The Valdosta Daily Times
Frank Eldridge has been playing golf so long that he has spent nearly his whole life with a club in his hand. And since he can remember, Eldridge has been winning tournaments and awards.
Now, after playing the game for over 60 years, Eldridge will be inducted into the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame in January. The 2014 Hall of Fame Class, which includes three others, was announced earlier this year.
“I don’t know how to describe (the honor),” said Eldridge, whose lowest round came in Montgomery, Ala. when he fired a 63 as an 18-year-old. “I just can’t describe the feeling.”
A member of the Valdosta Country Club, Eldridge’s list of honors and awards is unmatched. Some of his gaudy and impressive accomplishments include: 7-time champion of the Jack Oliver Invitational, including five straight (1960-65), two-time Valdosta Open Champion, three-time state champion at Valdosta High School, two-time Southeastern Conference Champion with the University of Georgia, six-time member of the Georgia State Golf Association Challenge Cup Team, and champion of several local amateur and semi-professional tournaments from throughout south Georgia.
And he has five career hole-in-ones.
“(Frank) grew up in a generation where there were so many legends coming out of Valdosta, where they all sort of pushed each other,” Valdosta Country Club golf professional Cary Brown said. “It is unmeasurable really. He is a one-of-a-kind. He played in a different era when winning like that meant more....It is well deserved.”
Oh yeah, Eldridge has also played rounds of golf with legendary Hall of Fame golfers Arnold Palmer (at the Valdosta Country Club in 1962) and Jack Nicklaus, who holds the all-time record with 18 major championships.
“I played with Nicklaus, and he beat me by a stroke to qualify (for a tournament),” Eldridge, the Valdosta High Class of 1955 graduate, remembered. “I’ve played with quite a few pro’s: Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Dean Beaman.”
While Eldridge doesn’t play golf that much anymore — he admitted he hasn’t played in six months — the 75-year-old still watches a lot of golf and is still a big fan of the game.
“He inspires people to reach their goals and some of the things he has done will never be done again,” Brown said.
“For that to happen in a sort of small town community is a real big deal....He is always willing to share some stories and talk about the past and that gets people fired up. I mean, playing golf out here with Arnold Palmer, coming in second to Jack Nicklaus in the JC, those are some pretty big names, and he was part of that.
“To accomplish those things with those people in the same arena, it is a pretty big deal.”
Now, as the game of golf has evolved over the last 60 years, Eldridge admits that the players are better today, largely because of improved equipment.
“It is nothing like it was 50 years ago,” Eldridge said. “I don’t play anymore, but I like the competition....You have the modern equipment compared to what we played with. (Golf) is just advanced.”
The Valdosta Country Club will hold a gala for Eldridge on July 20. For more information, contact the Club at 229-241-2000 or by visiting www.valdostacc.com.