Ministries, which lifts-up community leaders in under-resourced neighborhoods. Wuerffel has served as Executive

Director of Desire Street Ministries for the past 17 years. Participants that joined Danny for the event included University of Florida legend, Heisman Trophy winner, and College Football Hall of Famer, Coach Steve Spurrier; sports broadcaster Laura Rutledge; former Gator and NFL Quarterback, Shane

Group shot featuring Danny Wuerffel, legendary Gator Coach Steve Spurrier and a UF and UGA alums, among other former athletes. Photo credit: Savannah Russell, Wuerffel Foundation


Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 9

Matthews; UGA and NFL Punter Drew Butler; UF and NFL Safety, Major Wright; UGA & NFL Offensive Tackle, Matt Stinchcomb, UGA and NFL WR, Lindsay Scott and more. “The opportunity to bring together alumni and fans from this passionate rivalry, while supporting such a worthy cause, is truly rewarding,” said Wuerffel. “While there is nothing like the Gator-Bulldog rivalry on the field, I could not be prouder of the progress we continue to make off the field through events like the Desire Cup that are making a more meaningful impact in under resourced neighborhoods.” Added Wuerffel, “It’s a privilege to host this annual event, and I’m truly appreciative to all the Gators and Bulldogs alumni that are committed to attending each year.” The Desire Cup kicked off its annual Gala Fundraiser on Thursday, October 26th at TPC Sawgrass to raise funds to help Desire Street support and equip

Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 9

urban leaders who work with children and families living in under-resourced neighborhoods. ESPN and SEC Network reporter Laura Rutledge returned to emcee the event. A very special moment in the evening is the auction of a football signed by children from a Donaldsonville, Louisiana kids center. Wuerffel kept the ball in his office as a memento from his time spent volunteering at the center in 2007, and as a reminder of the value present in every human being. A marquee auction item since 2011, the football is auctioned off annually at each Desire Cup Gala and has raised over $330,000 toward Desire Street’s mission. The Desire Cup Golf Tournament took place on Friday, Oct. 27 prior to the annual FloridaGeorgia football game in Jacksonville, Fla. on Oct. 28. Desire Street started its ministry in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans, working sideby-side with neighbors to seek

solutions for their communities. With headquarters now based in Atlanta, Georgia, Desire Street continues to partner with ministry leaders in multiple neighborhoods and cities across the Southeast, with a focus on long-term revitalization plans that require deep commitment to spiritual and community development. Stephen Pittman, Director of Oaks Ministries, an organization that brings the hope of the Gospel to students of downtown Augusta through education programs, personal relationships, and Bible-centered teaching, was recognized at the gala. The Wuerffel Foundation also annually presents the Wuerffel Trophy, College Football’s Premier Award for Community Service - recognizing a student-athlete who is making a difference and a meaningful impact off the field, and Dillan Gibbons (Florida State), the 2022 Wuerffel Trophy recipient will also be in attendance.


florida golf central

By Tony Leodora

The Soleta team

The Soleta team

Introducing Soleta by Nick Price There was a time when the

announcement of a new golf course in America was not such a big deal. It was almost a daily occurrence. Around the turn of the century, there were a few years in which the average number of annual golf course openings was between 300 and 400. After the economic downturn that began in 2008, the number fell off to 15-20 openings per year. More golf courses were closing, than opening. New golf course construction became a rarity. Amid that dearth of activity, the rare golf course openings have become big news. And the announcement of a world class golf course, with multi-million dollar housing, approaches the level of earth-shaking news. That is why a large amount of attention is being focused on Soleta, the newly announced 20

golf course and luxury housing development in Myakka City, Florida – about 30 miles northeast of Sarasota. This Nick Price-designed golf course threatens to be

the next highly rated layout to come to golf-rich Florida. Situated on 530 acres in Florida cattle farm country, groundbreaking took place in November and a press day was

Membership Director Alan Pope explaining the Soleta plan

Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 9

held on December 5. All principles are looking toward a November 2024 opening of the golf course. Optimistic? “We’ve actually completed projects in less time than that,” said Price, at the media day. “There is absolutely no rock to deal with. You are just pushing sand around and the grow-in period coincides with optimal weather conditions.” Price has become more involved with golf course construction, since his competitive playing days have diminished. The three-time Major Champion and World Golf Hall of Famer now has more than a dozen golf course designs in his portfolio – including courses around the world in Mexico (2), Dominican Republic, Portugal, South Africa and his home country of Zimbabwe. In addition to Soleta, his other Florida courses are located in Vero Beach and a collaborative effort with Tom Fazio in Hobe Sound. The canvas for Price’s latest creation at Soleta is one of deadflat ranch land. Fortunately, there are a number of interesting water features and many large live oak trees on the property that will be put to good use. “Over the years we have been faced with such a wide range of properties, each with their own special character,” explained Price. “We avoid forcing a pre-determined design style or concept onto land. Rather, we choose to approach each project by evaluating the property and letting the land dictate what will be suitable.” Price is not a follower of the trendy minimalist movement in golf course design. “In cases where dirt needs to be moved, why let creativity be stifled by a one-dimensional approach,” Price stressed, emphatically. His plan is to sculpt the existing landscape and create moderate elevation changes of 13 to 15 feet. “My philosophy is to incorporate the elements of strategy and the ground game of golf into our work,” added Price. “Too many modern courses require golfers to fly the ball an exact distance over hazards Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 9

J.B. Holmes, David Leadbetter, Nick Price

to reach safety, regardless of the abilities. We believe in a design that allows golfers to use the ground game. This provides more options for shots to the green or a particular side of the fairway.” Because Price now lives in Florida, he plans to be on site quite a bit throughout the construction process. In addition, he as brought on renowned teacher David Leadbetter as Soleta’s Director of Instruction. A worldclass practice facility will be built for the members and to house Leadbetter’s Golf Academy. The stature of a championship golf course and all of the amenities throughout the property will be used to attract residents and members to this very rural part of Florida. That task will land on the shoulders of Alan Pope, the Membership Director. A veteran of the membership-building process, Pope was key in the startup effort at nearby Concession Golf Club in Bradenton. The course hosted the World Champions Cup, featuring PGA Tour Champions players, during the first week of December. His task at Soleta will be to build a local membership of 275 players, plus a national membership of another 100

players (who live at least 60 miles away from the location). A total of 97 local memberships will come from the 93 estate homes that are planned to be built on the property. Houses, from either John Cannon Homes or Anchor Builders, will start at $2.9 million and range to more than $4 million. The initiation fee for a local membership is $100,000. The initiation fee for a national membership is $35,000. “This is a very exciting project,” explained Pope. “It is pure golf, situated in an ideal environment for people who want to be away from the hustle and bustle of Sarasota. We have already received an initial wave of interest about Soleta.” One of the first names to buy a lot and plan construction of a home is PGA Tour star J.B. Holmes. The Kentucky native said, “As soon as I saw the property, I knew Soleta was the place for me and my family.” Pope stressed the basic premise behind the project as “creating the first premier family golf and country club in the Sarasota marketplace with an emphasis on delivering a total family experience.” And that experience begins soon with an exciting new Nick Price-designed golf course. 21

golf bachelor

Where were you born? Did you grow up there? Ecuador. I was raised there until I was 3. Is “acting your age” overrated? Big time. The older I get and the more responsibility I have, the more I appreciate being/acting like a kid. So, at the core, I’m just a kid with grown-up powers. What do you do for a living? Software Sales for PlanSource What would you like to do for a living? Play golf or soccer Aside from golf; what do you prefer for fun and relaxation? I’m currently on a semi-professional soccer team, which takes up a lot of my time. But aside from that I like to work out, watch football and soccer, live a healthy lifestyle and hang out with my friends. I also like to travel and plan on doing a lot of that in 2024! What golf apparel do you like to wear? Callaway Steak, chicken, or seafood? Steak What three things would you need to survive on a deserted island? Flint and steel, and a knife. Who would you like to have with you on the same deserted island; and why? Luke Nichols. He has a YouTube channel where he camps in extreme locations and extreme weather conditions and would be my top candidate. If you need to kill a couple of hours, I would watch some of his videos. Name the three most important things to you in this world. My family, my friends, and my time. What do you fear the most? Heights! What three people would you most like to play with in your fantasy golf foursome? Tiger Woods, Rory, and JT What are some of your great accomplishments? Graduating from College, having a successful first couple of years in my professional career, and having support from my friends and family through it all. Relaxed evening at home, or nightclub and cocktails? Relaxed evening at home. The older I get the more painful hangovers are and I’ve been addicted to playing video games lately.


Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 9

golf bachelorette

Where were born? Did you grow up there? Born and raised in Miami, FL! What do you do for a living? I am the ProShop manager and Tournament Coordinator at Rio Pinar Golf. What would you like to do for a living? Currently working on becoming a surgeon. I am stuck between general and trauma. Aside from golf, what do you prefer for fun and relaxation? I love to travel and try to go somewhere new at least once a year. It’s fun and relaxing. What golf apparel do you like to wear? Swannies, Adidas, and Halara Steak, Chicken or Seafood? I’m not a big fan of meat. However, I do love a nice chicken alfredo. Tell us something that only your closest friends know about. My crazy squishmallow collection. What do you find the most annoying habit people demonstrate on the golf course? Not keeping the pace of play. If you’re going to suck at least be fast. Given the choices, would you select love, success, or money to keep yourself happy? Success; I have this crazy need to always succeed at anything I do, no matter what it is. What three people would you like to play with you in your fantasy foursome? Viktor Hovland, Jack Thompson, and Tom Holland. ] Relaxed evening at home, or night club and cocktails? Start with a relaxed evening then party later on. Favorite Comedian? Kevin Hart Last book you read? 48 Laws of Power Book by Robert Greene

Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 9


orth GA Tour florida PGAPGA Tournorth PGA Tour floridaPGAPGATournorth PGAflorida Tour PGA PGATour northPGAflorida Tour PGA north Tour PGA fl Tour PGA To


Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 9

Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 9


ida state golf association florida state golf association florida state golf asso

2023 Annual Dinner At the end of November,

the FSGA held its 2023 Annual Dinner at Shingle Creek, celebrating the best players in the state, volunteers, board members and many other individuals involved in the game in Florida. Headlining the evening were the FSGA Hall of Fame inductees, Clarence Camp, Mary Jane Hiestand and Jerry Pate. An Ocala native, Camp was the first president of the Florida State Golf Association when the association was founded in 1913. A lifelong amateur, Mary Jane Hiestand has been involved with the FSGA for more than 20 years, capturing nine FSGA championships and has been named a FSGA Player of the Year eight times on her way to this honor. A U.S. Open champion and eight-time PGA Tour winner, Pate won the 1974 Florida Amateur Championship and had a storied amateur and professional career, before delving into ventures in golf broadcasting and golf course design. 26

Also honored were the seven FSGA Players of the Year. After a remarkable season, Marc Dull was named the 2023 Amateur and Mid-Amateur Player of the Year. Miles McConnell garnered Senior Player of the Year honors for the third-straight season, while David Anthony was awarded the SuperSenior Player of the Year honors. Megan Schofill and Kim Keyer-

Scott were named Women’s Players of the Year. Schofill, who won the 2023 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship, was awarded Amateur Player of the Year honors, while Keyer-Scott was named Senior Player of the Year. Darren Zhou and Chloe Kovelesky were named Junior Players of the Year. After incredible years for both players, the record Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 9

Mary Jane Hiestand and Jerry Pate books have been etched with their names in them for the first time. Donna Baginski and Joe Small were also honored as the 2023 Volunteers of the Year. Baginski received the Course Rating Volunteer of the Year award and has been dedicating her time as a FSGA Course Rater for 21

years. Small earned the honor as Tournament Volunteer of the Year and has been volunteering with the FSGA for over 10 years. Both have given a tremendous amount of time to the game of golf and their impact on the FSGA is incredible. Gianna Clemente and Sampson Zheng, who both captured a USGA




championship this year, were also honored as the recipients of the President’s Award. This is just the fourth time in FSGA history that the President’s Award has been awarded to a player. The honor is awarded to a player who has had a standout season or won a national championship.





35 mins. NW of Orlando | Howey-in-the-Hills, Florida | 800-874-9053 |

Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 9

GolfAlliance_GolfShowGuide_1.23.indd 1


12/16/22 11:37 AM

By Tony Leodora

carolinas golf central

Mountains of Western North Carolina Are a Golf Course Architect’s Dream

High Hampton – Hole #18

Picture a blank canvas … one

that is clean, pure, well-lighted and propped up perfectly to accept the work of an artist. That scenario is similar to the setting in the mountains of western North Carolina … awaiting a golf course architect. One can only imagine the delight that the architect feels as he approaches the tree-covered raw topography and begins the work of transforming it into a golf course. Throughout the region – dotted with towns like Asheville, Hendersonville, Highlands and Cashiers – architects have worked their magic over the years. All to the wonderment of the golfers who have gleefully followed in their steps. “I remember when I first came to the area,” recalls Tom Fazio, the world’s most accomplished golf course architect. “I was totally stunned. Designing golf courses in this area of the country is every architect’s dream.” The dream became a reality, when Fazio added a second office for his design firm in Hendersonville, North Carolina … and moved his family there 28

from West Palm Beach, Florida. “Not only is it a great place to design golf courses,” said Fazio. “It is an idyllic area to raise a family. The pace of life and the values of the people in this area are just wonderful.” Fazio first came to the area in the mid-1980s, when he was commissioned to design the

ultra-private Wade Hampton Golf Club in Cashiers, North Carolina. That club opened in 1987 and skyrocketed into the top tier of all course rankings lists in the U.S. Despite the huge wave of upscale golf courses that have been created since that date, Wade Hampton still sits at No. 32 on the Golf Digest list. The mountain views throughout

High Hampton – Chimney Top

Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 9

the golf course are breathtaking. The conditions are pristine. The holes are challenging and exhilarating. Unfortunately, only a small percentage of golfers have enjoyed the experience because it is one of the most private courses in all of America. Membership is by invitation only. And, if you get the invite, the initiation fee is upwards of $140,000. “Wade Hampton was created to be a very special experience,” explains Fazio. “We went to great lengths to use the existing slopes and river valleys. It is an incredibly natural golf course, yet it can High Hampton – Rock Face pose quite a challenge.” The course stretches members, it is accessible to all. to 7,347 yards. The Anyone who stays at the High rating from the tips is a staggering Hampton Inn can play the course. 75.7 and the slope is 146. Understand that accessible Considering the exclusivity and does not mean inexpensive. cost of Wade Hampton, and adding Initiation fee for a membership the challenge, it would be an unfair in 2021 was $100,000 and annual tease to highlight this course dues were $14,500. Like all postwithout presenting an option that pandemic golf costs, those numbers is more accessible to a wide range probably have escalated. of golfers. That option exists right Also, booking a room for the next door – at High Hampton GC. privilege of playing a round of golf High Hampton was once a is quite pricey. Rooms in the inn small resort, with an old 11-hole start at about $1,085 per night. The golf course. It opened in 1922 cottages are higher. And the green and enjoyed a sleepy existence fee to play is $315 in high season. until it was purchased and But the golf experience rivals what expanded greatly in 2017. can be found anywhere in America. The historic inn and cottages Shorter than Wade Hampton, were renovated. A number of the new course at High Hampton amenities were added. To say that extends to 6.903 yards, par 71 and the golf course also was renovated has a rating from the tips of 73.4 would be a great understatement. and a slope of 140. Fortunately, “We completely blew up the there are five sets of tees that old course and built a new one,” should allow most golfers to says Fazio, who delighted in the find a playable distance. opportunity to add another design The views of the two notable adjacent to one of his most famous mountains in the area – Rock Face layouts at Wade Hampton. “With and Chimney Top – dominate similar topography, we were able the golf course. Like two giant to recreate the same type of feel behemoths, they seem to be and atmosphere as Wade Hampton. watching your every shot. But we added a softer, gentler Ever since re-opening in May touch to the course, realizing of 2021, High Hampton has been that it is a resort property.” getting rave reviews from those While High Hampton GC does who visit the property. The overall have a membership of about 230 Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 9

resort is amazing but the golf course has quickly become a treasure. While Wade Hampton has the national reputation and attracts skilled competitors, High Hampton is the course most golfers would like to play – every day for the rest of their lives. “We hear that a lot,” says Tony Snoey, the general manager who came on the scene at the time of the re-opening. “The views are so amazing throughout the course that people fall in love with it immediately.” That is not an assessment to be taken lightly. Snoey came to High Hampton from the mountains of Idaho, an area that also boasts some impressive scenery. While playing with Snoey, a former collegiate golf star, it quickly became apparent that he knew his way around the golf course. He made 8 birdies, en route to a round of 66. And all of that came with the distraction of playing the part of the ultimate tour guide. As he provided analysis of each hole, the coinciding task was to note the most memorable and outstanding holes on the course. That task quickly became superfluous, as Fazio’s design rolled out with never-ending excellence. “Tom’s goal was to wow the golfers on the first tee, and never let up until they reached the 18th green,” explains Snoey. “At the same time, he has afforded them a playable and enjoyable day of golf. I see a lot of smiles from the people playing golf at High Hampton.” What’s not to smile about? That seems to be the theme for golf in the mountains of western North Carolina. And at the top of that smile list are Wade Hampton GC and High Hampton GC – two of the best Fazio designs in his memorable collection of golf masterpieces.

