A little over a year ago, Columbus’ golf coaches looked around the city and wondered why they had to go out of town to play state championship matches, especially with so many championship-caliber golf courses right here at home.
“Me and John Drew (Northside) and Marty Durden (Brookstone) talked and agreed that Columbus can do a better job than many other places,” said Columbus High golf coach Chris Parker. “We thought why not hold them here and bring more money to this community?”
The result of the three coaches’ conversation comes to fruition Monday, with 48 high school teams from across the state converging on Columbus to play the Class A and Class AAA state golf championships.
That’s bringing almost $215,000 to this community, as about 650 student golfers, their classmates, parents and coaches spread their spending through the community, according to Peter Bowden, president and chief executive officer of the Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau. With other attractions drawing people to the area this week, it’s an important part of an almost three-quarter-million-dollar impact on local businesses over just a few days, he said.
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Columbus Sports Council chairman Herbert Greene said he expects the impact to be closer to $240,000 from the golf championships, which get under way tonight with a council-sponsored banquet at the Columbus Convention and Trade Center.
“We were just excited when they came to us,” Greene said of the high school coaches. “We’ve had a lot of involvement with them on a lot of things.”
Gary Phillips, golf coordinator for the Thomaston-based Georgia High School Association, said his group has been desirous for years of the opportunity to base several state championships in a single community.
“When they came to us, they got real good cooperation,” Phillips said. “We put our heads together and got it going. We got great support from the sports council there, too. You always need someone like that behind you to do some things for the kids coming there.”
How unusual is it to land four of the 10 golf championships in one city?
“I’ve been here nine years and we’ve never done that before,” Phillips said. “We have tried to keep classification tournaments in close proximity to one another. Some schools have one golf coach for both the boys and the girls and, if they’re playing in separate cities, it makes it really tough for the coaches to be involved with both as they’d like to be.”
The Columbus sites aren’t “right across the street” from one another, but the coaches will be able to maintain contact with both of their teams with only a short drive to make, he said.
Columbus also was able to bring the support of the local golf clubs to the GHSA with its presentation, Phillips said.
The sites include a municipal course (Bull Creek) that has hosted mini-tour events and been a qualifying site for PGA Tour events; a private club (Green Island Country Club) that has hosted PGA Tour, Champions Tour and Georgia State Golf Association events; one of the state’s oldest private clubs (100-year-old Columbus Country Club) that has hosted dozens of collegiate, regional and state amateur contests, including the 2009 Georgia Amateur; and Maple Ridge Golf Club, which last week hosted the Region 2-AAA championship matches.
“These are some really good golf courses,” Phillips said. “It was pretty easy to see that this was going to be a good event.”
“We were very fortunate to have all the pros and the clubs to support this effort,” said Parker. “It was thrilling to see everyone chip in to help high school golf and to help this community.”
Durden said it was all possible because of the “really good relationships among all the coaches here in Columbus.”
“We were just talking casually one day and somebody said, ‘Why don’t we do Class AAA and Class A here?’” Durden said. “We got together a plan and sent to the GHSA and they jumped on it. … It was an easy call.”
Drew said he was happy to see the success that’s bringing this year’s AAA and A championships to Columbus.
“But it won’t end there,” Drew said. “Northside’s moving to AAAA next year, and we already know we’re going to have that championship here, too.”
The boys and girls teams from Columbus High and Brookstone will be competing in Monday’s championships, with Northside’s and Taylor County’s boys and LaGrange’s girls teams rounding out the area schools participating.
Jim Houston is an independent correspondent. Write to him at email@example.com