Monthly Archives: March 2016

Roasted Red Pepper Dip

Appetizers and Snacks

Photography by Todd Stone
Recipe by Lara Lyn Carter

  • 1 (8-ounce) block of cream cheese
  • 1 cup Wicker & Whisk Homegrown Herb Dressing
  • 1/2 cup chopped roasted red peppers
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Mix cream cheese and dressing together with a mixer until smooth. Gently stir in peppers and black pepper. Serve with toast points, crackers or an assortment of fresh vegetables.

Zesty Asparagus

Side Dishes
  • 1 pound tender fresh asparagus

    Photography by Todd Stone
    Recipe by Lara Lyn Carter

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Wash and dry asparagus. Cut off bottom 1/2-inch of stems to remove tough parts. In a large bowl, whisk remaining ingredients together. Add asparagus to bowl with the other ingredients and toss them well to coat with the mixture. Spread asparagus on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes.


Pimento Cheese Grits

Side Dishes
  • Recipe by Lara Lyn Carter Photography by Todd Stone

    Photography by Todd Stone
    Recipe by Lara Lyn Carter

    1 cup course ground grits (I use Gayla’s Grits from Shaw Farms)
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 4 ounces mascarpone
  • 4 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 4 ounces mild Cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup diced roasted red peppers

In a large pot bring grits, broth and butter to a boil. Boil for one minute, reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally and adding water if needed. Turn heat to simmer, and stir in cheeses and peppers. Once cheeses are melted, remove grits from heat and serve.

Cornbread Salad

  • 5 cups cornbread, cooked and cubed
    Cornbread Salad

    Photography by Todd Stone
    Recipe by Lara Lyn Carter

  • 3 cups diced fresh tomatoes
  • 1 cup Vidalia onion or sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped green and yellow bell pepper
  • 12 slices of bacon, cooked crisply and crumbled
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  •  1/2 cup sweet pickle relish with juice

Layer cornbread, tomato, onion, peppers, bacon and cheese in a bowl. Mix mayonnaise, milk and pickle relish together and pour over top. Toss together just before serving. Serve at room temperature or chilled. This family favorite makes a beautiful presentation when layered in a glass bowl. 

Sweet and Savory Quail

  • Quail

    Photography by Todd Stone
    Recipe by Lara Lyn Carter

    4 Earl Grey tea bags
  • 12 ounces water
  • 1/2 cup Key West lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 8 quail breasts (I use Manchester Farms Quail)
  • 1 cup orange marmalade
  • 1 cup Wicker & Whisk Port Wine Mustard

Brew tea in the water and allow it to cool completely. Add lemon juice to tea. Arrange quail in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Pour chilled tea mixture over quail breasts and marinate them overnight in refrigerator.

To make the sauce, mix marmalade and mustard together. Cover mixture and store in refrigerator until ready to use.

Remove quail breasts from marinade and pat them dry. Sprinkle quail evenly with salt and pepper. Grill quail over medium-hot coals about 8 minutes per side. Arrange quail on a platter and serve with mustard sauce.

Bacon Brittle

  • Bacon-Brittle

    Photography by Todd Stone
    Recipe by Lara Lyn Carter

    1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 1/2 cups crisp cooked bacon, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon coarse black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

Mix sugar and syrup in a quart-size microwavable bowl. Microwave sugar and syrup mixture on high for 4 minutes. Add bacon to mixture, stir and microwave for 3 additional minutes. Add butter, vanilla and pepper; stir well. Microwave on high for 2 minutes. Add baking soda and stir until foamy. Pour onto heavily greased cookie sheet and allow it to spread on its own. DO NOT SPREAD IT! Let brittle sit out and completely cool, then break it into pieces. Store in airtight containers. Note: Microwave wattages vary. You may need to adjust cooking times.

Bourbon Chocolate Bread Pudding

  • Chocolate Pudding

    Photography by Todd Stone
    Recipe by Lara Lyn Carter

    6 regular-size croissants
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 6 ounces chocolate chips
  • 4 eggs beaten
  • 1/4 cup cocoa
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons, of 13th Colony Southern Bourbon – 95 proof
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • Whipped cream for topping (optional)

Tear croissants into bite size pieces and place them in a large bowl. Heat cream and butter over low heat. Once butter has melted into cream, the chocolate chips can be stirred in the mixture. Continue to stir until they are melted. Remove pan from heat and allow chocolate mixture to cool slightly. Whisk eggs in a medium bowl. Stir the cocoa, sugar, salt and bourbon into eggs. Add chocolate mixture to egg mixture slowly so as not to scramble the eggs. Pour mixture over croissants and stir in pecans. Be sure to mix all ingredients well. Pour pudding into six large ramekins that have been greased well with butter. Cover ramekins and place them in refrigerator for 8 hours. Uncover ramekins and bake puddings at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes. If desired, serve with fresh whipped cream.