Tony Leodora is an awardwinning golf writer and host of the Traveling Golfer television show 29

caribbean golf central 30

Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 9

Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 9


caribbean golf central

By Mark Lamport-Stokes

Aqua Bay

The laidback vibe, warmth of the people, and geographical beauty of Jamaica creates a unique and wonderful golf destination Beautiful geography, stunning

Josh Anderson 32

sunsets, delicious food, world-class beer and rum, ultra-friendly people and perhaps the most addictive laidback vibe anywhere. Oh, and plenty of spectacular golf courses! Where is it? Jamaica of course - a Caribbean island nation that is perhaps not as appreciated as much as it should be as a truly unique and wonderful golf destination. All of the attributes that make Jamaica such a perfect fit for the adventurous golfing tourist were on show during the 56th Jamaica Open Golf Championship, which was held at picturesque Tryall Club just outside Montego Bay from October 29-31. The stunning 18-hole, 6,836-yard layout at Tryall Club, designed in 1958 by the renowned Texan golf course architect Ralph Plummer, has long been regarded as the best course in Jamaica and American tour player Josh Anderson, who finished runnerup in the 2022 Jamaica Open Golf Championship, is an unwavering fan of both Tryall and Jamaica. “So far, Tryall is the only

course I have played in Jamaica and I definitely want to change that,” said Anderson. “I’ve heard Cinnamon Hill and others are great, so I’d really like to get out and play some more golf here. The only time I’ve ever played tournament golf in Jamaica, it has been at Tryall. But I know there is a lot of great golf in Jamaica other than Tryall, which I would like to explore.” For Anderson, Tryall is a perfect course for golf tourists of any skill level. “It’s a fun golf course. More importantly than anything, for all skills levels, it’s challenging enough for a championship tournament - obviously they held the Johnnie Walker World Golf Championship here back in the day. But you could be an average golfer with a high handicap and still come out and enjoy yourself. It’s beautiful, it’s got the right amount of challenge and after all, it’s Jamaica! It’s such a great place to be both weather-wise and people-wise.” Jamaica has a lush topography of mountains, rainforests and reef-lined beaches and if you are a tourist looking for spectacular golf, a range of other outdoor Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 9

activities, wonderful weather and a high-energy night life, then this is definitely the place for you. Many of Jamaica’s all-inclusive resorts are centered in or around Montego Bay, with its Britishcolonial architecture, while nearby Negril is known for its beautiful diving and snorkeling sites. And it’s closer than you might think with as many as 19 direct flights per day into Sangster International Airport (MBJ) and everything just a short drive from there. Jodi Munn-Barrow, President of the Jamaica Golf Association, has been playing golf since the age of 14 and the University of Georgia graduate believes that the preponderance of all-inclusive hotels with direct links to golf courses on the island paints a captivating picture for tourists who visit Jamaica. “Most of the hotels on the North Coast are allinclusive - you pay just one fee, and everything is taken care of,” said Munn-Barrow. “So, you wake up in the morning, you have your Blue Mountain coffee in your room and sit on the balcony, you enjoy the view, you go down to the breakfast room when you feel like it and you have your buffet which is huge. You can deposit those who in your party who don’t golf at the pool, the beach, or the spa, and then you and your golfing partners can go tee it up. You enjoy your four hours of golf, perhaps a Red Stripe beer, because we do have one of the best beers in the world, and we also have the best rum in the world in Appleton. “When you are finished, the shuttle will take you back to your resort hotel, you can meet your spouse, and have a nice relaxing afternoon and then you head to a marvelous dinner. And all of that is paid for with just one fee.” Tryall Club combines the island’s hilly terrain with other natural elements for a unique golfing experience. The course has a storied history having hosted numerous international tournaments, including the Johnnie Walker World Golf Championship between 1991-1995. In 2005, Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 9

Tryall Golf Club The Sand Pit at Tryall

Tryall Club was voted the Best Golf Course in the Caribbean by Caribbean World Magazine. Just a few kilometers east of Montego Bay are three more topquality golf courses: White Witch, Cinnamon Hill, and Half Moon. Opened in 2000, the White Witch course was crafted on 600 acres of lush countryside, including mountainous terrain. Golfers are afforded panoramic views of the Caribbean Ocean from 16 holes and are best advised to be on guard as shifting winds. Cinnamon Hill, revamped by designer Robert von Hagge, features a front nine that makes its way close to a windblown beach while the back nine, which is overlooked by the massive Rose Hall plantation house, snakes up into the mountains. Half Moon, which like Tryall has also hosted the Jamaica Open, is a Robert Trent Jones design known for its challenging green complexes and a daunting set of bunkers. For Ewan Peebles, Director of Golf at Tryall Club, the collection of top-quality courses around Montego Bay makes this area

a “must-see” and “must-play” for golf tourists in Jamaica. “Montego Bay is the golfing capital of Jamaica,” said Peebles. “There are a couple of other good golf courses elsewhere on the island but, in terms of a golf vacation, if you are flying to Jamaica specifically to come and play golf, you would come to Montego Bay because that’s where the highest number of courses are and that’s where the best courses are.” When all is said and done, Peebles believes there is one abiding reason why people should visit Jamaica and that’s the human connection. “There’s an atmosphere, there’s a vibe, there’s an electricity on this island that I don’t think you will find anywhere else in the region, and maybe nowhere else full stop,” said Peebles, a Scotsman who has lived in Jamaica for more than two decades. “There is an energy to being on this island and that is mirrored when you go and play one of our golf courses. The authentic Jamaican hospitality and the smiles and the laughter and the way the Jamaican people find entertainment and find comedy in things that people from other places in the world might not. And it’s infectious. “And if you happen to find yourself in one of the local restaurants at the side of the road and by the edge of the sea, and you sit down, have a cold Red Stripe beer and eat some fish in a place like that, I promise you that when you come out the world will seem like a much, much better place. I just think the realness, the warmness, the rawness, the authenticity, the rustic nature of Jamaica can be very uplifting and very addictive.” 33

golf history

By Mark Lamport-Stokes

1973 – Jack Nicklaus ©Disney

The Golden Bear is Forever Linked to Walt Disney World® Golf With his dominance in the

early 1970’s, Jack Nicklaus turned Walt Disney World’s championship golf courses into his personal playground by winning each of the first three PGA TOUR events played here. Next month marks the 50th anniversary of his third 1975 Senior PGA Champion Charlie Sifford. Photo courtesy of PGA of America


consecutive victory and The Golden Bear can only smile when recalling those good times and the way he flourished in Central Florida thanks to the Disney experience, on and off the course. The 1971 opening of Walt Disney World® Golf near Orlando coincided with a resurgence in his career, creating a period 1983 – Payne Stewart ©Disney

of brilliance that left no doubt about his status as the greatest golfer of his era. By age 26, Nicklaus had become the youngest golfer to win all four of the sport’s major tournaments. But after winning his second U.S. Open title in 1967 (breaking Ben Hogan’s 72-hole record at Baltusrol in the process) Nicklaus

1995 – Pat Bradley ©Disney

endured – what for him – had been a mini-slump. He didn’t win another major until 1970 when he captured the Open Championship at the Old Course at St. Andrews. Then came 1971, the year Magic Kingdom® Theme Park opened to the public, the year that Walt Disney World® Golf hosted its first professional tournament, and the year Nicklaus became the first player to win all four majors more than once. He captured the PGA Championship that year and finished no worse than fifth in any of golf’s four majors. In 1971, Nicklaus won the inaugural Walt Disney World® Open Invitational. He would go on to repeat the following year, dominating at 21 under par to win by nine strokes, then made it three in a row at by edging Mason Rudolph in 1973. “I remember going up there and playing their resort courses,” Nicklaus said. “I played (them) well. We played the Palm and Magnolia courses for the tournament, and I won it in ’71, then I won it in ’72, and I won it in ’73. “And then they cancelled the tournament,” Nicklaus said with a smile. Truth be told, the tournament was not “cancelled.” The TOUR event simply switched to a best-ball format from 1974 through 1981. “I don’t know if they cancelled it because I won every time or they cancelled it for another reason,” said Nicklaus, continuing to employ the “C” word. “(But Tom) Weiskopf and I were partners the first year (1974) and we didn’t win it.”

