Author Archives: Kristy Johnson

Hawk Law Group

Attorneys

HAWK LAW GROUP
Georgia’s Injury & Defense Attorneys Since 1984

You or a loved one being injured through the negligence or malicious actions of someone else can be a traumatic experience, possibly robbing you of your health, your livelihood, and hurting your relationships. Depending on the injuries involved, you may need time off of work to recover, and you might incur medical and other expenses to deal with the consequences of your accident. Your relationships can be impacted and your daily life negatively changed. Your mental state can suffer along with your physical health.

Hawk Law Group – Augusta Office
338 Telfair Street. Augusta, GA. 30901

Hawk Law Group – Aiken Office
156 Laurens St NW. Aiken, SC. 29801

Hawk Law Group – Evans Law Office
4384 River Watch Pkwy. Evans, GA. 30809

Hawk Law Group – Thomson Law Office
146 Railroad St A, Thomson, GA. 30824

Hawk Law Group – Waynesboro Law Office
827 Liberty St, Waynesboro, GA. 30830

Contact us at 706-444-444

www.HawkLawGroup.com

Augusta Law Group HAWK

 

Spring Fair

LIFE + STYLE

Columbia County Spring FairThe Columbia County Spring Fair returns this year April 19-28 with fan favorites and new attractions.

Returning entertainment includes midway rides and games from Drew Expositions, a demolition derby, magician T.J. Hill, Lew-E the Clown, Wardrobe of Wishes, a petting zoo and a 4-H pollinator garden. New acts include Falcon Crest, Lady Houdini and Stone Age.

Parking is free, and children ages 6 and under are admitted free with a ticketed adult. After 7 p.m. ages 17 and under must be accompanied by a parent.

For more information and details on admission and ride specials, visit columbiacountyfair.net.

Perfect Pairing

In The Home

Photography by Sally Kolar

Golf is a way of life for this Champions Retreat family.

Whether you’re an avid golfer or you’ve never picked up a club, Masters Week can be a cause for celebration. Last year Evans residents Brandon Zapata and his fiancée, LeAnne Morlan, threw a “Creek Three Party” at their Champions Retreat home on the Friday before Masters Week.

“We love the Masters. Brandon and I met during Masters Week. He plays golf. I follow golf,” says LeAnne. “We wanted to do something to kick off the week, especially since the Augusta National Women’s Amateur is at Champions Retreat.”

And why not? From the open floor plan to the outdoor living space, this contemporary home, situated on the third hole of the Creek Nine at Champions Retreat Golf Club, is the perfect place to host friends and family.

“I love having events and parties,” LeAnne says. “That’s the great thing about this house. It was designed for entertaining.”

custom chopper‘Everyone’s Home’

The home, which features a gray hardy board and white brick exterior, is full of statement-making pieces from the wide wood pivot front door to the first thing you see when you walk inside.

Beneath the floating European oak staircase in the foyer, a Harley Davidson chopper is parked on a zebra-skin rug. The chopper, which Brandon won in a drawing to benefit a pediatric cancer charity, features an African ostrich seat and the original bronze artwork and patina by artist Jerry McKellar.

The foyer’s European oak flooring, which can be found throughout the house, leads into the formal living room. European oak wood beams accent the two-story cathedral ceiling, and the fireplace includes a 3D granite surround.

While a cowhide cabinet sits on one side of the fireplace, a built-in bench occupies the other side. Four black and white portraits of their four sons hang on a wall above the bench.

“That’s my favorite wall in the house,” says LeAnne. “I’m big on personalizing things. We are a blended family, so I want everyone to feel like this is their home.”

Golf is a way of life for this Champions Retreat family.Furnishings include a curved sofa, two leather chairs and a geometrically shaped coffee table.

A partition of black-framed glass offers separation between the living room and the wet bar, which includes a gold sink, icemaker and wine refrigerator. On one of the three open shelves in the bar, a Woodford Reserve bottle features a custom painting of the Augusta National clubhouse.

In the kitchen, LED lights behind the marble backsplash complement the brass hardware. The room also features an Italian oven, lots of drawer space, cabinetry with a bamboo look and a countertop that separates the black refrigerator and the black upright freezer.

Golf is a way of life for this Champions Retreat family.A pair of chandeliers hangs above the large marble island where cookies are artfully stacked in two glass cookie jars.

LeAnne also made the Masters-themed arrangements on the breakfast area table. She put floral foam in two golf ball-shaped vases and attached various Masters tournament, practice round and Berckman’s Place tickets to the foam. Commemorative Masters lapel pins are attached to ribbons, and each arrangement is topped with a golf ball.

The butler’s pantry includes open shelves; a microwave; a speed oven, which operates as a microwave and a convection oven; an expresso machine and a desk. Barn doors with brass inlays lead to the pantry.

An abstract painting of a view of the golf course hangs in the dining room, where the walls are painted Iron Ore by Sherwin-Williams. Wainscoting, along with sconces on either side of the painting, accents the walls.

Offering an actual view of the golf course, the master bedroom features a cathedral ceiling with European oak wood beams, a brass canopy bed, sitting area and remote control drapes.

The adjoining master bath includes heated marble flooring, marble countertops, more cabinets with a bamboo look, brushed brass fixtures, wall sconces and a chandelier. The walk-in shower has dual entrances, marble walls and hexagon-shaped tiles on the floor. The lights beneath the vanities also change colors.

A hallway with built-in drawers connects the master bath and LeAnne’s walk-in closet, which features a chandelier and cathedral ceiling. A chute in the closet leads to the laundry room, which includes gold-spotted wallpaper on an accent wall and marble countertops.

Cheerio, their golf cart ride-loving Netherland Dwarf rabbit, also calls the laundry room.

Golf is a way of life for this Champions Retreat family.Part of the Community

Sliding glass doors from the master bedroom lead to a covered porch, which features a square bed, raised hearth white brick fireplace, cathedral ceiling, recessed lighting, ceiling fan, TV and a hanging swing egg chair.

Additional outdoor living space includes another covered porch with heaters in the tongue and groove ceiling, ceiling fans, screens that can be lowered to offer protection from the elements, and an outdoor kitchen with a pass-through window to the interior.

While the outdoor living space is ideal for relaxing or entertaining, the award-winning, salt-water gunite infinity pool is just as inviting to family and friends. Four round stools on the concrete deck, plus lounge chairs in the pool under an umbrella, offer ample seating.

Golf is a way of life for this Champions Retreat family.The backyard also features a water fountain, poolside fireplace and a section of Astroturf grass and concrete in a herringbone pattern. The LED lights under the steps change colors.

