The South Georgia Classic is almost here.
South Georgia Classic week begins tomorrow. A number of past, present and future PGA TOUR golfers will be teeing off in a Nationwide Tour tournament at Valdosta’s Kinderlou Forest Golf Club this week.
The week begins with pro-am competitions on Monday and Wednesday and practice rounds on Tuesday. Then on Thursday, round 1 of the four-round South Georgia Classic presented by First State Bank and Trust Company begins, with the first golfers teeing off at 7:15 a.m. The tournament will run through Sunday.
This will be the sixth year that the Nationwide Tour has held the South Georgia Classic at Kinderlou Forest.
There have been five different winners in the previous five years.
There will be 156 golfers competing this year for a portion of the tournament’s $625,000 purse, with $112,500 going to the winner.
“I think (hosting this tournament) is a pretty good accomplishment for the city,” tournament manager David Fox said.
Tickets for the South Georgia Classic have gone on sale. Anyone who wishes to purchase tickets can download a ticket order form on the tournament’s website, www.southgeorgiaclassic.com. Tickets will also be sold at the gate. A one-day ticket costs $5, while a weekly ticket can be purchased for $15.
The money generated from the ticket sales will be given to local charities. Fans can choose from a list of 23 charities they want their money to go to when they purchase their tickets.
The South Georgia Classic has a major economic impact on the Valdosta area. During the week, every golfer competing will have to find somewhere to sleep. They will have to eat food. They will have to buy gas. Each golfer also has a caddy that must eat and sleep somewhere. If a golfer arrives today and stays through Sunday, he will be spending eight days in a Valdosta hotel (unless he can find somewhere else to stay), he will be eating three meals a day for eight days and so will his caddy. Many players also bring family members and friends with them. Officials from the Nationwide Tour will be coming to Valdosta for the tournament. The tournament will also bring spectators in from out of town. If those spectators come for four days, they will also spend a bunch of money locally. That means a lot of money will be spent in the Valdosta area by visitors from out of town.
In 2010, Tim Mabe, then the executive director of the Conference Center and Tourism Authority, told the Times that the South Georgia Classic had an estimated economic impact of $3 million. No other event held in Lowndes County has that kind of economic impact.
Fox declined to estimate how many spectators will attend the tournament, but he believes attendance will be good.
“It’s a good (number) of people. It’s over seven days, so it adds up,” he said.
First State Bank and Trust Company is the tournament’s primary sponsor, and a big supporter of the South Georgia Classic. First State Bank and Trust Company has been the tournament’s main sponsor since 2008, its second year.
“We’re excited to be a part of it,” First State Bank and Trust Company president Bill Cowart said. “It’s a great community activity that gives our community national exposure, brings in folks to our community to showcase it, but then it also has a reward in that any moneys that are raised above expenses go to South Georgia Medical Center.
“It’s been a great partnership. We wish more and more people would come (watch the tournament). For some reason, I don’t think they realize these are truly professional golfers that flat play. If you look at when they graduate (from the Nationwide Tour) and go to the PGA, a lot of these guys are real successful on the big tour. You get to see a lot of really good golf, you get to showcase our community at the same time and raise money for a great charity to boot. We’re glad to be a part of it.”
In the past, Kinderlou Forest Golf Club has earned plenty of praise from Nationwide Tour players. The course, designed by Davis Love III, is long and challenging (in 2008, it ranked eighth out of 33 course in difficulty on the Nationwide Tour).
“I think it suits the guy who hits long, and can also chip and putt,” Nationwide player Bubba Dickerson said before the tournament in 2007.
“It’s a great golf course,” former Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz said before playing in the South Georgia Classic last year. “It’s a massive golf course. Any wind at all and it’ll play longer than the 77 or 78 hundred yards that are on the card.”
“The course is difficult enough. It’s always in great shape. It’s good as far as set up goes. There’s plenty of room,” Fox said. “The course sets up well for players. It’s (one of the) longest courses on the Nationwide Tour, so it’s definitely able to handle today’s players.”
Fox said that the weather has been good this past week, which has helped the groundskeepers get the course in good condition for the tournament.
The Nationwide Tour is the developmental golf tour for the PGA TOUR. Many future PGA golfers (as well as former and current PGA players) compete on the Nationwide Tour. Many of them have competed in the South Georgia Classic, including 2011 PGA Championship winner Keegan Bradley, Jhonattan Vegas, Gary Woodland, Brendan Steele and Scott Sterling.
For more information on the tournament, see the tournament guide in today’s edition of The Valdosta Daily Times. The guide contains a plethora of information about the tournament. Information is also available on the tournament’s website.
The South Georgia Classic is almost here.
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