1996 – Tiger Woods ©Disney

With 19 tour victories from 1971-73, including four majors and his three titles at the Walt Disney World® Resort, the early 70s were exciting times for Nicklaus and for his family. He and wife Barbara were parents to five children, and they made the most of their time at Walt Disney World® Resort during that period. “We took them into the Magic Kingdom every night and we did all the things that parents do with the kids -- and we enjoyed it. It was great fun,” said Nicklaus, recalling the collaboration between what became known as “The Most Magical Place on Earth” and “The Happiest Place on TURF!” “Disney made a great contribution to the game,” he said. “They’ve had golf everywhere where they’ve been.” Nicklaus would go on to win 117 pro tournaments, including a record 18 majors. Walt Disney World® Golf would go on to host memorable tournaments and the greatest names in golf – among them, Tiger Woods, who as a 20-year-old in 1996 shot a finalround 66 to capture his second tour title at the Walt Disney World® Resort. Woods won again in 1999, edging Ernie Els by one stroke in the National Car Rental Golf Classic. Payne Stewart, Lanny Wadkins, Larry Nelson, Raymond Floyd, Vijay Singh and David Duval are among other notable players who secured PGA TOUR titles on the Walt Disney World® Resort courses, which have been managed, operated, and maintained since 2011 by Arnold Palmer Golf Management.

1999 – Tiger Woods ©Disney In 1975, Charlie Sifford survived a playoff to win the first of five Senior PGA Championships played on Disney’s Magnolia Golf Course. Pat Bradley won the 1995 HealthSouth Inaugural at Disney in the first live broadcast of an LPGA Tour event by Golf Channel. And Hal Sutton called it a “dream come true” when he sank a 15-foot putt on the fourth playoff hole to defeat Bill Britton for his first PGA TOUR victory at the 1982 Walt Disney World® Golf Classic when the tournament returned to individual stroke play. Indeed, the Walt Disney World® Resort is a place where dreams do come true. The four unique courses (Disney’s Palm, Magnolia, Lake Buena Vista, and Oak Trail) provide layouts that are challenging enough for the world’s best, yet playerfriendly enough to accommodate golfers of all ages and skill levels. 35

G Great reat G Golf olf aand nd

SO MUCH MORE! On Top of The World is Ocala's Best Active-Adult Golf Course Community.


hen you’re age 55 years or better, staying active is so important to keeping fit and healthy in the decades to come. At On Top of the World, residents have many opportunities to live an active lifestyle, and have fun doing it.

Last Golf Course View Homesites Available Now!

You’ll f ind three golf courses, tennis courts, dogs parks, indoor/outdoor swimming pools, fitness centers, over 20 miles of walking trails and even pickleball and bocce courts, all of which add up to plenty of ways to stay active whenever — and however — you like. Because there are so many outdoor activity facilities, you won’t have to wait for a tee or court time or have to worry about not getting a lane for your laps in the pool.

State parks, unique restaurants, concerts and live theatre are only the beginning when it comes to offerings in the Ocala area. Residents can go antiquing in nearby historic towns or hit the “big cities” of Orlando and Tampa. Delight the grandkids with quick trips to Disney World, Universal Studios and other renowned theme parks in nearby Orlando. Visit nearby beach towns like Daytona or

OCALA OPEN CANDLER HILLS • Gordon Lewis designed, semi-private par 72 championship course • State-of-the-art practice facility


Clearwater to relax in the sand. It’s also close to four area hospitals, two of which are only minutes away from the community.

• Private 18 hole, par 72 course • Golf clinics and lessons from PGA & LPGA professionals

Over 420 acres of outdoor amenities to enjoy!


On Top of the World offers so much more than just great golf! With a wide array of recreational amenities, dozens of social clubs and an award-winning lifelong learning center that features classes in a multitude of subjects that appeal to all types of interests, residents can learn new skills or just meet up with friends in pursuit of their favorite pastime.

• Private 18 hole, par 72 course • Nestled in a picturesque natural setting

Discover the lifestyle and community of your dreams. With countless amenities, there is always something fun to do and new friends to do it with. Live life to the fullest in Central Florida’s premier active-adult community - it’s Where the Cool Kids Retire!®.

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Active-Adult Maintenance-Free, Single-Family & Luxury Estate Homes from the $300s to the $500s. Call now 866.228.5878 | 8447 SW 99th St. Rd., Ocala, Florida 34481 ©2023 On Top of the World Communities, LLC. A 55+ community in Ocala, FL, by Colen Built Development, LLC. *Price per couple, plus tax. A tour with one of our Sales Specialists is required. To be eligible to receive the discounted $199 World Tour Adventure, guests must book their stay by December 31, 2023. A $199 cancellation fee applies if the reservation is cancelled within 30 days of stay. Prices, features, and specifications are subject to change without notice. Certain conditions may apply. Void where prohibited by law. #12503 - 10/23

golf travel

A Hidden Gem in the Ozarks

By Ashlee Ciora, CEO & Founder / Women on Fairways, LLC

There’s a place where

your daily morning routine is replaced by a sunrise on your patio. Where the sounds of life turn into peaceful sounds of nature, and where rustic luxury meets pristine fairways and greens. It’s a golfer’s hidden gem in the middle of Missouri’s Ozark Mountains. In August, Women on Fairways took a group of 12 ladies to Big Cedar Lodge on a Swing & Sip Golf Experience – golf trips designed for women. A first-time visit for all, the group was amazed by the beauty of the Ozarks and the quality of the five award-winning courses. A short drive from Branson and an hour from Springfield/Branson National Airport, golfers have been filling up tee sheets since 2014 and the destination has quickly become a bucket list experience. The group stayed at Falls Lodge, a building perched high on the resort grounds, with views of the sprawling property and Table Rock Lake. We highly recommend the sought after Falls Lodge, with its rustic luxury feel, the rooms include the necessary comforts from home. This lodge has the most upgraded amenities and offers private balconies, bath amenities, refrigerators, and gas fireplaces. Don’t be surprised by the array of mounted animals in your room or in the public spaces! The courses welcomed my group with scenic beauty, aweinspiring fairways, challenging blind spots, and some interesting 38

Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 9

short-game plays. The rounds were close to five hours, even with GPS carts and a forecaddie, but in the end the courses exceed the group’s expectations. The back nine leading to the 19th hole on Payne’s Valley is an unbelievable experience you won’t find on any other golf course. Buffalo Ridge was a top favorite, where buffalos roam green pastures and water features present a pleasant surprise. Ozark National was the toughest of them all, even with a forecaddie to ease course management. To top it off (no pun intended), the par-3 Top of the Rock is a mustplay for any golfer. This ninehole course can be played under two hours and is a showstopper with panoramic views of Ozark Mountains and Table Rock Lake. Designing experiential golf trips for women, Women on Fairways combines amazing golf with unique experiences enjoyed off the fairways. Golf was the anchor that brought this group together, but the offGolf Central • Volume 24, Issue 9

course activities added another level to this memorable golf trip. A sunrise yoga class, a sunset dinner cruise, wine cave tastings, evening dinners, Scottish bagpiper, cave trail ride, and a private wine dinner at Osage Restaurant. A hidden gem golf itinerary designed for women by women. We have already confirmed rooms at Falls Lodge and booked tee times at Payne’s Valley, Ozark

National, Buffalo Ridge, and Top of the Rock for October 1620, 2024! Our next Swing & Sip Golf Experience will be another amazing golf trip for women. We are excited to bring a group of women to experience fall golf in the Ozarks. To book a spot on this golf trip visit Women on Fairways at golf-trips or contact aciora@ 39

fore your health 40

Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 9

Historic Village of Pinehurst Area of North Carolina

TALAMORE 36 Holes by Arnold Palmer & Rees Jones


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stay & play

Oklahoma’s Shangri-La Resort Wows as a Pure Golf and Outdoors Paradise Stunning New Short Course, The Battlefield, is Truly Unforgettable

If I didn’t know better,

I could assume my playing partner might be having an existential crisis right here in the ninth fairway. “I know where we are. It’s Shangri-La. But, seriously, where are we, exactly?” he asks without a speck of irony. I try to be helpful. “We’re in Northeast Oklahoma. Picture the edge of the Southeast meeting the edge of Midwest.” Like in Ozark? “Not far off. A guy in the clubhouse said we’re three hours from Branson and Big Cedar Lodge by car or 17 minutes by private plane. You saw how it’s an easy 90 minutes from Tulsa, and we’re also not far from Bentonville, Arkansas and Springfield, Missouri.” I feel like we’re explorers who found some hidden treasure or secret land. I totally get his curiosity and sudden sense of wonder. Afton, Oklahoma’s Shangri-La Resort, nestled along the shores of vast Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees, in a nook called Monkey Island, northeast Oklahoma is a hidden gem that might just be America’s next great golf destination. For more than a decade, owner Eddy Gibbs has been breathing new life and vision into this lush lakefront find, first opened in 1969, and has transformed the property into a must-visit vacation attraction for golfers, lake lovers, and fun seekers from anywhere in 42

Battlefield Water Feature 6,500 square-foot outdoor resort pool with splash pad and tanning ledge, luxury spa, full-service marina on gleaming, 46,500-acre Grand Lake O’ The Cherokees, and six distinct dining and cocktails venues culminate in an unforgettable getaway for golfers, families, groups, corporate and association retreats, and weddings.