Although the family loves all of the outdoor amenities, LeAnne calls the casual living room her favorite room in the house.

“The casual living room is warm and cozy to me,” she says. “It’s where the family hangs out together. This is where we sit down to watch movies or football games.”

A painting of Brandon’s private plane hangs above the entryway. The room also features a cathedral ceiling with European oak beams and a ceiling fan, built-in bookcases and a stone backdrop to the gas fireplace with a 3D granite surround.

For more fun and games, the golf simulator room includes a Full Swing golf simulator, TV, indoor basketball goal – the boys love it – tabletop shuffleboard game and two slot machines. The sports décor features autographed basketballs by Stephen Curry and LeBron James and a shadowbox picture of a golfer made of black golf tees.

“When we host parties, this is where everybody ends up,” LeAnne says.

As much as the couple enjoys opening their home to company, they also take advantage of everything the neighborhood has to offer.

They frequently dine at Champions Retreat, and when the golf course is closed, they catch and release fish in the pond.

“We’re very much a part of the community here,” says LeAnne. “We have a lot of friends that live here.”

By Sarah James

The Best is Yet to Come

People
Luke List & family

Photos courtesy of Chloe and Luke List and Augusta National Golf Club

A local PGA Tour pro is taking a different approach to this year’s Masters Tournament.

Masters Week is always special for Augusta residents Chloe and Luke List, but to say that it has great promise this year is a gimme.

Luke, a two-time PGA Tour winner, will make his third appearance inside the ropes at Augusta National Golf Club when the Masters Tournament gets underway.

“The Masters has such a rich history,” he says. “You just feel it at the tournament and the golf course. You feel the presence of Clifford Roberts and Bobby Jones. It’s as close to heaven as you can get.”

He played in his first Masters in 2005 when he was a Vanderbilt University sophomore, qualifying as the U.S. Amateur runner-up the previous year. He finished T33 and even made a hole-in-one on the seventh hole in the Par 3 Contest.

Seventeen years later he was invited for the first time as a professional after securing his inaugural PGA Tour win at the 2022 Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego. However, he missed the cut.

“When I played at the Masters as an amateur, I had a good time and enjoyed myself,” says Luke. “Two years ago, I put too much pressure on myself. The caretaker in me wanted to look after my family and friends.”

This year he’s taking a different approach.

“I can’t worry about entertaining friends and family,” he says. “I have a job to do. The Masters is a tournament I want to compete in and try to win. I want to be there on Sunday.”

Luke qualified for this year’s tournament in dramatic fashion. On the first hole of a five-man, sudden-death playoff at the 2023 Sanderson Farms Championship in October, he drained a 45-foot birdie putt for his second career victory. While he looks forward to competing in the Masters, he still plans to enjoy himself – and take pleasure in seeing family and friends.

“Every green you walk off, you see somebody you know,” he says. “It’s great to have support from everyone.”

Chloe is looking forward to the tournament as well. “I feel more excited this year because we know what to expect,” she says.

From watching Luke practice on the main course with their children in tow to taking part in the Par 3 Contest as a family, she also has fond memories of the 2022 Masters.

“It was so special to drive down Magnolia Lane with Luke for the first time,” she says. “I made a six-foot putt in the Par 3 Contest two years ago, and everybody cheered for me. I thought, ‘Oh, wow! That’s what that feels like.’”

Fast Start

Luke, who calls his ball striking and iron play the strongest parts of his game, believes Augusta National suits him well.

“Putting has been my nemesis my whole career, but I’ve turned a corner in that,” he says. “When you control your speed and make short putts, you’ve got a big advantage.”

He also got off to a fast start this season. Making the cut in six of his first eight events, his results include two Top 25s, a Top 10 and a T2 finish at the Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles.

The tournament, which he led for several holes, wasn’t just memorable for Luke’s performance, though. That week he and Chloe, who met in 2013 when they both lived in Los Angeles, also had the chance to relive the genesis of their relationship by recreating their first date.

Luke, who grew up in Jasper, Georgia, and Chloe, a 2008 Evans High School graduate, were set up by a mutual friend. Fittingly, they started the evening with drinks at The Georgian, a Santa Monica hotel, and then had dinner at the Huntley Hotel. This year the couple, who recently celebrated their eighth wedding anniversary, had Valentine’s Day dinner at the Huntley.

Luke still recalls his first impression of his future wife.

“I thought she was gorgeous. After our first date, I texted a friend and said, ‘That’s it for me. I’m done with dating. This is the girl I want to marry,’” Luke says. “I knew that was my last first date ever.”

The feeling was mutual.

“He was charming,” says Chloe. “It was love at first sight. I texted the friend who set us up during the date and said, ‘He’s my husband.’”

At the time Luke had lost his PGA Tour card and was back on the Korn Ferry Tour, and he invited Chloe to watch him play in a tournament in the San Francisco area.

“I asked him what I should wear. I said, ‘Is it like the Masters?’” recalls Chloe. “He said, ‘You can wear your pajamas. You might be the only spectator there.’”

Although she had gone to the Masters when she was growing up and worked at the tournament during high school, she didn’t follow golf or know much about it. However, Luke credits her with keeping him going when he struggled on the course.

“I kept pushing and following my dream,” he says. “She could see my passion and how much it meant to me. Even when I wasn’t playing well, I didn’t want to pursue anything else.”

Putting Down Roots

While the start of his career was rocky, the Lists have settled seamlessly into life here after moving to Augusta in 2018. They wanted to raise their family in the Southeast, and they considered living in Nashville, Charlotte and St. Simon’s Island. However, with Chloe’s family still in the area, a homecoming for her made perfect sense.

“It’s been such a dream to put down roots here,” says Luke. “The ability for me to leave town and know that my family is in good hands is great. It helps me be able to take care of business.”

Their children were born here – daughter Ryann in 2018 and son Harrison in 2021 – and the Lists support local children’s charities.

Chloe is involved with Heart and Sole, which benefits the Children’s Hospital of Georgia heart program, and Ronald McDonald House Charities is a passion for both of them.

In December, the Lists presented a check for $250,000 to Children’s Hospital of Georgia to support the expansion of its Children’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. The donation was made possible by the proceeds Luke earned when he won the RSM Birdies for Love charity competition during the 2022-23 PGA Tour season.

He doesn’t remember how many birdies he had – just that he won by a single birdie. “It was nerve-wracking because I really wanted to get it done,” says Luke.

The contribution was especially meaningful to the couple because Harrison, who was born prematurely, spent two weeks in intensive care at Children’s Hospital. After leaving the hospital, he soon was readmitted due to RSV, a respiratory virus, and was intubated for two days.

