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Hometown Support

College Central presented by PINGLast weekend I made the journey to Statesboro, Ga., for the Chris Schenkel E-Z-GO Invitational. It has one of the stronger fields the men see during the course of the spring season.
But it was different expectations that peaked my interest on the way to Georgia Southern University. When talking with the host head coach, Larry Mays, about my impending visit to his tournament, he was thrilled to know The Golf Channel would be there, and that we would see some great golf and terrific galleries. Now I have been to dozens of different college events, and if there is one thing which leaves me scratching my head more often than not, it is the lack of support I see from the local community.
Dont get me wrong, there are some ardent supporters of the college game, but it usually comes from family and friends of the competing teams and players. This was not the case for this southern town.
I was in Statesboro both Saturday and Sunday for all 54 holes of action, and I would venture to say I saw the true spirit of what this remote Georgia dwelling has to offer. There were sororities volunteering their time to help with scoring and show the real meaning of southern hospitality for each and every player who teed it up. These young ladies were respectful of the game, and truly added an ambience on the course. This was most evident on Sunday morning at 8 a.m., as both sides of the first tee were lined with coeds dawning their Greek letters on their shirts and applauding as every group began their final round.
As I ventured around the course and took care of what I needed for Wednesday nights show, it was hard not to notice the locals enjoying the future of the game on their home track, Forest Heights Country Club. The Georgia Southern program has not been up to their standards which were set in years past, but it didnt seem to bother the spectators on hand. Whether it was their beloved university or any of the other 14 teams participating, I got the sense of a genuine love for the game.
There were families young and old soaking in the rays from the sun, as they meandered around the course. It was as if there was not a care in the world, and that this event was the only thing going on. Nothing could have been farther from the truth with the current state of affairs in Iraq. But it was the serene mood at Forest Heights which made me forget, for at least a few minutes, about the situation our country currently faces.
From start to finish, the locals were out in full force. Nothing exemplified the true pleasure of this small town than the encounter I had as this event was winding down. I was approached by a man, most likely in his 80s, who started talking to me like we were buddies for years. He was greatly appreciative of our program, and couldnt wait to see the coverage of the Schenkel on College Central presented by PING.
For some reason his comments really hit home. It didnt sink in why they meant so much to me until I had nearly returned home to Florida. This was no faade put on by this gentleman, or any of those in attendance on the weekend. Plain and simple it was just their way of showing some hometown support..