Golf News: 30th Anniversary of the South Golf Links (Part 2)
Photo Credit: Tony Edwards photos— Except for the oldies ;)
Part Two: The Course and Its Characters
Hi. Let me introduce myself: I am Sound Golf Links (just call me SGL) and I am turning 30 years of age this year. Last month, Tony did a fine job telling you how I came to be and a little bit about those responsible for my birth. Now it is time for me to tell you a bit about some of the characters and events that have given me the colorful life I have led until now.
There’s no better place to start than with Dennis “Big Eye” Hunter. Why “Big Eye”? Well, he worked on me during my construction and with a team of eight or so, formed the bunkers, tee boxes, and greens you can see today. He said he was very proud to work on the course for the excellent Dan Maples design and construction team. Names like Ronald Skinner and Rodney Hodges come to mind. “Big Eye” tells of the ever-present snakes that hid in the pine straw all around my rough as they were building me. He said, “There were so many roots to be cleared before the greens could be built…. Man it was hard work!”
I think it was all worth it, don’t you? “Big Eye” loved to play me in those early days, particularly when celebrities would come in for a fundraiser event. You can see him with Samuel L Jackson in this photo taken in the mid-90s, I think. Wow, those were good times!
It was during this time that Ellsworth Franklin came on as my golf professional. He and his wife Jo were kind and loving folks, and Ellsworth would provide guidance and solace to those residents who misguidedly thought they would play golf on me just for enjoyment. Ha! As Ellsworth well knew, Mr. Dan had designed me to challenge and frustrate the very best.
After Ellsworth passed away in 2017 the club set a memorial stone under the big oak tree beside my 1st tee where he would sit and offer one simple phrase of encouragement to all who were about to start their round: “Put a good pass on it, Bubba.”
Well, the Dan Maples organization owned me for the first ten years. Then, in 2001, “Woody” Perry and HPB Enterprises took over. That’s when I got to know Mike Horton, who was promoted to course superintendent at about that time. He was a young pup of about 24 but was dedicated to keeping me looking my best. We had a great relationship, and he has some stories to tell!
Mike Horton served as superintendent from 2000 to 2017. He saw and dealt with it all. He remembers Andy Morgan, the eyes and ears for “Woody” and Mike’s hard-working assistants, John Mebane and Brett Damron. And he remembers Isabel. Yes, THAT Isabel!
Mike Horton: “After that storm (Hurricane Isabel hit us in 2003) we had over 1,000 trees on the ground. Trees on houses. Trees through houses. Bridges missing. Marina damaged. ‘Woody’ provided the resources to get us back up and running quickly. I even had to break into the Clubhouse to get the staff some water and food….”
Mike also remembers when my white tee boxes were very small and there were no gold ones and only few red. “The driving range was a third of the size it is now, and the white tees were tiny. We recycled the soil Andy was moving to enlarge many of those tee boxes and then later we built the golds.”
Ardie Eaton, one of the earliest residents and a fine player, remembers, “Back then, there was no women’s tee on Hole 13. I was an OK player, but try as I might, I could not clear the marsh from the only tee box we had—the white one. So, I let them know they needed to build one closer. And they did.” Ladies and gents, you can thank Ardie when you see her!
And Mike can’t ever forget seeing golf carts and course equipment in my marshes and ponds, seeing a bathroom on fire, and one time having a large phallic symbol mischievously dropped in the back of his maintenance cart before making his rounds one day and only finding it after stopping off at the Pro Shop! So, all the fun I witnessed was not confined to just playing golf!
Life at Albemarle is unforgettable. Think about beginning your new adventure.
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