45 HOLES OF PRIMETIME GOLF the country. The setting is serene and rapturous with the Grand Lake all around, and now with Gibbs’ commitment and projectafter-project to make ShangriLa a premier resort destination, this place is ready for its closeup and droves of bookings for buddies trips, bachelorette parties, weddings, family getaways and semi-large business groups. Gibbs and his team have transformed the resort into the pride of Northeast Oklahoma and put the lakefront vacation oasis on the map nationally with an investment of more than $100 million into the property’s accommodations and upscale leisure amenities since taking it over in 2010. In addition to the brand-new 119room resort hotel, an indoor pool,

Surrounded by the waters of Grand Lake O’ The Cherokees on three sides, the revered 27hole championship Shangri-La golf course meanders through rolling parkland landscapes with elevated Bentgrass greens and clever bunkering along with more open, flowing fairways accented by ponds, streams and the breathtaking lakefront. Frequently ranked among the state’s Top Five golf courses – Shangri-La’s 27 holes and is made up of the Legends, Champions, and Heritage nines. The course challenges golfers of any skill level, with five tee boxes on each hole. The signature hole is Legends Nine, which features two separate greens complexes separated by a dramatic and spectacular waterfall. Known as “The Mickey Mantle Hole,” it’s named after the New York Yankees legend who hosted Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 9

his Mickey Mantle Golf Classic charity tournament at Shangri-La from 1991 until his death in 1995. Mickey once holed an albatross on the challenging par five. The third hole on the Champions Course plays right along the edge of the vast lake and is one of the most dramatic holes on the property. In all, the golf experience here is satisfying and cerebral with plentiful natural beauty.

A PAR 3 COURSE THAT BLOWS AWAY ALL EXPECTATIONS The addition of the dazzling par54 short course, The Battlefield in June 2023 makes Shangri-La one of the few golf resorts offering 45 holes to members, guests and the general public in a lakefront setting. Built in honor of WWII veterans, each hole at The Battlefield is named after an Oklahoma WWII hero. Additional veterans are honored with weekly displays in The Battlefield Clubhouse. The Tom Clark and Kevin Atkinson-designed, 3,000-yard Battlefield layout is a short course of creative, articulated scale and vision, constructed on an exceptional piece of land that features more than 100 feet of elevation change across its acreage. The scenic, strategic course was completed for $15 million with each hole named in honor of an Oklahoma veteran of WWII. It’s a memorable, immersive playing experience from any of the five sets of tee boxes, plus upclose “Felix Tees” for beginners, youngsters or those wanting to work on their short game. This short course also has a 165-yard warm-up area and 10,000-squarefoot putting green, and there’s also a practice range and short-game facility at the main clubhouse. Calling The Battlefield a par-3 course doesn’t really do it justice. The shot values are tremendous. Each green complex and hole design is an intriguing puzzle unto itself. Then there’s the natural beauty. It’s the kind of setting you don’t want to leave. The first thought the crosses your mind when you putt out on the 18th is going back around this course, maybe from another set of tees. The Battlefield sets new standards in short course experiences. It sounds grandiose, but, in time, people might just start Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 9

booking trips to Shangr-La just to play The Battlefield. That’s no knock on the excellent championship golf. The Battlefield is just that special. “We’re striving for people coming off The Battlefield and say they’ve never played anything like that before and that’s what we’ve been getting. That’s probably the thing that stands out the most is just the unique greens and the fact that you hit every shot that you want to hit when you play golf,” says Director of Golf Operations RobYanovitch. “The Battlefield matches the level of golf that the Championship Course brings. You have to hit golf shots. It’s not a chip and putt. It’s a golf course. You don’t hit drivers, because it’s a short course, but you will hit every club in your bag if you play Indian Blanket

the correct set of tees for your ability. The conditions match or even exceed what we have at the Championship Course.” This enjoyable, accessible par-54 course which features holes from 110 to 245 yards, joins the acclaimed 27 championship holes at Shangri-La, the Legends, Heritage and Champions courses (framed elegantly on the shores of the expansive Grand Lake O’ The Cherokees) to present an extraordinary 45-hole golfer’s paradise that buddies’ trip groups and golf aficionados from all over the country will want to add to their bucket list.

OFF-COURSE FUN IN THE SUN The Anchor, a two-year-old, sixacre indoor/outdoor activity park has basketball, tennis, pickleball, cornhole, and a unique “MiniFenway” WIFFLE®Ball park, as well as a catch-and-release fishing pond for children under 12. The Anchor’s 11,000 square-foot indoor

space offers traditional arcade games plus virtual reality games, a LaserShot shooting simulator, and Trackman Golf simulators. A popular spot for drinks and dining, the Sports Bar at The Anchor features dozens of sports screens including two giant video walls, along with ping-pong, pool, shuffleboard, darts, and foosball. Shangri-La offers various dining rooms, ranging from the fine dining of The Summit Restaurant in the main clubhouse, to Eddy’s Lakeside Bar offering seasonal al fresco dining and cocktails at Shangri-La Marina. Doc’s Bar & Grill, in the hotel, offers food service for all three meals, 365 days a year. The Canteen at The Battlefield Clubhouse and the Pool Bar at the resort pool also offer food and beverage service. The staff is personable and fun – and many are solid karaoke singers. They make the stay extra special. The resort’s full-service marina offers permanent rental slips and courtesy docks for those who visit the resort by water and is replete with a ship store that even sells gasoline and diesel. Boat and personal watercraft

rentals are available, along with yacht charters and Oklahoma’s only parasailing adventures. There’s always something new at Shangri-La. If a day of golf, followed by an evening of boating and great food and maybe a little karaoke thrown in sounds like the perfect getaway, you’re starting to see why Shangri-La is now on the map of essential golf resorts to include in your upcoming travel planning. Learn more at 43

adies orth florida Professional PGA north Golfflorida Association PGA north Ladies florida Professional PGA northGolf florida Association PGA north Ladies fl Profession

By Mike May

Looking Back on 2023 with LPGA


Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 9

Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 9


orth florida PGA north florida PGA north florida PGA north florida PGA north florida PGA nort

By Jorja Gust

Greg Koch Returns to Bermuda Greg Koch, the 2023 Rolex North Florida PGA Player of the Year, added another PGA TOUR event to his playing background. Greg had the opportunity to play in the Butterfield Bermuda Championship and represented the Section well with a T63 finish. In 2022, Greg missed the cut, but after months of playing in several Section Championships, competing at the Valspar Championship, the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard, and the PGA Championship, Greg was ready for Bermuda once again. Koch used a strong start in round one shooting 5-under 66. This helped propel him to make the cut and finished 8-under par. Throughout his weekend at the Butterfield Bermuda Championship, his longest drive was 357 yards, averaged 293.40 yards, totaled 16 birdies, and an eagle on hole 5 during round 2. Looking back at this event, Koch said, “It was a confidence builder to add to the made cut earlier in the year at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Knowing my game wasn’t exactly where I wanted it but battled and managed the game around the course well enough to get me into the weekend.” We are so proud of Koch and this great accomplishment! 46

Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 9

Timing, luck and gratitude

are three words that Kyle Sanders, PGA used to describe his route to becoming the Head of Business Development in Florida for StickX Golf. Originally from Kansas City, Sanders was recruited by Methodist University to play soccer where he originally discovered and decided to pursue the PGM program there. “I just kind of went for it,” explained Sanders. “I had zero friends when I went there and just went in with an open mind and there was a lot of good that came out of it.” His open-minded approach led Sanders to four vastly different internships during his time at Methodist with his last and favorite being at Chicago Golf Club, where he was hired as an Assistant Professional after graduation. “Working at Chicago Golf Club was the best thing that ever happened to me and my career,” said Sanders. “It was a super unique place to start my career and I still reap the benefits.” Sanders described Chicago Golf Club as a true golf club environment, which he felt at the time was the best fit for him. After three years in Chicago, Sanders was connected with Hugh Matthis, PGA, another Methodist University grad, at the Fox Club (Now The Cape Club of Palm City) in Palm City. Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 9