Paddle Extra-“oar”-dinaire

A & E
BENDERDINKER Paddle Extra-“oar”-dinaire

Photography by Addie Strozier

It’s a paddle, a concert and a festival all in one. It’s the fifth annual Benderdinker.

Benderdinker is no “oar”-dinary event. The winning combination of a leisurely paddle on the Savannah River, plus good music, good food and a fun-filled festival, add up to a great time for all.

Faithful ’Dinkers are familiar with the itinerary.  For the uninitiated, the playlist goes something (well, actually a lot) like this – (a) enjoy a leisurely six-mile paddle on the Savannah River; (b) listen to awesome musicians play on pontoon boats and sample foods from local growers at stops along the route; (c) stick around for more music, food and lawn games at the post-paddle Riverfest.

“Benderdinker grows every year,” says Kristina Williams, who founded the event. “I just want people to have fun, get outdoors, enjoy each other’s company and enjoy the river.”

Paddlers can sample locally sourced food such as “branch mix” with Georgia peanuts, local pecans and Georgia blueberries; BBQ nacho shots and boiled or roasted peanuts. Water and sweet tea will be available as well.

For paddlers’ listening pleasure, country musicians Daniel Johnson, Me and Molly, Nick Brown and Jason White will pull double duty on water and on land. The Mason Jars, who have performed at Benderdinker in the past, will play at the festival only.

“We always have good musicians, but this year we have several Nashville recording artists,” Williams says.

Riverfest lawn games will include corn hole, giant tic tac toe, ladder ball, mini disc golf and bocce ball. If teamwork is more to your liking, then you can join a pickup sand volleyball game. Outdoor sports vendors will offer demos of their wares. Twisted Burrito will provide food at the festival, and thirsty festivalgoers – well, those who are at least 21 – can cool off with craft beer.

Proceeds from the event benefit Augusta Locally Grown and Benderdigger. Augusta Locally Grown gives residents the opportunity to purchase locally grown food at area farmers markets and from its online market. Benderdigger is a youth foodie program that teaches children how to grow, find, harvest and prepare healthy food.

Registration for the paddle is available online through Monday, April 25. Paddlers that prefer to do things the old-fashioned way (and avoid extra fees), can register in person at Escape Outdoors. Check-in will be held 5:30-7 p.m. Friday, April 29 and 8-10 a.m. Saturday, April 30.

If You  Go:

What: Benderdinker 

When: Saturday, April 30; paddle launches 10-11:30 a.m.; Riverfest noon-5 p.m.

Where: Riverside Park at Betty’s Branch, Evans

How Much: $35 per vessel in advance; $40 per vessel day of event. Cost to rent a kayak or canoe is not included. Food, beer and other beverages will be available for purchase at the festival.

More Info:


Jason Osborn


Jason OsbornGreenbrier High School Health and Physical Education Teacher, Head Baseball Coach and Asst. Softball Coach 

Number of years in position: 3 years 

Family: Wife Aprile Osborn, daughter Julia, 12, and son Baird, 9

Why I’m Passionate About What I Do: I have been coaching now for 19 years. I am passionate about coaching because I love teaching the game to young athletes and watching them grow and enjoy success.

Biggest Career or Life Obstacle I’ve Overcome and How: The biggest career obstacle is the transition to being a high school coach in 2003. I was a new dad by a few days with our daughter, and I had no idea about the demands and time commitment that coaching high school placed on your life.

Accomplishment I’m Most Proud Of: Watching the guys dogpile after winning the 2015 AAAAA Baseball State Championship and watching the girls dogpile after winning the 2014 AAAAA Softball State Championship

Favorite Way to Spend Saturday Afternoon: Watching college football during the season 

Favorite TV Show: “The Walking Dead” 

Favorite Movies: For Love of the Game, Remember the Titans and Gladiator

Favorite Sports Teams: Georgia Bulldogs and the Atlanta Braves

Favorite Comfort Food: Pizza

Favorite App: Probably Twitter 

Last Book Read: The Energy Bus by Jon Gordon

Dream Vacation: A week at a resort in Jamaica with my wife and kids. I would love to get away and just spend time with the family. My wife and I went to Jamaica on our honeymoon, and we have always wanted to go back.

