Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Golf Excitement in Macon?
J. Andrew Lockwood
Perhaps it was the return of Macon-native Russell Henley in search for a second consecutive Brickyard Collegiate title. Or perhaps it was the nationally ranked field that teed off at the Brickyard at Riverside that brought the crowds to the fairways. Heck, the fact that the Mercer men’s golf team was hosting the event for the 4th year in a row probably brought out the weekend hackers.
Needless to say, walking the course on Sunday afternoon was special.
Following Russell Henley (Georgia), Brooks Koepka (Florida State), and James White (Georgia Tech) gave the tournament the feel of a small PGA event. The course was immaculate, the crowds were respectfully inebriated with the action, and hosts could not have done a better job putting on the event.
In fact, I was surprised more people weren’t there.
Henley won the championship, again, this time by four strokes over runner-up Carter Newman. Perhaps the golf world’s best young talent showed the crowds another reason why he’s destined to be a PGA-tour mainstay someday. Almost every shot was on line and he had almost complete command over the ball during the tournament.
But the tournament wasn’t just about Henley, or the University of Georgia winning the team championship, or the other notable golfers making the trip to the tournament, but instead this weekend was also about Macon’s (and Mercer’s) ability to host a world-class tournament.
The tournament drew news reports from the New York Daily News to the Macon Telegraph and many papers in between. Golf websites covered it with in-depth reports, including a dedicated front page story on GolfWeek.com. It was a big deal in the golf world, a big time collegiate tournament that seemingly went off without a hitch.
I was surprised by what I saw. As a relatively new and inexperienced golf fan, watching the crowds travel up the course with the pairings was something special. Watching the way that the older fans would discuss each and every shot while the youngsters hung on every word of the players was something of legendary status.
Mercer finished 13th. Augusta State, the defending national champions, finished 2nd. Georgia won and the other major schools doted the top-10 of the 15 team field. More importantly though, the city of Macon won on this one…by many strokes.
For a mid-major city in the south without football or ties to any professional or semi-professional sports franchises (no, the Macon Pinetoppers don’t count), the tournament is a coup. The way in which the tournament was advertised, their website (www.brickyardcollegiate.org), and the way in which it was hosted was nothing short of top-notch. And for as many spectators that did attend, I’d venture to say that attendance will spike by at least 50% in the years to come.
It’s a promising sign in a struggling economy when a city and school of Macon and Mercer’s small stature can pull something like this off. It may not get the television coverage that the A-Sun Basketball Championship does in March, but it very well could put Macon on the map for many years to come.
Hats off to Coach Andrew Tredway, his team, the Brickyard at Riverside management, and Mercer for putting this on. Well done.