“Hopefully, in the next year we can get our own foundation up and going,” Chloe says. “Children’s charities are something we’re passionate about, but we would love to support a broad range of charities.”

‘Rich Golf Culture’

The local golf scene was a draw for settling down here as well. Luke loves to play rounds with friends at area courses such as Augusta Country Club, Champions Retreat, Forest Hills, Sage Valley and The Tree Farm.

“There’s a rich golf culture here that’s really special,” says Luke. “There are a lot of good private and public golf courses around town.”

His favorite tour stops include Torrey Pines, Riviera, Quail Hollow and Harbour Town Golf Links. And of course, Augusta National.

“The West Coast will always have a special place in my heart, but obviously, the Masters is number one,” he says. “I’ve been dreaming about that my entire life. Living here, but not being in it was very difficult for me. We have always stayed in town during the Masters. It’s such a great week. You make the most of it.”

Luke, whose golf idols are Davis Love III and Ernie Els, makes the most of life on the PGA Tour as well.

“It’s a fantastic job to play golf for a living,” he says. “I love traveling and being able to give back to the community.”

However, because of time away from family and how difficult it is to win, PGA Tour life isn’t as glamorous as it seems.

Before the Florida swing, Luke said, “I’ve played 263 times, and I’ve won twice in my entire career. You have to take little victories where you can to build your confidence.”

Chloe also has helped him take the ups and downs of professional golf in stride since he has become a husband and father.

“Life is not all about golf. There’s so much outside of golf,” she says. “Once we had kids, it’s been a lot easier to stay grounded and never get too high or too low. Luke can come home and just be Dad.”

The Excitement of Competing

Luke, who learned to play golf when he was about 6 years old from his late grandfather, Robert Brown, also has strived to maintain his core values since becoming a pro golfer.

“I try to stay the same and treat people how I would like to be treated,” he says. “The game keeps you humble. Golf teaches you so much about yourself. When you’re in contention, it’s nice to see how you handle it to reach your goals and achieve your dreams.”

Luke List & familyHe also remembers the way his grandfather taught him to play. “He taught me the basic fundamentals, but he really kept it fun,” Luke says.

A piece of advice from another golfer has stuck with him as well.

“When I was about 10 or 11, I played a practice round with an older kid that was headed to college,” Luke recalls. “He told me, ‘Play as much as you can.’ Practice is fun, but it doesn’t compare with competing. Practice doesn’t simulate the excitement or nerves of a competitive tournament.”

While Luke once just hoped to earn a college golf scholarship (he did) and considered playing on the PGA Tour “a pipedream,” his top goal now is to win a major.

“My confidence level and my ability to trust my game is growing,” he says.

His first PGA Tour victory, with his family waiting by the 18th green, is certainly a career highlight. However, he’s not ready to pinpoint his biggest thrill on the golf course just yet.

“That’s to be determined,” Luke says. “I feel like it’s still out there.”

By Betsy Gilliland

Taste of the Masters

Buzz
Taste of Masters

Photos and recipe courtesy of the Masters Tournament

Throw a Masters party with Augusta National concessions delivered straight to your doorstep.

Even if you don’t have tickets to this year’s Masters, you still can tee up a green jacket-worthy watch party at home with an authentic tournament menu. This year Augusta National is offering two Taste of the Masters hosting kits – without the concession stand lines.

The large hosting kit, which costs $179.99 and serves 12 to 14 guests, includes:

• Egg Salad (24 ounces)
• Pimento Cheese (24 ounces)
• Pork Bar-B-Que (24 ounces)
• Plain Potato Chips (6)
• Bar-B-Que Potato Chips (6)
• Chocolate Chip Cookies (6)
• Georgia Pecan Caramel Popcorn (6)
• Masters Branded Souvenir Cups (sleeve of 25)
• Masters Branded Wax Paper (sleeve of 12 sheets)
• Masters Coasters (pack of 12)
• Hosting Kit Materials

The classic kit, which costs $99.95 and serves four to six people, includes:

• Pimento Cheese (24 ounces)
• Plain Potato Chips (6)
• MoonPies (6)
• Masters Branded Souvenir Cups (sleeve of 12)
• Masters Branded Wax Paper (sleeve of 12 sheets)
• Masters Coasters (pack of 12)
• Hosting Kit Materials

Bread and buns are not included with either kit. Kits will be delivered between Friday, April 5 and Saturday, April 13, and shipping is free. For more information, visit masters.com.

Taste of MastersSignature Cocktail of the Masters

Of course, you’ll want to toast great golf with an Azalea. To make the tournament’s signature cocktail, mix together:

  • 1 1/4 ounces vodka
  • 5 ounces lemonade
  • 1/2 ounce grenadine

Pour over ice cubes and garnish with a cherry and an orange slice.

Strawberry and Brie Grilled Cheese

Food
  • delicious sandwich

    Recipe courtesy of Wisconsin Cheese Board
    Beverage pairing by Hailey Etzel, sommelier

    6 strawberries, sliced

  • 1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 slices sourdough bread
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons goat cheese, softened
  • 4 basil leaves
  • 2 ounces brie cheese

Place strawberries in small bowl and drizzle with balsamic vinegar; set aside. Spread mayo on 1 side of each bread slice. Heat skillet over medium-low heat. Place one bread slice, mayo-side down, in skillet and top with goat cheese, strawberries, basil and brie. Add remaining bread slice, mayo-side up. Grill sandwich until golden brown on one side, about three minutes. Carefully turn over and repeat until browned and crispy. (Reduce heat if needed for bread to get crispy without burning.) Makes 1 sandwich.

Plays well with: French Champagne or a Fruited Sour Beer

Calvin Peete: Golf’s Forgotten Star by Gordon Hobson

Literary Loop

For the first time, Gordon Hobson tells the story of Calvin Peete, an overlooked PGA star and one of the best black golfers in history.

Born to a family of migrant laborers, he dropped out of school in eighth grade, went to work picking crops, first swung a golf club at age 23 — and rose to the top of the PGA.

When Peete joined the lily-white PGA Tour in 1976, he stood out from the competition in more ways than one. He sported a huge Fu Manchu, cowboy boots and had diamonds embedded in his teeth.

Despite a permanently bent left elbow, he practiced endless hours in a public park to develop one of the most accurate swings in golf history.

After years of futility and despair, he emerged as the best player on the Tour from 1982-86. He won 12 championships, played on the U.S. Ryder Cup team twice and won the prestigious Vardon Award.

Peete’s story reveals the struggles many black golfers endured even after the PGA removed the Caucasian-only clause from its bylaws. The biography shows how, even without advantages from birth, success is possible through hard work, determination and fortitude.