Something That Has Changed My Life: Personally, it would be the birth of our two children. That was by far the best two days of my life watching our children be born. Professionally, being able to work under a great man and great coach, Terry Holder. I owe so much to Coach Holder for taking a chance on me when he hired me to be his assistant coach.

Favorite Hobbies: While baseball and softball take up most of time, my favorite hobby is spending time with my wife and kids.

Secret Aspiration: To win the lottery so money is never an object. I would probably spend a lot of money at the baseball field.

Reality Show I Would Totally Win: Definitely not “The Voice.” I am not sure I could win any of the reality shows I see on TV now.

Something People Would Be Surprised to Know About Me: I like to visit antique shops, and I love DIY projects and DIY shows on TV. 

What person do you think we should know? If you’d like to suggest someone we should meet, email and tell us why.

Port Wine Mustard Fondue

  • 2 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese

    Photography by Todd Stone
    Recipe by Lara Lyn Carter

  • 1/3 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup brown ale (I use Newcastle)
  • 4 tablespoons Wicker & Whisk Port Wine Mustard 

In a large bowl toss cheese and flour together. Heat fondue pot to manufacturer directions for cheese fondue. Pour beer into fondue pot and allow it to heat before adding cheeses. Whisk cheeses and mustard in with the beer until all of the cheese is melted and the fondue is heated thoroughly. Serve with assorted breads, apple slices and vegetables.


Family Promise of Augusta


Family Promise of AugustaSometimes people who have fallen on hard times need a helping hand, and Family Promise of Augusta, formerly known as Interfaith Hospitality Network, helps homeless families get back on their feet. The nonprofit organization works with 23 local churches to house homeless families for a week at the time four times a year.

“It is so humbling to see people of different denominations come together to serve God’s people,” says Executive Director Latoya Hardman. “We want to be the hands and feet of Christ. Our program could not have an 88 percent success rate without the help of our churches and volunteers. We are beyond grateful to have such loving, caring, passionate and compassionate individuals who support our organization. 

The program can accommodate three families, or up to 14 people, at a time, and families can stay in the program up to 90 days. Churches use their Sunday school rooms or divide a common space to set up bedrooms.

“We provide a family atmosphere. The first thing I say to them when they get off the bus is ‘Welcome to your home,’” says Penny Hodges, who coordinates the program at Wesley United Methodist Church. 

Family Promise also is recruiting more churches to start a second network so it can help six families at a time.

In addition to providing temporary housing, the organization helps people in the program with job searches, transportation, day care and personal services such as medical and dental care. Family Promise also offers life skills instruction on topics including parenting, budgeting and resume writing.

Family Promise offers transitional housing to program participants once they find employment. They can stay in the transitional home rent-free for up to two years, but they are responsible for all other expenses. In addition, they must save 30 percent of their income and look for permanent housing. 

The organization also needs volunteer “angels” to perform administrative duties, schedule job interviews, move furniture, or drive people to and from appointments during the day. 

For more information, visit

Magic Touch

A & E

Magic Touch ADAM TRENTAn award-winning magician offers no illusions — wait, yes he does — about his entertaining style

Self-taught performer Adam Trent is not your stereotypical magician.

“I’ve always thought that magic should be entertaining first and tricky second. I don’t want people to remember just the ‘tricks,’ but also the laughs and the memories that were made,” he says.

His shows are part magic, part concert and part stand-up comedy, and he will appear in Evans on Saturday, April 16. The 17-year veteran of magic and stage performance blends dancing and singing to his original pop music with innovative stage illusions, wit and emotion. In the past year, he has performed more than 300 live shows in 19 countries at venues including cruise ships, colleges, comedy clubs, theaters and civic centers. He also has appeared on the Disney Channel in a feature performance. 

Trent is one of the youngest international award-winning magicians in history, and U.S. News & World Report named him one of “The 10 Most Influential Youths in the Nation.” 

Tickets can be purchased online at or by calling (706) 726-0366.

If You Go: 

What: The Futurist, Adam Trent 

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 16 

Where: Jabez S. Hardin Performing Arts Center

How Much: $40

More Info:

Detailed by Design

In The Home


Home kitchen

Photography by Haley Lamb

A Riverwood Plantation couple enjoys the planning and design process of building a home as much as they enjoy the end results 

Interior designer Brittany Wallace might spend most of her time in sweats or yoga pants, but there’s nothing she enjoys more than dressing up a home. In fact, the guiding principle of her business is “making the world a prettier place, one room at a time.” And that philosophy begins at home.