Similar to his time in Chicago, the club environment at the Fox Club appealed to Sanders and after two years, he was promoted to head professional. Like many new head professionals, Sanders inherited inventory, including many used golf clubs. While looking to get rid of the clubs at the time, Sanders was connected with Kyle Branham who ran an Ebay store selling sporting goods who took them off his hands. Fast forward three years later, the original owner of the Fox Club was forced to sell due to health reasons, ultimately bringing in a larger ownership group which pushed Sanders to look for his next move. Once again, timing was on his side as one door closed, another opened for Sanders. “He [Brandon McHugh] was just a really good guy and in my mind the best rep in the area and we became friends,” explained Sanders who was connected with Summit Golf Brands and sales rep Brandon McHugh. “He was leaving the south Florida territory to go to the headquarters in New York and was again like a lot of things, it was the timing.” In 2018, Sanders decided to fully transition as a golf professional at a green grass facility and became a sales accountant for facilities from Jupiter to Jacksonville, selling apparel to the golf shops.


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Humble and Thankful – Kyle Sanders, PGA

“It was a totally different job description, there was definitely a learning curve to just learn how to be a sales guy and communicate with different professionals,” he said. “What was beneficial is I already had a good relationship with a lot of the pros and understood how the country and golf clubs operated.” Sanders continued at Summit Golf Brands for the next three years, continuing to enhance his people and sales skills before he was reconnected with Branham who’d taken the used clubs from Fox Club many years prior. At this time, Branham’s Ebay store had become StickX Golf and the company was growing at a fast pace. Sanders believed he could be a valuable asset as a PGA Member and former head professional with great connections who had now spent three years in sales. Sanders pitched Branham his idea and explained how he could help elevate StickX to the next level. In 2021, only two years after StickX became a company, Sanders was hired as the Head of Business Development for the Florida region. As the 2018 South Florida PGA Section Champion, Sanders knew it was important to continue his strong relationship with the members of the South Florida PGA Section, facilitating a partnership with the Section as one of his very first tasks. When Sanders first joined the team in 2021, StickX worked with 40 clubs in the greater Palm Beach county, over the last two years that number has grown to 120, with Sanders being a key contributor. Looking back on his career thus far, Sanders reiterated how fortunate and thankful he is for every stop he has made throughout his career and the lessons each role taught him. As someone with a humble approach, Sanders biggest advice is to be open minded. “Be open minded, talk to everyone, ask questions and be curious about what someone is doing,” he said.

A Kentucky PGA Kentucky PGA Kentucky PGA Kentucky PGA Kentucky PGA Kentucky PGA

The Kentucky PGA 2023 Players of the Year

Daniel Iceman

The Kentucky PGA announced its

Players of the Year on November 10, with Daniel Iceman III, PGA, taking home both the ROLEX Larry Gilbert Player of the Year and the ROLEX Assistant Player of the Year titles. Iceman, an Assistant Professional at Weissinger Hills Golf Course in Shelbyville, wins his first Player of the Year title and fourth Assistant POY. Daniel Utley, PGA, Head Professional at Owl Creek Country Club in Anchorage, rounded out the titles, winning his first ROLEX Senior Player of the Year accolade. Daniel Iceman had a stellar season this year, competing in ten events throughout 2023. In KPGA-sanctioned tournaments, he finished no worse than 48

T10, winning twice in the Low Professional division - the second Pro-Senior Championship Presented by Wilson Golf in September and the Pro-Pro Series Championship Presented By Golf Pro Payments & TaylorMade Golf Supported By Hole-inOne USA in October. The latter tournament was also his best showing of the year in terms of score, firing rounds of 71-68-139 for a 7-under-par total at Perry Park Golf Resort in Perry Park, KY. Though his most impressive performances came towards the end of the season, Iceman had a fantastic year throughout all of the 2023 season. He triumphs over Summit Hills Country Club Head Professional Tom Walters, PGA, in the POY category by a mere 101 points, with an over 1000 point difference between second and third place. Iceman’s win at the final tournament of the season pushed him to the top after trailing Walters earlier in the year. The Assistants race sees Iceman beat Griffin Gate’s Jeremy Martin by a comfortable margin of 5730 points. Iceman’s season has not quite come to a close, as he will head to Port St. Lucie, Florida, for the 47th ​​National Car Rental Assistant PGA Professional Championship from November 16-19. In his first year in the Senior Division, Daniel Utley had a standout season en route to winning the POY title. He accumulated 8352 points in his seven-tournament season, defeating LaRue County Country Club’s Head Professional Steve Cox by 1178 points. Utley finished in the top five at all seven events, winning two outright and tying for first at another in the Low Senior Professional division. Like Iceman, Utley’s best tournament came at the Pro-Pro Series Championship

Daniel Utley Presented By Golf Pro Payments & TaylorMade Golf Supported By Hole-in-One USA in October at Perry Park. Firing rounds of 72-71 for a 3-under total, Utley claimed first place by an impressive five shots. Immediately after the conclusion of this tournament, he headed south to Port. St Lucie, Florida, for the Senior PGA Professional Championship. The lone Kentucky pro to play all four days, he compiled a total of 293 to finish in the top 50 of the 264-player field. In both the Commonwealth and out, Utley had a wonderful 2023 season. The KPGA extends its congratulations to both players and a huge thank you to all participants throughout a fantastic 2023 season! Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 9



Set on a pristine white sand beach, Baha Mar p e r f e c t l y b a l a n c e s a n a r ra y o f s p e c t a c u l a r e xp e r i e n c e s w i t h l u xu r i o u s re l a x a t i o n i n t h e p u re C a r i b b e a n s u n s h i n e . E x q u i s i t e d i n i n g e xp e r i e n c e s

f ro m

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l u s h t ro p i c a l p o o l s , Th e B a h a m a s ’ t o p g o l f c o u rs e , a n d o u r n e w 15 - a c re l u x u r y w a t e r park Baha Bay await.








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Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 9

Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 9


living on the links The Abaco Club

on Winding Bay was created to be a rare kind of club community: a private tropical paradise where club members, homeowners, and their guests can escape the rigors of everyday life and relax, recreate, and rejuvenate in a setting so beautiful as to defy description. A true sporting club, The Abaco Club offers a world of wonders including the #1 golf course in The Bahamas, a spa and wellness facility, water sports, tennis, pickleball and basketball courts, gourmet dining, and the club’s crown jewel—an incomprehensibly beautiful, 2-mile, powder-soft beach that serves as

the gateway to the tranquil waters of Winding Bay. In the surrounding waters, club members and their guests can avail themselves of the area’s world-famous saltwater flats fishing, thrilling deep-sea fishing, 52

and the serene boating and sailing waters of the Sea of Abaco. For members, the club is a place to return to again and again—for walks on the beach, golf events, soothing spa treatments, and

lazy days spent under the warm Bahamian sun. For homeowners, it’s all these things plus the opportunity to own a personal residence on one of the most beautiful island properties in existence. In short, the Abaco Club is a quiet refuge from the world, where families come together, friendships are made, good times are enjoyed, and a lifetime of memories are created. Prospective members or homeowners can experience the club on a discovery visit that can be arranged through our Director of Sales, Kristi Hull. When you do, don’t be surprised if you decide you want to become part of our magical island community too. Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 9

Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 9


By Anthony L. Williams, CGCS, CGM, MG

A Turf Pirate's Journal $ Boots, Hats, and Bolo Ties $

Well, Turf Pirates we are

approaching the end of another year. 2023 was a barnburner with crazy weather, big career moves and a few adult libations to celebrate milestone moments. I started the new year working at TPC Las Colinas (now known as The Nelson Golf and Sports Club) transitioned into a Regional Director of Agronomy role for Invited Clubs overseeing 10 Texas Clubs and by year’s end I had came full circle supporting 19 Invited Clubs in Georgia, Tennessee, Kansas and Oklahoma. I loved being in Texas and serving as President of the North Texas GCSA in 2021 was a highlight of my career. One perk of being a Texas superintendent is it’s always fashionable to wear boots, 54

hats and bolo ties (the bolo tie is the official tie of Texas after all). Most of you know that I am from Indian Creek, Georgia and grew up in Ag and spent my childhood around tractors, horses and yes plow mules (GEE, HAW, WHOA, BACK) so I was exposed to Cowboy culture early and often. I was a card-carrying member of the Gum Creek Saddle Club and spent some quality time at the Bona Allen Tannery makers of some of the best saddles and horse tack in the world (in my humble opinion). My college of choice Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College was famous back in the day for allowing students to bring their horse to college and had a darn impressive rodeo team to be east of the Mississippi. BTW, this was way before Yellowstone brought

cowboy culture to modern masses. We grew high quality coastal Bermuda hay on our family farm and it was that turf that formed my foundation and sent me around the world growing grass and telling tales about the characters that grow the grass. Turf Pirates are always themselves, eclectic, unique and unapologetic we are sometimes bigger than life cartoon characters. Dress for success is true but Turf Pirates go a bit farther dressing with a mix of function and fashion. I was wearing a vintage 1955 Silver and turquoise Thunderbird bolo tie when I received my Master Greenkeeper certificate (82) as a Texas Superintendent should. Now I will be spending more time back home in Georgia and Tennessee in 2024 and I am sure that some things have changed while I was in Texas but here is the point of this issues ramble. As we come to the close of another year celebrate the good, evaluate everything and throw out the bad. We can not change what we are willing to tolerate and life is too short not to live your heartfelt dream every day. Wear your boots, hat and bolo ties anytime it seems to fit whatever makes you stand out and this is the main point, happiness starts every morning when you dress for day. If you’re already feeling down before you leave the house it’s time for a change. The Ancient and Honorable Tribe of Turf Pirates holds no official uniform but we embrace all forms of personal fashion and function. Texas has left its brand on me and I will be forever grateful for the experiences and insights gained and as they say, the eyes of Texas are upon you. I wish you all many blessings as we close 2023 and enter the next season of adventure. Until next time Turf Pirates, raise your glass and tip your hats to the folks that grow the grass! Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 9

Sunn 28-0-0

Minors Blend

Sunn 6-0-0 Blend

Total Nitrogen ..........................28% 20.2% .......... Slow release Nitrogen 7.8% ......................... Urea Nitrogen

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

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.

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


Sunn KTS


Soluble Potash (K2O) ..............25% Total Sulfur (S) .........................17% 17% combined sulfur 0% free sulfur Derived from: potassium thiosulfate




Total Nitrogen ..........................12% 12% Urea Nitrogen Chlorine not more than ..............2%

SECONDARY PLANT FOODS Iron as Fe ...................................6% Manganese as Mn .....................2% Derived from: Urea, Iron Glucoheptonate, Manganese Glucoheptonate

Manufactured by


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

Hole 1

Eagle Creek’s Deep Environmental Roots Orlando Course Is a Sustainability Stalwart Florida boasts more Audubon

in nearby Clermont, and a native of St. Andrews, Scotland. “Our mix used to be 90% visitors, 10% locals in the wintertime, but now it’s 50-50. So many more locals. They’ve got the time to play golf now. They work from home, and many more have taken up golf. Our local audience is much more aware of what we do on the golf course; it’s been great for us because we can educate them a bit better.” Nairn’s ownership partner of 14 years, Larry Snyder, is a fifth-

International Certified Signature Sanctuary golf courses than any other state, but among public-daily fee venues, Eagle Creek Golf Club stands out. Since the day it opened in 2004, the Ron Garl-Howard Swan design–centerpiece of a residential community just west of Orlando International Airport–has maintained its Silver Sanctuary certification. Its dedication to sustainable practices and policies manifests in so Sandhill Crane nest many ways, on and off the course, that there’s little mystery why Eagle Creek is one of Central Florida’s most popular places to play golf in ideal conditions year-round, and harmony with nature. “We get many more locals now,” says Kenny Nairn, Managing Partner CFL Golf of Eagle Creek as well as 36-hole Kings Ridge 56

generation Certified Golf Course Superintendent. Completing the circle of stewardship at Eagle Creek is superintendent Jeff Clark, who was there when the course opened, left for another facility, then returned three years later. “Not to blow Jeff’s trumpet, or our own, but he came back to us because he didn’t like what they were doing on the golf course,” Nairn adds. “One of his ambitions was to keep improving what we were doing. One of our mantras is to keep it going with Eagle Creek and Audubon International. Since 2009 we’ve been on a mission to raise the level of conservation. That’s the word I use more than anything: conservation Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 9

Hole 2 of the whole facility.” More recently, especially as people stayed home during the Covid years, residents have taken this commitment to heart. “They didn’t realize that we were Audubon [Certified]. As we’ve created more awareness, they realize where they live, what all these bird houses are for, what we do with all our ‘washout’ plants, our cans, our FETs. And we’ve done some education in high schools and middle schools. It’s been an interesting journey.” As Eagle Creek’s residential footprint nears its maximum, Nairn gives the builder credit for working with his crew to relocate bird boxes when necessary, keeping bank erosion to minimum as new homes have gone up and water levels have gone down, and generally following that conservation mantra. The community leaves the protected Florida Crane population alone, and the golf course crew has even spotted a few owls come through. “I’ve lived in Florida for 26 years and have never seen them before,” Nairn says. “We took some photos and sent them off to Audubon International, and they shared them the ornithology department at UCF [University of Central Florida].” Nairn names off other recent stewardship strides at Eagle Creek. On the heels of Hurricane Ian in 2018, they removed close to 60 waste bunkers, reverting them to more natural habitat for animals (and less maintenance for his crew). They’ve also reduced the Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 9

amount of maintained turf, a strain of Mini-Verde that doesn’t require overseeding. “We haven’t overseeded for eight years,” he says. “We apply a natural pigment that most people would never know, and our water conservation is amazing.” Clearly, environmental stewardship is not only part and parcel of Eagle Creek’s culture, but central to Nairn’s worldview as well, dating to his early years as the son of Scottish hoteliers–first in St. Andrews, then on the island of Islay, then on the country’s west

coast where he took up golf–then as a PGA golf pro in his adopted home state, where the plethora of wildlife still amazes him. “Before my partner and I set up our company, we were based at Celebration Golf Club for 16 years, which is a former Disney community. People would ask if all the gators and wildlife were animatronic,” he says with a laugh. “We still get those questions today. But gators are part of the community, too. People don’t realize they’d see so much wildlife out here. It’s amazing.” For more on Eagle Creek, visit To learn more about how your local golf course can gain recognition for your environmental efforts and learn how to expand your initiatives through Audubon International’s numerous environmental certifications, visit Audubon International, an environmentally focused nonprofit organization, offers members numerous certifications and conservation initiatives to protect the areas where we live, work, and play. Their certifications are designed to increase environmental awareness, encourage sustainable environmental efforts, and educate both their members and their communities.

Hole 4


Wayne Mills wins President’s Award for Environmental Stewardship from GCSAA The California superintendent champions water conservation, pollution prevention and more to create sustainable golf course management at La Cumbre Country Club

Wayne Mills, 39-year GCSAA

member and superintendent at La Cumbre Country Club in Santa Barbara, Calif., has been named the recipient of the 2024 President’s Award for Environmental Stewardship from the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA). Mills will officially be recognized during the Send-Off Celebration at the 2024 GCSAA Conference and Trade Show, presented in partnership with John Deere, on Feb. 1 in Phoenix. The President’s Award for Environmental Stewardship was established in 1991 to recognize an exceptional environmental contribution to the game of golf; a contribution that further exemplifies the golf course superintendent’s image as a steward of the land. “From water conservation to wildlife habitat enhancement, Wayne Mills’ dedication to being an environmental steward has undoubtedly contributed to the sustainability of the game of golf,” GCSAA President Kevin P. Breen, CGCS, said. “The numerous ways in which he advocates for protection of the environment, both at La Cumbre and other local golf courses, makes a measurable difference and embodies all that the President’s Award represents. We commend his efforts and congratulate him on this honor.” In his more than 40 years of working in the golf industry, 22 of which have been at La Cumbre Country Club, Mills has demonstrated what it means to be an effective leader, garnering the respect of all team members and mentoring some of the best superintendents in the industry. A member of the GCSA of Southern California, Mills’ efforts helped established La Cumbre CC’s golf course as an Audubon International Certified Cooperative Sanctuary, receiving the Audubon Certification for Water Conservation. He allows