Tournament Tips & Landmarks

Masters Guide

Course LandmarksMagnolia Lane – tree-lined main entrance to Augusta National

Founders Circle – two plaques honoring founding members Clifford Roberts and Bobby Jones at the base of the flagpole in front of the clubhouse

Crow’s Nest – a cupola atop the clubhouse that provides tournament housing for amateur players 

Oak-TreeBig Oak Tree – a gathering spot for media interviews behind the clubhouse

Rae’s Creek between the 11th and 12th greens 

Hogan Bridge at No. 12 green 

Nelson Bridge at No. 13 tee

Sarazen Bridge at No. 15 green

3.-Landmark--Arnold-Palmer-Plaque-behind-No.-16-teeArnold Palmer Plaque behind No. 16 tee 

Jack Nicklaus Plaque between Nos. 16 and 17

Record Fountain to the left of No. 17 green

Augusta National Golf Club cabins

Ike’s Pond – a spring-fed, 3-acre pond on the Par-3 Course behind Eisenhower Cabin

Par 3 Fountain – adjacent to No. 1 tee on Par 3 course; includes list of Par 3 Contest winners 

 

Prohibited Items
• Cell phones, beepers, tablets and other electronic devices
• Any device capable of transmitting photo/video*
• Backpacks, bags and purses larger than 10” x 10” x 12” (in its natural state)
• Cameras on tournament days**
• Weapons of any kind (regardless of permit)
• Radios/TVs/noise- or music-producing devices
• Folding armchairs/rigid type chairs
• Flags/banners/signs
• Strollers
• Food/beverages/coolers
• Golf shoes with metal spikes
• Ladders/periscopes/selfie sticks

Augusta National MastersViolation of these policies will subject the ticket holder to removal from the grounds and the ticket purchaser to the permanent loss of credentials.

*Fitness tracking bands and electronic watches are permitted. However, they cannot be used for phone calls, emails, text messages and other photo, video or data recording and transmission.

**Cameras (still photography/personal use only) are allowed at practice rounds on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

Tournament Amenities:

  • Concession stands
  • First aid stations
  • Golf shops
  • Information centers
  • Lost and found
  • Merchandise shipping/check stands
  • Message center
  • Pairing sheets with course map and tee times
  • Parking
  • Picnic areas
  • Patron photos at Founders Circle, free of charge, on all days, Monday-Sunday
  • Restrooms
  • Scoring information
  • Spectator guides
  • Telephones
  • Water fountains

Autograph Policy
For player safety and protection, there is a no autograph policy enforced on the golf course. Autograph seeking is only allowed in areas adjacent to the Tournament Practice Area and on the Par 3 course during the Par 3 Contest.

Re-Entry Policy
Patrons will be allowed one re-entry per day.

Method of Payment Accepted 
All facilities at Augusta National Golf Club are cashless. Credit card and debit card are the only accepted methods of payment at concession stands, merchandise shops and shipping locations.

Parking
Free Masters parking is available at Augusta National Golf Club on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Playing ‘Four’ History

Masters Guide

Photos courtesy of Augusta National Golf Club

With his 2023 victory, Jon Rahm joined a Spanish armada of Masters Tournament winners.

Before the start of the 87th Masters Tournament in 2023, Spanish golfer Jon Rahm was on everyone’s short list to win the green jacket. Being the pre-tournament favorite, however, does not automatically translate into victory. Yet, after 30 holes on a long day of golf, Rahm earned the second major title of his career on what would have been the 66th birthday of his hero and fellow Spaniard, two-time Masters champion Seve Ballesteros.

“This one was for Seve. He was up there helping, and help he did,” said Rahm, who met Ballesteros once.

Augusta National MastersPerhaps Ballesteros didn’t get the memo right away, though, because Rahm’s tournament could not have gotten off to a more inauspicious start when he four-putted the first hole for double bogey in round one. Instead of getting frustrated, however, Rahm took it in stride.

“I remembered Seve’s quote – I think it was here at the Masters, right? –  when he four-putted. I just kept thinking to myself, ‘Well, I miss, I miss, I miss, I make.’ Move on to the next. I carried a little bit of that negative energy into the tee shot on 2, hit it about ten yards farther than I usually do and moved on with my day,” said Rahm. “If you’re going to make a double bogey, might as well do it on the first hole of the tournament when you have plenty of holes to make it up.”

Even though he played in the worst of the tournament’s volatile weather and LIV golfer Brooks Koepka held the outright lead or a share of it for 54 holes plus five, things finally broke “four” Rahm in the end. Posting a final score of 12-under-par, he became the fourth Spaniard to claim a green jacket, captured his fourth win of the year, carded four birdies in his final round and won by four shots.

Augusta National MastersKoepka and another LIV golfer who knows his way around Augusta National Golf Club, then 52-year-old, three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson, tied for second place at 8-under.

Calm Before the Storms

The practice rounds began with great promise for the 88 players in the field, which included 16 first-time players made up of seven amateurs and nine professionals.

One of the most-watched groups on Monday featured Tiger Woods, Fred Couples, Rory McIlroy and tournament newcomer Tom Kim of Korea.

“I love Tom Kim. We set this up at the Presidents Cup, and I think he was a little excited to play with Rory and Tiger,” said Couples.

As much as the foursome enjoyed each other’s company, they also connected with some special patrons. They hugged and high-fived last year’s Augusta National Women’s Amateur champion, Rose Zhang, behind the 12th tee. On the 18th green, they met one of the Drive Chip and Putt winners.

“She goes to the same grade school that Tiger went to, so we made her day,” Couples said.

While this group got along famously, questions had swirled in the weeks leading up to tournament about whether or not PGA Tour and LIV golfers could co-exist amicably at the major.

On Tuesday morning, however, McIlroy indicated that a truce between the warring tours had been declared when he said he and Koepka were playing a pre-planned practice round together that afternoon. Other PGA Tour and LIV golfers practiced together as well.

“I see some of these guys at home. … We sort of practice at the same place,” McIlroy said. “This week and this tournament is way bigger than any of that, I feel, and it’s just great that all of the best players in the world are together again for the first time in what seems to be quite a while.”

In his Wednesday morning press conference, Fred Ridley, Augusta National and Masters Tournament chairman, agreed as he described the atmosphere at the Champions Dinner, where PGA Tour and LIV players shared a table.

“The tone has been really good here this week. I’ve noticed the players are interacting. Last night at the Champions Dinner, I would not have known that anything was going on in the world of professional golf other than the norm,” he said.