Brittany and her husband, Chad, moved into their Riverwood Plantation home in May of 2015, and they collaborated on the design and décor every step of the way. Something that Chad still can’t quite believe. 

“I used to hunt and fish. Now we go to Atlanta and go to antique stores,” says Chad, who works at TaxSlayer. “I’ve been brainwashed. I never would have thought in a million years that I would care about things in the house, but I guess it just grew on me.”

Breaking the Mold
Funny how marriage can change things. Brittany, however, has construction and design in her blood.

“My dad is a dry wall contractor. He does lots of custom projects. That’s where my love for construction and design started,” she says. “I was the little kid that wanted to go on job sites with my dad.” 

When the Wallaces were building their home, she visited the job site daily to see that every detail was executed according to plan. If a contractor told her, “I’ve never done this that way before,” or “This isn’t the way we usually do it,” well, let’s just say there’s a first time for everything. 

“It’s great to have a vision or idea in your head and see it become reality,” says Brittany. “When it looks like it’s supposed to look, that’s even better.”

HomeHer vision and creativity are on display throughout the house. While the furniture is a mix of contemporary and traditional styles, she has definite ideas when it comes to construction. 

“I like traditional construction as far as details like molding are concerned,” she says. “I am a freak about trim and molding.” 

For instance, all of the doors in the house have plinth block molding at the base, which Brittany says is “an old, traditional detail.”

HomeIn the dining room, the walls feature tall judge’s panels. Brittany originally intended to take the panels up to the ceiling, but she decided to put cove crown molding around the ceiling instead. The walls are dark slate blue-gray with silver detail in the pencil molding.

“I ended up repeating the color in several places,” says Brittany. “All of the interior doors are the slate blue color, but the trim in the house is white.”

The china cabinet is nestled in a recessed area along one wall. “You can have a china cabinet, but it doesn’t intrude on the room,” Brittany says. Arched entries lead into the room, and the dining room table has an inlaid design.

The table in the breakfast room belonged to Brittany’s grandparents. “It was one of the first pieces of furniture they bought when they got married,” she says.

Brittany was at her grandparents’ house when she was looking for furniture for their previous house, and she said, “I need something like this.” Her grandparents gave her the table.

The table is round, but it has two leaves that she put in to fit the space in their new home. She also added the leaves to lengthen the table because she wanted to put a settee on one side.

The built-in wet bar in the breakfast room includes corbels that extend from the bottom of the glass-front cabinets to the countertop. The backsplash features a diamond mosaic pattern with dots that match the color of the wet bar.

“Originally, I thought we would put a piece of furniture there, so I wanted to make the wet bar look like a piece of furniture,” says Brittany. 

Classic and Creative
The stained heart pinewood flooring extends from the breakfast room into the adjoining kitchen, which is full of fun features and design details. The space includes glass-front cabinets, open plate shelving, granite countertops with a brushed finish, a farmhouse sink and a pot filler faucet.

A pewter glaze softens the look of the white perimeter cabinets. “We wanted it to look classic and timeless, but a little different,” Brittany says.

The hardware on the cabinets highlights her creativity as well. The hardware on one of the glass-front cabinets above the sink is shaped like a knife, and a fork-shaped piece of hardware opens the adjoining cabinet door. She reserved a special place for the matching spoon hardware – it’s on a lower cabinet door that shields the trashcan. “I like things that are fun and unexpected,” says Brittany.

The island features a marble countertop and panels with antique mirrors on one end. Brittany gave an aged finished to the pair of lanterns that hang above it. 

Her father built the stovetop hood, which she designed and finished, and the marble backsplash features a herringbone accent. He also helped her build an archway in the kitchen. Although the archway resembles reclaimed brick, it’s actually made of drywall mud, paint and glaze. 

“We wanted a brick archway in the kitchen that looked like the reclaimed brick outside,” says Brittany. “But reclaimed brick is so brittle that it’s hard to cut, so my dad and I made it look like brick.”

In fact, after their brick mason saw it, he thought it was made of real brick. “If you can fool a brick mason, that’s something,” says Chad.

A wine cellar room off of the kitchen originally was supposed to be a pantry and a  garage closet. The space features a root ball light fixture, built-in wine racks, a wine cooler and two walls of cypress wood.

“We had gotten cypress for the porch ceiling, and we had some extra pieces. We wanted wood with knots and holes,” Brittany says. “I did a wash on the cypress to give it an aged look.”