Wayne Mills the local Audubon Society to conduct bird banding at La Cumbre, and he has worked with the California Conservation Corps on the removal of invasive plants from the Arroyo Burro Creek in a collaborative restoration effort. Mills served as a founding member of the Goleta Valley Golf and Water Taskforce, which was instrumental in advocating for local golf courses and reasonable water use restrictions during recent times of extreme drought. He continually improves water conservation practices at La Cumbre Country Club and puts in extra effort to work with local officials on water restrictions by participating in Goleta Water District’s turf rebate program. Additional areas of Mills’ focus on environmental stewardship at La Cumbre include the establishment of an Integrated Pest Management plan, recently updating the pump station,

evaluating the installation of solar panels at the maintenance facility and creating a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan specific for the maintenance facility operations. La Cumbre Country Club was also recently certified by Audubon International for Wildlife Management under his leadership. It’s also worth noting that local environmental inspectors are always impressed with La Cumbre’s best management practices and its compliance with environmental regulations. “It seems overwhelming at first, like you’re taking on this new aspect of the property and the challenges of managing that come with it, but as you go, there’s a satisfaction that’s different,” Wayne Mills said. “On our property, we maintain good grounds for golf, but we also plant for wildlife, and they show up. It differentiates us from other properties and adds to the La Cumbre member experience. If you look at the club’s website and social media, incorporating native plants for different wildlife is embraced by members and promoted to prospective members.” Mills’ hard work has also earned him numerous Environmental Leaders in Golf Awards recognition from GCSAA, including Natural Resources Conservation Award winner in 2022; Communications and Outreach Award runnerup in 2023; Natural Resources Conservation Award runner-up in 2021; Healthy Land Stewardship Award runner-up in 2020, 2019 and 2018; and ELGA Chapter Award winner in 2017. “I’m at a loss for words. We’re just trying to groom everything back to a more natural feel,” Mills said. “It’s nice and humbling that people think that highly about the work we’re doing.” To learn more about the President’s Award for Environmental Stewardship, visit Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 9

By Cecilia Brown

Travis Johnson, right, and his son Mason

FloriTurf: Three Decades in Florida’s Turfgrass Industry For nearly three decades, FloriTurf

has been at the forefront of turfgrass farming operations in Kenansville, FL. Originally an Ohio-based enterprise, founders Cecil Collins and Bill Campbell expanded their business to Florida. They hired Donald Johnson as a manager and part-owner in 1994, and he acquired the business shortly thereafter. Donald and Nancy, married for 45 years, devoted themselves tirelessly to establishing a reputable sod operation in Florida. Upon Donald’s acquisition, Nancy left her job at an attorney firm and assumed the responsibilities of running FloriTurf’s office. They raised their children, Travis and Erin, on the farm. Erin has pursued a career in hotel management, while Travis has taken the helm of FloriTurf. Reflecting on his upbringing, Travis reminisced, “I watched my parents work night and day


and work very hard to uplift a struggling business. They poured numerous nights, weekends and hours into making it what it is today. I was fortunate enough that they gave me the opportunity to buy it from them when they were ready to sell it.” Travis recalled walking with his sister to their elementary school across the street, highlighting the close ties between their family life and the farm. Seven years ago, Travis made the decision to purchase the farm from his parents, driven by his extensive hands-on experience. “I don’t think I have anybody that’s doing a job here that I haven’t physically done at some point in time, and I think that helps,” he said. “The problems a sod farm has are things I’ve

experienced from a young age. You don’t realize what you’re learning by just standing around. You learn things all the time and it’s amazing to me the little things I picked up that I didn’t even know I was being taught.” Nancy and Donald Johnson were happy to pass the business to their son and look forward to traveling more in the coming years. “I think it’s great passing it along from generation to generation and now my grandson, Mason, is involved in it too. Each new generation brings in new ideas and innovations,” Donald said.

Growth and Expansion

Over the past 29 years, FloriTurf significantly shifted from leased lands in Osceola County, FL’s northern and western regions to securing long-term leases, encompassing approximately 1,000 acres in the county’s southern area. Travis attributed this move to the impact of ongoing Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 9

Travis Johnson holding a slab of EMPIRE® Zoysia at FloriTurf development. Travis explained they’ve established a good relationship with a strong network of ranchers in the southern region of the county. They have different arrangements including leasing land for extended periods, some for up to 15 years, and in other cases, they harvest from the landowners’ cow pastures or Bahia fields. FloriTurf harvests around 500 acres of Bahia grass across multiple ranches in the region, concentrating solely on cultivation and sales, without engaging in delivery or installation services. With a team of 22 employees, FloriTurf experienced rapid growth over the past five years, doubling both its acreage and staff count. Travis emphasized their closeness, stating, “Despite the expansion, I remain highly involved, engaging with each employee individually a few times a week. We still maintain that small-business atmosphere, but it’s fascinating to witness our evolution and adapt to different management styles as we scale up.” Donald highlighted the shift from manual sod stacking, prevalent in the industry nearly 50 years ago when he started, to utilizing advanced equipment, making a substantial difference in operations at FloriTurf. Travis said that their updated equipment has allowed for smoother operations and efficiency. Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 9

Managing FloriTurf

Travis said he’s always enjoyed witnessing the development of raw land into a turf farm. “It’s been a passion. I’ve ventured and dabbled into other businesses, and nothing held my attention and interest like the turf industry.” He also finds joy in the initial harvest of a newly planted field,

stating “After we go through all the infrastructure of laser leveling, putting in an irrigation system and the two years of work make that first harvest very exciting.” Much of Travis’s daily routine involves coordinating with FloriTurf’s Turfgrass Manager, Allan Kersey. Travis also oversees various operational aspects, including payroll, bills, inventory and financial analysis. Additionally, maintaining strong relationships with local landowners remains a priority for Travis to ensure FloriTurf aligns with their expectations, emphasizing the importance of immersion within the business and the surrounding network for a successful, growing sod operation. Licensed Turfgrass varieties FloriTurf was an early adopter of EMPIRE® Zoysia introduced by Sod Solutions and remains a long-term licensee for this variety. Donald emphasized the significance of EMPIRE in diversifying their offerings beyond St. Augustine grasses. Donald underscored his friendship and professional rapport with Tobey Wagner, the founder of Sod Solutions. He said they spoke recently about their excitement seeing the industry’s next generation take the reins as they start to take the back seat.

Don and Nancy Johnson attending TPI in San Francisco, CA


Lois Hall, Danny Hall, Travis Johnson and Nancy Johnson

“Tobey and I have been to a lot of TPI meetings together all over the country. He and (wife) LeeAnn are good people and good friends of ours.” Travis recalled his father’s collaboration with Wagner over the years, focusing on identifying grasses aligning with their quality standards and water-saving needs. Travis expressed excitement about Sod Solution’s recent release of CitraZoy® Zoysiagrass from the University of Florida. “It’s a big hit. I love it. As a grower, it’s easy to grow and has less problems than other varieties making it easier for the homeowner to maintain. CitraZoy is the most recent thing that we’re all excited about for sure.” After a year of cultivation, Travis observed CitraZoy’s resilience to billbugs compared to adjacent zoysiagrass fields that suffered damage. “That was neat to see, especially being right next to each other. Typically, if you have a problem in one, you have a problem in the next field but I’m seeing billbug resistance and prolonged color retention.” He explained while it’s a different color than EMPIRE, CitraZoy has 62

been holding color longer which makes him assume customers would be able to reduce fertilizer use while keeping a nice green shade longer.


Travis is excited about FloriTurf’s venture into the bermudagrass market, which presents new opportunities for the business. While they haven’t extensively explored bermudagrass before, he anticipates acreage growth in this area. FloriTurf is a recent licensee of Celebration® Bermudagrass. He explained the increasing customer inquiries for bermudagrass beyond sports fields indicate emerging market demands. Over the years, FloriTurf primarily focused on grass cultivation. However, as the farm expanded, it diversified into growing various grass varieties and has become more active within the industry as well as staying updated on local regulations from the Water Management District.

TPI 2024

FloriTurf is a member of the Florida Turfgrass Association

(FTGA) and Turfgrass Producers International (TPI). They are gearing up to host the TPI 2024 International Education Field Day at their newest sod farm in early February. Donald expressed his excitement for Travis to spearhead the event, noting the immense value of participation in TPI. “I used to be very involved and on the board. I think it’s just a good thing for the industry. You pick up a lot of things from growers from all over the country.” Travis echoed the sentiment, emphasizing the significance of hosting the field day on a new farm with many grass varieties. “I’m glad to do it for our industry and there’s no better place to do that than a brand new farm without all the bumps and bruises of an old farm.” Travis looks forward to leading FloriTurf into the future while adapting to industry needs and changes. For more information on the business, visit Floriturf’s website at To register for the 2024 TPI Conference and Field Day, visit tpi-2024-international-educationconference-and-field-day. Golf Central • Volume 24, Issue 9

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