Another norm returned to the Masters on Wednesday afternoon as well. After cancellation in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19 and a rain-shortened event in 2022, the Par 3 Contest was held in its entirety for the first time in four years.

Bogey-Free Golf

By Thursday, it was time to get down to the business of the tournament, and three players – Rahm, Koepka and Viktor Hovland of Norway – shot 65 to share the first round lead at 7-under par.

After Rahm double bogeyed No. 1, he hit every fairway and played the par 5s in 5-under with an eagle on the eighth hole and birdies on Nos. 2, 13 and 15. He also birdied the third, seventh, 16th and 18th holes.

“You don’t usually get a walk-off birdie over here,” said Rahm, who left the PGA Tour for LIV Golf in December.

Overall, he was pleased with his round, calling it one of the top three in his career at the majors.

“This has to be up there, including the first hole, to be honest, because it was a good tee shot and good second shot. Just a bit of an asterisk on the green,” said Rahm, who felt that, even though the “speed was off,” he had not struck any of the four putts poorly.

Koepka birdied the second, third, seventh, eighth, 12th, 15th, 17th and 18th holes. The only blemish to his round was a bogey on No. 13, which had been lengthened to 545 yards by moving back the Masters tees 35 yards.

An incident also was called into question on the 15th hole when Koepka’s caddie seemed to give advice to the caddie of playing partner Gary Woodland in violation of the rules. Ultimately, however, no penalty was assessed.

“All involved were adamant that no advice was given or requested. Consequently, the committee determined that there was no breach of the rules,” James B. Hyder Jr., chairman of the Competition Committees, said in a statement.

Hovland had a bogey-free round, going out in 31 on the front nine with an eagle on the second hole and birdies on the sixth, eighth and ninth holes. He added birdies on Nos. 11 and 13 coming in.

For the second round, tee times were moved up by half an hour Friday because of rain in the forecast. While Koepka was scheduled to play early in the morning before weather became an issue, Rahm was in the next-to-last threesome to tee off in the afternoon.

With an eagle on No. 8 and birdies on the second, 13th and 15th holes, Koepka played the par 5s in 5-under to finish bogey-free with a 67 and a 36-hole total of 12-under.

A weather delay suspended play for about 20 minutes mid-afternoon. However, after three trees later came crashing down by the 17th tee (no one was injured), play was stopped for the day at 4:22 p.m.

Sitting at 9-under through the front nine, Rahm trailed Koepka by three strokes when second-round play was called. Shooting a pair of 68s, U.S. Amateur champion Sam Bennett held third place at 8-under.

A Cut Above

With temperatures in the high 40s on Saturday morning, 39 players finished their weather-delayed second round under cold, gray, drizzly skies.

Completing the back nine of his second round in the miserable conditions, Rahm birdied the 12th, 15th and 17th holes but bogeyed Nos. 16 and 18.

“Early this morning, it was very cold. We enjoyed a couple holes without any rain, but … those two holes at the end, 17 and 18, were two absolute monsters. Very happy to finish those even par,” said Rahm, who shot 69 to trail Koepka by two strokes.

Former Masters champions Larry Mize (1987) and Sandy Lyle (1988) had announced that they would be playing in their final tournament last year, but both of them finished Saturday on the wrong side of the cut line. However, two other past champions made history when they were among the 54 players to make the cut.

Making his 31st cut at the tournament with a score of 1-over, Couples, at age 63, became the oldest Masters competitor to qualify for the final two rounds.

Woods also made the cut at the Masters for the 23rd consecutive time, tying Couples and Gary Player for the longest streak in tournament history. Shooting 3-over through 36 holes to make the cut on the number, the five-time champion has never missed qualifying for the final two rounds as a professional.

However, Augusta National announced Sunday morning that Woods had withdrawn from the tournament due to injury after completing seven holes of his third round in the cold, soggy conditions.

For the third round, which got underway at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, players were grouped in threesomes and teed off of Nos. 1 and 10. However, with a dismal forecast that lived up to expectations, the prospect of finishing 54 holes by day’s end was slim.

Courtesy of the chilly temperatures and unrelenting rain, play finally was halted at 3:15 p.m. Not before water started puddling so heavily on the greens that grounds crew members had to squeegee the surfaces so players could putt, though.

The leaders were on the seventh green at the time, and Koepka was four shots clear of Rahm. However, with all of the holes left to play on Sunday, Rahm didn’t think either player would have an advantage.

“When you’re in the position we’re in, adrenaline kicks in and it doesn’t really matter,” he said.

As soon as the third round resumed Sunday morning, Koepka missed an 11-foot putt for par on the par-4 No. 7 and Rahm sank his 9-footer for birdie. In an instant, Koepka’s four-shot lead fell to two strokes.

With Koepka and Rahm shooting identical third-round scores of 73, Koepka sat at 11-under to maintain a two-shot 54-hole lead over Rahm.

The fourth round began at 12:30 p.m. with players teeing off in twosomes on the front and back nines, pitting Rahm and Koepka against each other head-to-head in the final pairing.

Rahm wasted no time asserting himself. Both players parred the first two holes, but the momentum shifted on the third and fourth holes. After Rahm went birdie-par on the two holes and Koepka shot par-bogey, the two men were tied. With a birdie on the par-3 No. 6 to go to 10-under, Rahm found himself alone at the top of the leaderboard – a spot he would not yield.

By the 15th hole, Rahm had stretched his lead to four shots. Koepka narrowed the lead to three strokes with a birdie on No. 16, but a bogey on the 17th hole dropped him four behind again.

Rahm shot 69 in the final round, carding one bogey on No. 9 and birdies on the third, eighth, 13th and 14th holes. Koepka shot 75.

“I led for three rounds, and just didn’t do it on the last day. That’s it. Plain and simple,” Koepka said.

Finishing birdie-birdie, Mickelson shot 65, the low round of the day, to charge up the leaderboard and grab a share of second place after starting the final round 10 shots off the lead.

Rahm finished the tournament with a par on No. 18, but not without making it interesting. Since he had started the tournament with a little drama on his first hole, why not bring some excitement, even though he had a four-shot lead, to the 72nd hole as well?

After sending his tee shot into the rough on the left side of the fairway, he hit a provisional ball – right down the middle of the fairway – in case his original shot could not be found. His first ball was located, and Rahm saved par to claim victory. Once the putt dropped, he pumped his fists and covered his face with his hands.

“We all dream of things like this as players, and you try to visualize what it’s going to be like and what it’s going to feel like. And when I hit that third shot on the (18th) green, and I could tell it was close by the crowd’s reaction, just the wave of emotion of so many things just overtook me,” he said.