HomeIn another change of plans, they hung a light fixture in the great room instead of a ceiling fan. The orb – which Chad calls a “disco ball” – features vertical strands of turquoise stones with a horizontal row of antiqued mirror pieces around the center.

“Lighting is a huge thing to me. I love it,” says Brittany. “I love the impact it can make in a room. It can make a space feel really different.”

The room also includes exposed ceiling beams, a mirrored entertainment center and a textured finish on the walls. The finish on the ceiling resembles vintage stucco or plaster, and the stone finish on the mantel looks like sandstone or limestone.

“After I planned the color palette and picked out fabrics, I realized I needed a warm color to go with all of the slate blue and gray,” Brittany says.

She chose coral accessories – from blankets to pillows to paintings – to accent the room. A barrel dog bed next to the fireplace offers a stylish spot for one of their three dogs – beagles Hunter, 11, and Stella, 7, or Shih Tzu Lilly Kate, 7 months – to curl up and take a nap. 

The office has a masculine touch with accessories such as skulls on the wall, cowhide on the floor and, in a nod to Chad’s angling hobby, antique fishing lures. The pine walls have a grayish whitewash on them. “The office is a fun mix of rustic and contemporary,” says Brittany.

The master bedroom includes a four-poster bed, demilune end tables, mirrored dressing table and a ceiling fan. “You can’t sleep at night in the South without a ceiling fan,” says Chad.

Instead of bedside lamps, small chandeliers hang from the ceiling on either side of bed. “It frees up your bedside tables for other pretty things,” Brittany says. 

5HOME-Master-Bath-1No Tile Unturned
Tending to each and every detail in her designs, Brittany left no tile unturned in the bath décor. “I had a lot of fun with the bathrooms,” she says.

The master bath includes a freestanding contemporary tub, walk-in shower, double vanity, antique mirrored cabinet doors, marble countertops and marble flooring. 

Although the six-paneled doors that are found throughout the house have lever door handles with an antique silver finish, Brittany added a different touch to the hardware in the master bath. She put crystal knobs on its six-panel doors and cabinet doors. 

The powder room features white marble flooring with a marble basket weave rub and a clear vessel sink. “We originally had a white marble vessel sink, but it covered up the faucet,” says Brittany. 

She wanted a “cool, different medallion” for the ceiling. However, when she couldn’t find anything she wanted, she created one of her own. She removed the glass from a mirror, attached the frame to the ceiling and hung the chandelier from the middle of it. 

Each of the upstairs bedrooms has a walk-in closet and a private bath, and Brittany showcased her creativity and attention to detail with the tile in the bathrooms.

 “Tile in bathrooms is so fun,” she says. “It’s something people forget or neglect.”

The inlaid tile in one shower has a basket weave design. Another bath features rows of vertical tile in the shower that extend to the floor and a matching tile backsplash arranged horizontally above the vanity.

“The more you do, the more you start to notice and appreciate all kinds of details,” says Brittany. 

The home theater, which includes reclining leather theater seats, wall sconces and a star-studded ceiling, illustrates their attention to detail as well.

To create the “stars,” Chad used a rotary tool to bore 400 tiny holes in the ceiling from the attic. He drew circles around the tiny pinhead-sized holes so he could find them, slid fiber optics through the holes and glued them into place. 

“It’s not all that difficult. It’s just meticulous, painstaking work,” says Chad. 

The columns on the theater room walls were once doors in an old house where Brittany’s father had worked. To extend the columns from the floor to the ceiling, they added trim to the top and bottom of the doors.

The theater also includes a wet bar in one corner, which is accented with framed pictures of New York City and framed Broadway play posters. 

“We love New York, and we like to go every year or every couple of years. We like to go to Broadway shows,” says Brittany.

The Wallaces also enjoy spending time on their covered porch. The space includes pine deck boards, a stained cypress ceiling, two ceiling fans, wicker furniture in a seating area and wood-topped table with an iron base. 

On the Move
It would be understandable to think that Brittany and Chad are planning to stay in their home for a while. After all, it’s their fourth house in 11 years of marriage. But what fun would that be? 

“When we designed the house, the two main things we had in mind were resale and Masters rental,” Brittany says. 

Besides, they know the drill.

“We move every couple of years. We’ll wake up one morning and say, ‘Are you ready?’” says Chad. “I like drawing floor plans. I already have the next two houses drawn up.” 

