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August 23, 2013

74th annual Jack Oliver tournament starts today

VALDOSTA — One hundred players will tee off this weekend in the 74th annual Jack Oliver tournament at the Valdosta Country Club.

The three day tournament will go on despite the weather forecast, said VCC pro Cary Brown, but several of the holes on the Bottom course are closed due to flooding issues.

“We will be using only the Bellemeade and Plantation 9’s. Our golf course superintendent Barry Bennett has been working really hard to keep the course in shape with all this rain,” Brown said.

Several returning champions are in the field this year, including 3-time winner Guy Whidby, 3-time winner Sam Hogan, 6-time winner Nic Daugharty, and 2011 winner Chad Follett.

Frank Eldridge, who has won the tournament seven times, was recently inducted into the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame during a reception at the club, but won’t be playing this year.

The 2013 field includes 10 from Valdosta State University’s golf program — Golf Coach Jared Purvis, Alumni Michael Rafalowicz, and current team members Derek Roach, Alex Jones, Austin McNeill, Jim Henderson, Florian Schmeidel, Wheaton Hall, John Fordham, and Michael Nutter.

The tourament began in 1940 and is named for Jack Oliver, whose devotion to the game of golf has carried through several generations. He passed away in 1940, and the event, previously known as the Valdosta Invitational Tournament, was renamed in his honor.

Oliver was instrumental on a statewide level in establishing the Georgia State Golf Association and his great-grandson and namesake will be playing in the tournament this weekend.

Brown said Oliver has pledged to make a donation to a local charity for every birdie in the tournament.

Players will either compete in the Championship, which runs today through Sunday, or the Stableford flight, which is Saturday and Sunday.

Prizes include $750 for first, $500 for second and $400 for third place. The winner of the Championship Flight will have their name engraved on the Frank Eldridge Trophy.

Brown said the number of players over the years had started to dwindle a bit, but the last several years has seen a resurgence in interest in the tournament.

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