The Valdosta Daily Times
Players teed off at Stone Creek Golf Club for the American Cancer Society in the 40th Annual Lowndes/Echols ACS Golf Championship on Wednesday afternoon.
The three-day event, in which all proceeds are donated to cancer research, began as the Walter Hagan tournament in 1974 until former Lowndes sheriff Ashley Paulk took over in 1981.
“A good friend of mine named Melvin Player- he did the tournament from ‘74-’81.” Paulk said. “Melvin said he was real busy, he was a banker, and he asked me to take it for a year or two.”
Thirty-three years later, Paulk is still helping raise around $40,000 each year, a total of almost $1.5 million in the history of the tournament.
The event is broken into a 4-ball tournament with four man teams. Each player plays 18 holes on one of the three days of the tournament (picked by the player).
This year, there are between 45-50 teams in the field, all players there to aid in the fight against cancer.
“You don’t find a family that hasn’t been touched by cancer,” said Paulk. “You get tremendous support. We get families that say ‘let me give you a donation and find a team to play in my name.’ We have Eagle sponsors that are over $1,000 each in donations and we have seven or eight of those.”
Under Paulk’s care, the ACS Golf Tournament has become one of the largest cancer event’s in the state.
“Ashley Paulk has been instrumental,” said Ashley Braswell, American Cancer Society representative. “He’s been with this tournament for 30 plus years and that man alone has been a pivotal part in raising millions of dollars for this organization. There is a lot of heart in this tournament and in the community certainly too, but Ashley is certainly the father of this tournament.”
While Paulk is the father of the tournament, it sounds as if he is ready to start delegating some of the responsibilities.
“J.D. Yeager, who used to work with me at the sheriff’s office, is now with Joyner Reality and they’ve taken a big load off of me this year,” said Paulk. “I’m easing them into the job.”
The field will be broken into three flights; the first flight will consist of players with a seven handicap or lower. Players in the second flight cannot have a handicap over 14, and the third flight is for the remaining players.
Teams will be assigned flights by the highest handicap of the foursome.
Players will tee off at 1 p.m. on each day of the tournament at Stone Creek, who has provided a home for the ACS Golf Championship.
“You couldn’t ask for nicer people,” said Paulk. "They essentially give us their golf course. You couldn’t be more gracious.”
The American Cancer Society provides plenty of opportunities for donating, such as the annual Relay for Life event.
Cancer Prevention Study 3, or CPS3, is another opportunity and allows individuals to donate their time by enrolling in the study or helping find enrollees.
For more information, contact Ashley Braswell at (229) 834-0709.