By Leigh Howard

Photography by Haley Lamb


Back in the Swing




Photos courtesy of Joe Caley

A Martinez man helps wounded warriors like himself rebuild their lives – and rekindle their competitive spirits – through the Veteran Golfers Association 

In 2010 Martinez resident Joe Caley was a patient at Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center when a physician said he would like to take him to a practice round at the Masters Tournament.

“What’s that?” asked the Tucson, Arizona native. “Where is it?”

Caley had been through a life-changing experience after suffering a traumatic brain injury, multiple injuries to his lower extremities and vestibular paresis, which affects his balance, in a 2009 improvised explosive device blast in Iraq. Little did he know that the Masters was about to change his life as well.

“I met a lot of members and players. It was hard for me to get around, so I was limited as to what I could see. But I realized that it was pretty special. A couple from New York sat with me, and they said they had been trying to get tickets through the lottery for 13 years,” Caley says. “All I did was get blown up.”

And get hooked on golf. 

2sports-Augusta-NationalBack in Uniform
Two years later Caley was representing his country as a team member for the inaugural Simpson Cup, an annual Ryder Cup-style tournament between teams of 13 wounded warriors each from Great Britain and the United States, at TPC Sawgrass in Jacksonville, Florida. Caley is one of only two people to play on the United States team for three years.

“It was a great honor to be able to represent my country again in a uniform – a golf uniform,” Caley says. “It’s cool to have the United States flag patched on your sleeve again – even though it’s on a golf polo.” 

He was invited to play in last year’s Simpson Cup at Royal St. George’s Golf Club in Sandwich, England in September, but he declined.

“I’ve done it for three years, so I wanted to give other players the chance to experience international play,” Caley says.

And besides, he was busy with another project. He was helping organize the first Veteran Golfers Association National Championship, which was held November 8-11, 2015 in Pinehurst, North Carolina. The VGA, a nonprofit organization founded in 2014 and based in Southern Pines, North Carolina, is the first golfing organization dedicated to promoting the game to veterans and their family members.

4SPORTS-After-IEDCaley hatched the idea for the VGA with Simpson Cup teammate Josh Peyton on the flight back from the 2013 competition, which was held at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in Lancashire, England. 

“All great things start on a paper napkin,” says Caley, the VGA vice president. “We wanted to create an opportunity for competitive play among veterans. There was nothing stateside other than typical fundraisers, but we thought it would be great to have a national championship for all veterans.”

Apparently, so did their fellow soldiers. From July through September last year, 1,200 veterans competed in eight regional qualifiers throughout the country. Only 82 of them played their way to Pinehurst, where the tournament’s final round took place on Pinehurst No. 2. 

“Veterans were getting a chance to play on an actual U.S. Open course,” says Caley, who medically retired from the U.S. Army as a captain in 2011 after a 14-year career.

7SPORTS-Simpson-Cup-2014The 2015 national championship had a male and a female winner – Micah Tilley of Washington state and Kris Engelhaupt of North Carolina – and they both received an invitation to Augusta for a VIP Masters experience this year. The VGA National Championship prize package also included accommodations in Augusta; the chance to attend the tournament one day; access to Azalea House, a hospitality house for veterans, a round of golf at Jones Creek Golf Club and a coveted red jacket.

“Championship play has really taken off,” says Caley. “Most of the people in the military are competitive in some nature. 

All of the competitors received a four-day golf vacation to play a championship course designed by Pete Dye at Casa de Campo Resort & Villas in the Dominican Republic.

“We were just trying to put on a great experience and tournament for veterans,” Caley says. “Pinehurst really embraced what we were doing, and this year the national championship will be at Pebble Beach. We want to follow the trail of big U.S. Open courses.” 

5SPORTS-Lynn-Swann-&-Joe-(2010-Masters)How Hard Could It Be?
After his visit to Augusta National Golf Club five years ago, Caley quickly learned that watching golf and playing the sport are entirely different. The following day he went to a clinic at Wedges & Woods, and owner Nick Prokosa told him all about the Masters. Caley not only learned more about the tournament, though. He quickly developed a healthy respect for that little white ball as well. 

“I couldn’t hit it,” he says. “It was a challenge. My only experience in golf before was seeing it on TV. I thought, ‘It’s not that hard. It’s only a little ball and a club. It’s just a sport that old retirees play.’”

Or not.

“Joe is one of my big success stories,” Prokosa says. “When he first came here, he couldn’t walk. He couldn’t see past his feet. He had to use a cane to get around. His first day here, he hated me and he hated golf.”

