Augusta Municipal golf course’s rich history still survives

AUGUSTA, GA (WFXG) –
Another 300 yard drive into the back of the range, Andre Lacy is a chip off the old block.

“He was a long hitter, he was a long hitter, and lots of times people would just watch him hit the ball and he could hit it, he could hit it,” said Lacy.

Lacy learned the game of golf from his grandfather, former PGA pro Jim Dent, one of the few African-American golfers on tour in 80’s. He was known for hitting the ball deep and he got his start right here at the Augusta Municipal golf course.

“I’ve seen him out here more than I would on TV,” said Lacy.

Just a few years ago, this course, the one that first allowed black players in Augusta, was ready to close down. A move that would effectively have erased history for black golf pioneers like Jim Dent.

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Conditions continue to improve at Augusta Municipal Golf Course

Flipping through a red photo album, John Fogel’s chuckle grew louder each time he turned a page.Golf Course Management Inside the book were before-and-after photos of the greens at Augusta Municipal Golf Course, starting in early-2014 and going through the present.

Golfers make putts on the practice green at the Augusta Municipal Golf Course. The course has 82 members.

“You can’t help but laugh a little about how far this place has come since 2014,” said Fogel, president of Cypress Golf Management, which was put in charge of improving the course on July 1, 2014. “It’s remarkable. The Augusta community has really embraced what we’ve done and it’s amazing to see how proud people have become of this course. Many people have golfed here for years, and hearing their compliments is what makes everything worthwhile.”

There are 82 current members at Augusta Municipal, an increase from 35 in March of 2014. This time last year there were 63.

The membership, however, remains well below the 180 mark in 2011.

“We’ve kind of hit a standstill with our membership, but we’re hoping it will increase a lot during summer months,” said Ira Miller, general manager of Augusta Municipal. “All we ask is that people play one round and we’re confident they’ll be very pleased with course conditions.”

Jonathan Carpenter has been a member at Augusta Municipal for more than a decade and says this is the best he’s ever seen the course.

“I’ve stuck it out through the good and bad,” Carpenter said. “I can say for certain this is the best this place has ever looked. The greens are in unbelievable shape and I couldn’t be more proud of what the management has done here.”

When Cypress took over daily operations in 2014, its improvement strategy was to start from the greens and work toward each tee box. Since then, each of the 18 greens has been upgraded, and as Fogel says, “If you hit a quality shot, the greens will hold it.”

“I had a customer come up to me last week saying we have the best greens in the Augusta area,” Fogel said. “Can you believe that? Look, I know there are nicer courses around Augusta, but it still feels incredible to hear our name mentioned in the conversation.”

Management at Augusta Municipal, popularly known as The Patch, focused on improving the fairways last summer and is about to embark on refining tee boxes.

“It’s been a long process, but also a very rewarding one,” Miller said. “People have definitely noticed how far we’ve come.”

Before Cypress was hired, the course had operated at a significant loss over the past few years. Commissioners outsourced it in 2012 to a Scottish businessman who abandoned the lease after a few months and left employees unpaid, according to Augusta Chronicle archives.

Twice after that, negotiations fell through with a pair of management companies.

The city pays Cypress a monthly management fee of $3,000 until the course becomes profitable. Then the fee will increase to $5,000, with 70 percent of profits going to the city.

“The support we’ve received from the city has been tremendous,” Fogel said. “They’ve made all these improvements possible.”

Augusta Municipal will be open for play during Masters Week and still has tee times available. During Masters Week, local residents can play the course for $35, while out-of-town guests will be charged $50.

Source: www.chronicle.augusta.com

Woods, Mickelson already team leaders

According to 2016 U.S. Ryder Cup captainDavis Love III, any questions over the leadership capabilities of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelsonare out of bounds.

Love came to the defense of both players Wednesday on “Morning Drive,” praising Mickelson’s leadership last week at the Presidents Cup and confirming a report that Woods contacted him during the event about a potential assistant captaincy should he not make the Ryder Cup team next year.

“Tiger was really interested in the pairings and what was going on,” Love said. “Because of what we did at the task force, because of him being on the Ryder Cup committee, because of him being such a great advisor to me since I was announced (as captain) back in March, he’s like, ‘What are you guys doing over there? Why are you putting this guy with that guy?’

So he was talking to me, talking to Fred (Couples), talking to (Steve) Stricker about what was going on at the Presidents Cup. That led to conversations about what we are going to do at Hazeltine.”

Mickelson was a controversial addition to the team by captain Jay Haas, but he more than validated his selection by going 3-0-1 in South Korea. Last week, Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee questioned whether Woods or Mickelson should receive future captaincies based on their perceived passion for both the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup during their playing careers, saying that neither “deserves” to be a captain.

According to Love, both players have already earned the respect of the team room and would be well-suited for captaincies at some point.

“If you’ve been paying attention to the last few Ryder Cups or Presidents Cups, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods have become respected leaders of this team,” Love said. “Whether you’re playing in Korea or Medinah, these guys have stepped up to the plate and been leaders. So now the players respect them, they look to them for leadership and they’re expecting that in the future.”

It was a sentiment echoed by Haas, who spoke just days removed from leading the U.S. to a dramatic Presidents Cup victory.

“From what I’ve seen, they certainly have the passion,” Haas said on “Morning Drive” on Wednesday. “I couldn’t disagree more, not necessarily with Brandel, but with anyone that says Phil and Tiger don’t like these team events.”

Love also refuted the notion that their relatively mediocre individual records in the team events should preclude them from someday taking the helm.

“Ryder Cup record really doesn’t have anything to do with being a leader, because Paul Azingerand Ben Crenshaw both had losing Ryder Cup records but they were great leaders as Ryder Cup captains,” Love said. “Being a leader and winning matches don’t always go together.”

“There’s world-class golfers at these events, both Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup,” added Haas. “In an 18-hole match, it’s a short series so to speak. It doesn’t take much. A guy gets 1- or 2-down, and he’s fighting an uphill battle … It’s not just a tap-in that these guys are going to go 5-0 every time.”

Despite Woods facing another road to recovery after a second back surgery, Love expects to have the 14-time major champ helping the U.S. cause at Hazeltine next year – in one form or another.

“I’ll tell you this. Tiger Woods wants to play for me at Hazeltine,” Love said. “He wants to be on the U.S. team. He wants to win points, and that’s his main focus. But he also said, as did Phil, Strick, Jim (Furyk), Tom Lehman, ‘We will do whatever it takes to help you win.'”

Source: The Golf Channel