As Rahm walked off No. 18, one of the first people to greet him was two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal of Spain.

Historic and Humble

After the tournament, Rahm, who was pleased to have won on the 40th anniversary of Ballesteros’ second Masters title, said the history of the game is one of the reasons he plays golf. He also said the 2017 Masters victory of fellow Spaniard Sergio Garcia (who also won on Seve’s birthday) gave him “a lot of hope” that he could slip into a green jacket one day.

With all of the history that was made in the 2023 Masters, the new champion also was delighted to learn that he had posted one more record on his resume. By adding a victory at Augusta National to his 2021 U.S. Open title, Rahm became the first European to win the Masters and a U.S. Open.

“If there’s anything better than accomplishing something like this, it’s making history,” said Rahm. “Out of all the accomplishments and the many great players that have come before me, to be the first to do something like that, it’s a very humbling feeling.”

By Betsy Gilliland

Aces All Around

Masters Guide
Augusta National Masters

Photos courtesy of Augusta National Golf Club

Although golfers racked up holes-in-one on the revamped Par 3 Contest course last year, they still couldn’t conquer a long-standing curse.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Yes, almost everyone knows that the winner of the Par 3 Contest has never won the Masters Tournament in the same year.

However, would a new layout on the nine-hole, par-27 course finally put that jinx to rest? Not a chance.

Augusta National MastersBringing the Heat

On the sun-soaked afternoon, golfers still brought the heat to the Contest that is held the Wednesday before the tournament begins. Players typically have their children, grandchildren or significant others caddie for them, and they often let their caddies – or even a child from the gallery – putt for them on a hole or two. (This move also sidesteps that curse because a player’s score doesn’t count unless he hits every shot.)

Some of the golfers needed no such assistance from their caddies to get the ball in the hole last year, however. Four competitors accounted for five holes-in-one on the course where the first through the fifth holes had been rerouted before last year’s Contest.

One of those was Tom Hoge, who won the Par 3 with a score of 6-under.

“I made a few birdies early and then the hole-in-one on 8, so that was cool to see that go in. Just a fun day out here this afternoon with my wife caddying for me,” said Hoge. “They’ve got these pins set up for us in some nice spots where the balls will funnel back, so it’s fun to see those holes-in-one out here today.”

Wrapping up the Par 3 with back-to-back holes-in-one, Seamus Power of Ireland aced Nos. 8 and 9 with a sand wedge and some spin.

Augusta National Masters“Obviously, to get one was special, but to get the second one was a bit surreal. It was an absolute blast out there,” he said.

He said his shot on the eighth hole landed about 30 feet behind the pin and spun back.

“It was looking like it was going to be close, and it dropped in,” Power said. “And similar on 9. I slightly pulled it, and it kicked to the right and spun back in, so yeah, very lucky obviously.”

Playing Like Champions

Masters champions Scottie Scheffler and Bubba Watson also tallied holes-in-one to bring the total number of aces in the Par 3 to 107 since its inception in 1960.

With a ball that one-hopped into the hole on No. 4, Watson was the only player to ace one of the newly designed holes.

The first through the fifth holes had been rerouted to allow more golf holes to be adjacent to DeSoto Springs Pond. The pond and dam were reshaped and restored as well. In addition, the changes increased viewing options and capacity for the Contest that is popular with patrons and players alike.

Scheffler’s hole-in-one on No. 9 counted on the scorecard just like the other aces, but his required a bit of detective work to confirm.

Augusta National MastersHe and playing partners Tom Kim and Sam Burns hit their tee shots in unison, and all three balls tracked toward the flagstick. After they landed, three balls sat on or near the front edge of the green. However, slow-motion replay by ESPN showed one of the shots disappear into the cup.

“That was pretty fun. We were trying to make one all day. That was just, I guess, the slam dunk at the end. Definitely very fun,” Scheffler said. “The guys were pretty focused watching their shots, and they didn’t quite see it go in. They just heard the noise, and I was like, ‘Yeah, that went in. That was mine.’”

With his hole-in-one, he also joined Mike Weir and Tom Watson as the only defending champions to score an ace in the Par 3.

As for Hoge, he missed the cut in the 87th Masters. But, as the winner of the Par 3 Contest, he’ll always have the crystal pedestal bowl that goes to the victor and bragging rights about a triumph at Augusta National Golf Club.

By Betsy Gilliland

Parallel Universe

Masters Guide
Masters Augusta National Women

Photos courtesy of Augusta National Golf Club

With weather delays, a first-hole double bogey and a victory by the favorite, the 2023 Augusta National Women’s Amateur had uncanny similarities to last year’s Masters Tournament.

In a standout amateur career, the sterling silver trophy from the Augusta National Women’s Amateur was one of the few pieces of hardware that had eluded Rose Zhang. Not anymore.

On her fourth attempt, the top-ranked women’s amateur in the world finally won the fourth edition of the tournament in 2023. Shooting a 76 in the rain-delayed final round of the 54-hole tournament, Zhang held on to defeat University of Georgia fifth-year student Jenny Bae on the second hole of a sudden death playoff.

“The beginning of this week has been pretty crazy already with … a lot of expectations on me, and I had a lot of expectations on myself. To overcome everything, I’m just super grateful to be here,” said Zhang, a then-19-year-old Stanford University sophomore.

And maybe, just maybe, a double bogey on the first hole at Augusta National Golf Club is a fortuitous omen of good things to come.

After all, just as Jon Rahm, a pre-tournament favorite and winner of the 2023 Masters Tournament, double bogeyed No. 1 in the first round of last year’s tournament, Zhang started the ANWA final round with a double on the first hole.

Masters Augusta National ANWA“I tried to stay as composed as possible, but at the same time, I was a little tight the first couple holes. I just felt like my swing wasn’t comfortable, and I really just tried to stay in the moment,” she said.

Record-Setting Pace

The tournament, where the first two rounds were played at Champions Retreat Golf Club in Evans, featured 72 of the world’s top amateur golfers, and Zhang started off on a record-setting pace.

With six birdies in the first round, she shot a bogey-free 66 to set an 18-hole record in the tournament. Zhang birdied two of the par-3s and each of the four par-5s, including a 50-foot putt on No. 14. A birdie on her final hole gave her the outright lead after the first round.

“In golf, par-5 scoring is very important for a good round. For me to be able to do that and capitalize on every par-5, I think it shows my game’s in a pretty consistent, good direction,” Zhang said.

Sweden’s Andrea Lignell, a University of Mississippi senior, was one shot back with a bogey-free round of 67.

