Imagine a lonely, battered outpost in an urban wilderness, sharing its surrounds with razor wire, graffiti scrawls and gunshot sounds echoing day and night. This is what historic East Lake Golf Club looked like.
To be sure, the skeletal version of our story is a familiar one, that of modern day golfs top restoration artist, architect Rees Jones, restoring what a tired but virtue-laden course. The meat of our story, however, has nothing to do with bunkers, greens or doglegs. East Lake is more a story of survival, of resurrection, of hope.
By 1914 Donald Ross had rendered his formidable design skills on East Lake, providing the course golfers know today. The course would nurture the talents of not only Bobby Jones, but a slew of other youngsters who would go on to be champions.
Many thought the 1962 Ryder Cup was the final hurrah for East Lake. By the mid-1960s, as the areas demographics changed, many members had moved to Atlantas fast-growing northwest suburbs. An old guard held East Lake together gamely but inevitably, over the next 25 years, the clubs fortunes dropped. The surrounding neighborhood sunk even lower. Little Vietnam, as it was known, was 650 federally subsidized, low-income units crammed into 50 acres. Violence and drug dealing were the norm.
Enter Tom Cousins. A prosperous Atlanta real estate developer, Cousins had played East Lake as a kid in the 1940s, and the feeling of reverence he acquired for Bobby Jones and the club in that time never left him. In the late 1980s, Cousins began a charitable foundation, which dispensed dollars to the usual causes, but down deep he really wanted to see his money make a difference. When East Lake became available, Cousins hatched an idea.
First, he got the neighborhood involved with the club itself. East Lake would be a walking club, with caddies, most of whom would be recruited from the surrounding neighborhoods. Second, East Lake established a junior golf academy.
Finally, Cousins proposed an ambitious plan, involving HUD, the Atlanta Housing Authority, the newly created East Lake Community Foundation and the East Lake Meadows Residents Association. It would call for razing the existing 650 units, temporarily (or permanently) displacing residents. In its stead, the foundation would construct 500 high-quality mixed-income townhouses and garden apartments (50 percent public housing/50 percent market rate units) to be built and managed by private developers; construction of the new par-64 Charlie Yates Golf Course and practice facility, designed for free by Rees Jones; construction of a new family YMCA and an Educational Village with a new elementary school. Happily ' incredibly ' the wheels are well in motion for all of this to happen.
Amid all the progress, its easy to forget that East Lake is now possessed of a marvelous, classic course as well. If there is any design quirk, it is that each of the par 5s, Nos. 5, 9, 10 and 15, plays in the same direction, with the prevailing west wind.
The most talked about hole on the front nine is the 168-yard 6th, which plays from an elevated tee to a diagonally angled peninsula green stuck out in the lake. East Lakes back nine boasts one superior hole after another, but the finish is unforgettable, beginning with the uphill, yet very reachable 495-yard 15th, followed by the best hole on the course, the 481-yard, par-4 16th. The 18th is an unusual but terrific closer, an uphill, into-the-wind 235-yard par 3.
Despite all the names that have shaped East Lake, it is Jones whose name is inexorably tied to East Lake. Bob, as he was known to friends, may have had deep associations with Augusta National, Peachtree and St. Andrews, among others. But East Lake was home and his favorite place of all.
by Joseph Mark Passov, LINKS Magazine
Golf Course Profile East Lake Golf Club
Newsmaker of the Year: No. 1, Justin Thomas
He won a major, captured the FedExCup and was named the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year. It should come as no surprise that Justin Thomas holds the top spot on our Newsmakers list for 2017.
Thomas entered the year ranked outside the top 20, and few might have pegged him for a transcendent campaign. But he kicked off January with a win in Hawaii, added another before leaving the Aloha State and never looked back.
Thomas’ seminal moment came in August when he captured the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow for his breakthrough major title. One month after greeting Jordan Spieth behind the final green at Royal Birkdale, this time it was Thomas’ turn to have friends stick around to snap pictures with the trophy that signaled his arrival among golf’s upper echelon.
In addition to racking up the hardware – five in total, including the inaugural CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in his first start of the new wraparound season – Thomas dazzled with style. His runaway win at the Sony Open included an opening-round 59, and his third-round 63 at Erin Hills marked the first time anyone had ever shot 9 under on a U.S. Open venue.
Thomas’ consistency was rewarded at East Lake, when a runner-up finish at the Tour Championship netted him the season-long title and $10 million prize. It was in the subsequent press conference where he shared the goals list he had written into his cell phone in February, having ticked off nearly every one. It showed a dedicated attention to detail as well the tactical approach with which Thomas had steered his rapid ascent.
Heading into a new year, he’s now very clearly entrenched as one of the world’s best. And as his career progresses, it’s likely we’ll look back at 2017 as the point where Thomas first transformed great potential into eye-popping results.
Win No. 1: Title defense at the CIMB Classic
Win Nos. 2 and 3: The Hawaiian double
Record Round No. 1: 59 at the Sony Open
Record Round No. 2: 63 at the U.S. Open
Temporary Slide: Open MC makes it three in a row
Mr. Major (and win No. 4): PGA champ at Quail Hollow
Win No. 5: Dell Technologies Championship
The $10 Million Man: FedExCup champ
Biggest Win of All? Player of the Year
And One to Grow On: Wins at CJ Cup in 2017-18 season
Photo Galleries: Best of ...
Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017
GolfChannel.com counted down the top 10 Newsmakers of the Year as voted on by Golf Channel’s writers, editors, reporters and producers. Check out the list below. And click here for the full collection of articles.
Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge
ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.
The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.
They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.
Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.
Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.
Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.
''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''
The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.
In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''
Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.
Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia
Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.
Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.
Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.
Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.
It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.
The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.