Intrigued by the physical and mental aspects of the game, however, Caley kept going back to Wedges & Woods. Prokosa showed him how to swing a club within his capabilities. Caley, in turn, would go back to the hospital and tell more soldiers about golf.

As he kept practicing his swing, his wife, Mary, started to notice something. Caley was beginning to control his weight shifts and balance.

“Every night I was going to hit balls and doing the same exercises as far as focusing on an object,” Caley says. “And I started getting better quicker than anyone thought I could.”

After suffering injuries, he says, “People are quick to give you a list of the things you’ll never be able to do again.” 

Instead, he was learning to do something he had never done.

“It was a great relief,” Caley says of golf. “I could take out my frustration by hitting the ball.” 

The game can be good therapy for wounded warriors because many of them have post traumatic stress disorder, Prokosa says, and they can hit balls by themselves or play golf with a small group of friends.

“Golf isn’t for everybody. But the more active you are, the better everything functions,” says Prokosa, a former emergency medical technician. “Within three months, Joe’s vision and balance were back. He was walking without a cane. Before, his rehab was to stare at a tack on a wall.”

Caley also started bringing his daughter, Alaina, with him to hit balls.

“He wasn’t into Barbies or tea parties, but golf was something they could do together,” says Prokosa. “It connected him with his daughter.” 

In addition, Caley attended clinics, which were geared toward soldiers with TBIs, at Jones Creek. He later joined the facility, which, he says, “has always been very veteran friendly.” During Masters Week last year, VGA officials played golf at Jones Creek. According to Gregg Hemann, director of operations, Jones Creek could hold a VGA event in this year. 

The golf course also donates rounds to wounded warriors and participates in PGA REACH, a program that offers therapeutic rehabilitation to military veterans through golf.

“We’ve been doing things like this for years, and it’s well known to people like Joe and other wounded veterans,” say Hemann. “We’re fortunate to be in a position to be able to have a positive impact on veterans and do something for them. We try to hire veterans, and we have several on our staff.” 

Extending His Reach
Caley also worked for Wounded Warrior Project for three years, but he says that organization focuses on Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. He realized that he wanted to reach even more soldiers, especially after seeing so many veterans from across the country at Azalea House during the Masters.

“The best part for me is being able to give back because at no point was I ever alone in any of these ventures,” Caley says.

Even so, he says, “People laughed at me and ridiculed me for trying to play golf, but it’s opened the door for a lot of things.”

He has played golf at Augusta National and teed it up with notable people ranging from “Duck Dynasty” stars to football icons Tim Tebow and Steve Spurrier. He particularly enjoys introducing golf to other soldiers. 

The nonprofit organization also launched a VGA Tour in March, and 144 military installations nationwide that have Morale Welfare and Recreation golf courses will hold VGA chapter tournaments and carry VGA merchandise. Veterans can participate in up to five tournaments in their local areas and accumulate points to qualify for one of four super-regionals, which will be used to determine the field for the national championship in November. 

“It’s been a great journey,” say Caley. “But now it’s even more exciting because I get a chance to be in the background and see the VGA evolve.” 

By Todd Beck

Photos courtesy of Joe Caley

It’s a Wrap


Steve WalpertAfter five decades in the performing arts, the director of Fort Gordon’s entertainment program directs his last show on the dinner theatre stage 

The walls of Steve Walpert’s office at the Fort Gordon Dinner Theatre tell their own story. Covered with playbills, newspaper articles, photographs, show posters and awards, they speak of a rich career in the arts spanning five decades.

And as the curtain opens on “The Drowsy Chaperone” on Friday, March 4, it signals the closing of one big chapter of Walpert’s life. 

While Walpert officially retired as the director of Fort Gordon’s entertainment program on December 31, he is working as a temporary employee for the next few months, and “The Drowsy Chaperone” will be the last show he directs on the dinner theatre stage.

“As I get closer to retirement, a lot of people have said some very nice things about what I’ve done in my career. But I never forget that those things all stem from the opportunity I was given as a young soldier back in 1970,” he says.

BE MY BABY POSTERTheater and the Military
Walpert’s love of theater was sparked at the age of 8 when he was cast as a witch in his school’s Halloween radio production. During his school years, he explored theater as well as music and sports. The son of a World War II Army special services big band director, Walpert always dreamed of a career that would marry his love for theater and the military.

In 1970, while the young second lieutenant was stationed at Fort Gordon, he stumbled upon a rehearsal at the Fort Gordon Performing Arts Center. There he met his mentor, Claude Astin, who founded Fort Gordon’s music and theater program, and Walpert realized that his dream could come true.