“I did not expect a bogey-free round today. There’s a lot of tough holes out there where you can easily be OK walking off with a bogey. So I definitely did not expect it, but I’m really happy,” said Lignell, who was making her first appearance in the tournament.

Bae, who also played in the tournament in 2022, was in third place at three-under 69.

However, because of the preferred lies Rule 9.4 that was put in place due to inclement weather prior to the tournament, the first round was not as kind to defending champion Anna Davis.

Masters Augusta National ANWAOn her first hole, she lifted her ball and failed to replace it on its original spot on two separate occurrences. Under the preferred lies rule, which was in place for the first and second rounds, players could take free relief when their ball lay in areas cut to fairway height or less.

Davis was penalized two strokes for each occurrence of playing from a wrong place, increasing her score on the hole from 5 to 9.

“So, preferred lies were only in the fairway today, and I learned that after the first hole. On my first drive, I was in the rough, did my little thing. There’s mud on it. My second shot in the rough, same thing. So that was a four-shot penalty right there,” said Davis, who learned of the ruling when she was on the fourth tee. “Little rough start to the day, but that’s all right, it happens. It’s a learning experience.”

Weather also affected the second round when fog pushed back the start by an hour on Thursday morning. The delay did not deter Zhang, however.

After a record-setting performance in round one, she broke her own record in round two when she finished one stroke better with a seven-under 65. She also shattered the 36-hole record of five-under 139 that Jennifer Kupcho established in the inaugural ANWA in 2019.

On the front nine, Zhang had three birdies in her first four holes and a 30-foot eagle on the par-5 ninth hole. With a single bogey through 36 holes, she played the four par-5s in nine-under in the first two rounds to post a score of 13-under-par.

“I feel like I did everything pretty well today. I feel like I was hitting my irons a lot better than what I did yesterday, and yesterday I made a lot of long putts. Today I had a lot of good looks for birdie from short range. So that definitely allowed me to get some more birdie looks and convert some more putts,” Zhang said.

Lignell shot 69 to finish the first two rounds at eight-under 136, and she birdied her final hole to stay in solo second place. Carding a 68, Bae sat in third place at seven-under.

With the top 30 players and ties advancing to the final round at Augusta National on Saturday, 31 players made the cut, which fell at two-over 146, last year.

‘Aha Moment’

By making the cut, Zhang became the only player to move on to the final round in all four years of the tournament. She also took a commanding five-stroke lead into the third round at Augusta National. However, her lead started to slip away as she struggled on Saturday.

“I feel like it’s always difficult to have such a big lead, especially on such a prestigious stage. When things matter the most and you have a big lead but the job’s not done, it definitely puts a lot of things into perspective,” Zhang said.

With the double bogey on the first hole, along with three bogeys and a birdie, Zhang was four-over par through seven holes when rain halted play for more than three hours.

Zhang said she didn’t do anything special during the delay. Once the tournament resumed, however, she had an “aha moment” on No. 13 where she made a grip change to weaken the grip on her right hand and get her driver “back on track.”

“I figured out a little trigger point in my golf swing, and from then on, it was kind of smooth sailing, grinding from there,” Zhang said.

She birdied No. 13 but bogeyed the 15th hole after deciding to go for the green and coming up short.

“When I was out at Champions, it felt so easy to me. Everything just came to me. I was making putts. I was hitting greens,” said Zhang, whose father caddied for her all three rounds. “But when you’re out here (at Augusta National), one mistake, like I said before, is magnified.”

However, Zhang played even par the rest of way as Bae, playing one group ahead, went three-under in her final 10 holes.

Hitting wedge for her second shot on No. 17, Bae landed the ball about a foot from the pin.

“Next thing you know there’s just a bunch of roaring and (people) saying, ‘Go Dawgs,’” said Bae, who shot 70 in the final round. “I don’t think I’ve ever felt happier on a golf course in my life. … I’ve never heard such big yelling on a golf course. It just felt amazing.”

The tap-in birdie pulled Bae even with Zhang for the lead. Finishing at 9-under, they were tied for the 54-hole tournament record after Bae overcame a six-shot deficit in the final round.

The two players went to No. 18 for a sudden death playoff to decide the tournament. While Bae missed a birdie attempt, Zhang lagged her first putt and saved par to advance to No. 10 for the second playoff hole.

“I really felt like it was all or nothing, and I really just had to commit to my line,” Zhang said of her par-saving second putt. “I ended up going with a solid, straight putt, and it ended up going in with a little bit of speed.”

Masters Augusta National ANWAOn the second playoff hole, both competitors hit the fairway with their drives. Bae pulled her second shot, however, and the ball ended up left of the green in pine straw underneath a tree. Her third shot skidded across the green into a bunker, giving an opening to Zhang.

Her first putt stopped inches from the flagstick, and she tapped in for par and the win.

“After that little putt went in, it was just a sense of relief,” said Zhang, who was met on the green by her Stanford teammates for a victory celebration.

Crazy, But Good

With the win, Zhang added the ANWA title to an impressive collection of amateur triumphs including the 2020 U.S. Women’s Amateur, the 2021 U.S. Girls Junior Championship and the 2022 individual and team NCAA Championship.

She credited her success to her consistency and her calm demeanor.

“I never really care about wins, but I do care about how I play and I care about the people around me. I think that really just trying to excel in my profession and trying to do the best I can is something that I cared a lot more about than just a simple win,” said Zhang, who nevertheless admitted she “greatly wanted to win this” tournament. “So it’s been crazy, but it’s been really good.”

By Betsy Gilliland

Six Shots

Masters Guide
Drive Chip Putt

Photos courtesy of Augusta National Golf Club

Two drives, two chips and two putts added up to one victory for eight 2023 Drive, Chip and Putt champions.

Focus, forget the nerves and feed off family support. These concepts were a winning formula for success for the eight victors at the 2023 Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals.

Another simple mantra vaulted Boys Divisions winners Jake Sheffield of Knoxville, Tennessee (ages 14-15) and Leo Saito of Hilo, Hawaii (ages 12-13) to the top of the leaderboard. Victory was only six shots away.

“You’re just trying to take it all in, but you’re also trying to focus and win,” said Jake. “It’s just six shots and something you do every round, so it’s obviously just normal practicing. But you have to be under that pressure and be able to succeed.”

Family Ties

Calling Drive, Chip and Putt “the biggest stage in junior golf,” Jake started the competition with a 259-yard drive that landed him in second place after the first discipline. He placed fourth in chipping and took the division title with a 30-foot putt attempt that stopped within two feet of the hole.