“Astin was a brilliant man,” says Walpert. “He was very knowledgeable and very talented. 

Walpert didn’t stay at Fort Gordon long during his first stint. The Army sent him to the Southeast Asia Pictorial Center, where he directed a few films. Once he got out of the Army, he worked with his father in California for a couple of years producing events with entertainers at resort venues.

SOC SEC KAYSTEVEHe returned to Fort Gordon in the late 1970s.

Walpert says there have been numerous highlights to his career including moving into the current dinner theater facility in August 1991 with the production of “Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”

“The building we’d been in was condemned,” he says. “It was a World War II-era building, and we had to find another building.” 

The current performing arts center is a former movie theater, which was underutilized at the time. He promised he could pack the house, and he did.

PlaneMatchmaker and Mentor
Greg Goodwin remembers that first production in the new theater well. 

“It brought Judith (his wife) and I together. . . . She was my first stage kiss,” says Goodwin, who played Huck Finn in “Big River” and is playing the part of Underling in “The Drowsy Chaperone.” He considers it an honor to be part of Walpert’s first and last shows in the current building. 

Over the years, Goodwin, who managed the Imperial Theatre from the late 1990s into the early 2000s, has appeared in numerous shows at Fort Gordon and with other theater groups such as the Augusta Players.

“Steve is so well-respected by people. I love working with him. It’s wonderful to see how he molds young talent,” he says

Walpert’s wife, Betty, calls her husband one of her mentors. She is the award-winning drama instructor at John S. Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School, but she met her husband more than 30 years ago while working at dinner theater. 

She was a stage manager, and he was a director.

“Watching him was better than any advanced directing class,” she says.

He knows how to place a character on stage and help with the development of that character. Also, he has a knack for movement, especially physical comedy, and has a clear vision for each of the plays he directs. 

“He’s been great. He’s come in several times (at Davidson) when I’ve had trouble with a scene,” his wife says.

Creative Type SteveAsset to the Community
Davidson isn’t the only place outside Fort Gordon’s gates where Walpert has been involved in the arts. He’s a past president and board member of the Greater Augusta Arts Council and a founder of Arts in the Heart of Augusta. He served on the executive committee of Leadership Augusta and helped found Youth Leadership Augusta. He has produced several plays tied to Augusta’s history including directing “Coming to the River,” a play written in honor of the city’s 250th birthday in 1992. 

“He’s an extraordinary asset to Augusta. He’s had such a role in developing different programs and supporting new arts ventures,” says Barbara Feldman, executive director of Storyland Theatre. “I can’t imagine Augusta without Steve doing Fort Gordon Dinner Theatre.”

Feldman has worked with Walpert in a variety of ways. She and her husband, Jack, have appeared in numerous dinner theater shows including “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” and “1776.” And Walpert appeared in Storyland’s production of “The Frog Prince” a few years ago. 

Walpert’s efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. He and the program he’s built at Fort Gordon have received numerous awards at the highest levels of Army entertainment.

Among the awards he’s received include the Irving Berlin Award for Programming Excellence and Best Army Entertainment Program Award in 2005, the American Association of Community Theatre’s David C. Bryant Outstanding Service Award for distinguished and lasting achievement in the field of community theatre in 2006, James T. Martin Award for Individual Excellence from the Army Entertainment Division in 2002 and the Greater Augusta Arts Council Arts Professional of the Year in 2006. 

For Walpert, however, it’s not the awards that have made the most impact. It’s the relationships he’s made and the people he’s met along the way who have supported him and the entertainment program. 

“I love the work I do. I love working with actors and soldiers,” he says.

Many times, people will come to him years after the fact and tell him their small part in a show decades before gave them a confidence boost or opened a door into a world they’d never experienced. 

As he steps down, he looks forward the tradition of Army entertainment growing.

The Army program dates back to the 1950s, ”when a very determined lady named Margaret ‘Skippy’ Lynn convinced Army leadership that the performing arts could be a vital quality of life and self-development part of the Army Recreation Program,” says Walpert. “And it’s been that way right up until now. I hope that an enlightened Army leadership will continue to recognize the importance of this program and that it will move forward, enhancing the lives of the military and civilian community for a very long time.”

Walpert may not be directing plays at Fort Gordon Dinner Theatre after March, but he doesn’t plan to leave the arts world entirely. For now, though, he’s keeping those projects under wraps until he can work out the details. We can hardly wait to see what’s next.

 By Charmain Zimmerman Brackett