After finishing third at the 2022 Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals, Leo brought the benefit of experience to last year’s competition. On the 18th green, he poured in one putt and knocked the other within two feet of the hole. His putting skills left him in a tie for top overall honors with Aarav Lavu of Wellesley, Massachusetts. Leo claimed victory in a playoff after draining a 15-foot putt.

“It’s a little different than winning an 18-hole tournament. It’s only six shots for the whole thing, so it’s a little different. But I am really happy I won,” he said.

Another competitor from the Aloha State, Nealson Manutai of Laie, Hawaii, won the Boys 10-11 Division. His winning 237-yard drive, which was more than 40 yards farther than the runner-up in that competition, and his second-place finish in chipping was enough for him to earn the overall title.

“I really tried to get my drive in play, my chips close and my putts close to win this tournament,” said Nealson.

After his victory, he also said he has gotten more golf tips than he can remember from his Uncle Tony – aka PGA Tour player Tony Finau. (Finau’s wife and Nealson’s mother are cousins.) “He’s really pushing me to keep going and to keep working hard,” Nealson said.

Other family ties helped Knox Mason of Portland, Tennessee win the Boys 7-9 Division. With his dad as his caddie, Knox took the top spot in driving and ninth place in chipping. He was tied for the overall lead with Jacob Eagan of Castle Rock, Colorado after putting.

“I had to go into a playoff and had to make the putt to win, and then I made it,” Knox said. “I was like, ‘I couldn’t feel myself making that.’”

However, his dad gave him great advice to help him roll in the extra 15-footer. “He said, ‘Just don’t be nervous. Just try to sink the putt,’” said Knox.

Experience and Consistency

While none of the Girls Division winners required a playoff to earn the overall trophy, their competitions provided plenty of excitement.

In her first Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals appearance, Ashley Kim of Cerritos, California drove the ball 171 yards to start the competition with the lead in the Girls 7-9 Division. “When my turn came I was really nervous, and I was shaking when I was swinging,” she said.

Ashley placed third in chipping and rolled her 15-foot putt within three feet of the hole to secure the overall win.

As a veteran of the competition, Alexandra Phung of Forest Hills, New York made her third appearance at the National Finals last year. After finishing in third place in the driving portion of the Girls 10-11 Division, Alexandra found herself with a three-point lead when she surprised herself with her first-place chipping performance.

“I felt like my chipping normally is not the best, but this time I definitely came through with it,” she said.

Although she did not win any of the individual disciplines, Girls 12-13 Division winner Maya Palanza Gaudin of East Falmouth, Massachusetts took the overall title with consistency. She finished third in driving and claimed the second spots in chipping and putting.

“My dad always says that routine is very important,” said Maya, who made it to the National Finals in her sixth attempt to qualify. “Skill is important, also, but if you have a routine, then you can always rely on your routine when you’re nervous. And that’s what I did.”

Appearing in her second National Finals, Martha Kuwahara of Northbrook, Illinois won the Girls 14-15 Division with a 241-yard drive and a putt that stopped two inches from the hole.

However, Martha, who traveled to the competition with her parents and her coach and his family, missed all the preliminary events because their flights were delayed by inclement weather. They didn’t arrive in town until midnight, and the finals began only hours later.

“We were all like, ‘Oh yeah, we got all the bad luck out yesterday, so all the good luck is today,’” said Martha. “And it just all worked out.”

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Drive, Chip and Putt competition, and the National Finals will be held on Sunday, April 7. The field will include Evans resident Kipp Madison, who advanced through regional qualifying at The Golf Club of Tennessee after placing first overall in the Boys 12-13 age group.

Kipp, who plays regularly at West Lake Country Club, is the second member of his family to compete in the Drive, Chip and Putt competition. His brother, Zane, made it to the finals two years ago as an 8-year-old.

In addition, seven of the 80 competitors are repeat finalists including three-time national finalist Champa Visetsin and 2022 national champion Hudson Knapp. The junior golfers represent 31 states, one Canadian province and Australia.

By Betsy Gilliland

Playing for a Cause

Buzz

cole swindellAn award-winning country artist will headline a longstanding Masters Week concert.

Drive for Show, Rock Fore! Dough is turning 20 this year, and country music superstar Cole Swindell is making his first appearance at the concert.

“We’re very excited to have Cole perform. He’s a huge golf fan, and he’s from Georgia. He’ll be a great addition,” says Gluestick Music’s Emily Stevenson, event producer.

Augusta’s own Black Dawg, a Led Zeppelin-inspired band featuring John Kelley – brother of country music sensations Josh and Charles Kelley, will open the show. DJ Rock, Luke Bryan’s tour DJ, is returning to spin tunes throughout the evening.

Additional  performers include country singer/songwriters Randy Houser and Tyler Reeve.

Proceeds from the annual fundraiser benefit First Tee – Augusta. In the past two decades, the concert has raised more than $1.7 million for the organization.

“We’ve always had artists who care about golf, and people that support golf want to support youth golf,” Stevenson says. “Having an event that is still successful after 20 years is such an accomplishment. From the First Tee board and staff to our sponsors and fans, it takes everyone. It’s fun to be in Augusta during Masters Week, and we want this concert to be our biggest and best.”

If You Go:

What: Drive For Show, Rock Fore! Dough concert

When: 5 p.m. Tuesday, April 9

Where: Evans Towne Center Park

How Much: $40 in advance; $50 day of; free for children ages 5 and under with ticketed adult

More Info: rockforedough.com

Incorporation and Consolidation

Buzz

consolidated government.A multi-phased process that could bring changes to Columbia County is underway but far from over.

Déjà vu, anyone? As it did in the early 2000s, Columbia County once again is exploring the possibility of forming a consolidated government.

This time, however, the county is following a different path. Under the current scenario, the unincorporated portions of the county first would incorporate into a city, and the initial phase of the process – a fiscal feasibility study – is complete.

The study found that it would be feasible fiscally for Columbia County to incorporate its entire land area, excluding the cities of Grovetown and Harlem, into a new city and then merge with the county to create a consolidated government.

“This is something we’ve talked about for a long time. When we look at the financial aspects of this, it just makes sense,” says Scott Johnson, county manager.

While the study found that incorporation and consolidation could be feasible fiscally, it did not address the social, political or governance aspects of the proposal.

Under incorporation and consolidation, the new municipality would become Georgia’s sixth largest city. However, voters will have the final say in the matter, which could take three years to decide.

Fiscal Feasibility

A feasibility study is required by the state House of Representatives before it can consider legislation that proposes incorporation. Now that the report is complete, legislation could be drafted this year and come up for a vote the following year. “It could go before the voters the year after that,” Johnson says.

However, he says the next step is to gather public input, which could begin in late spring or early summer.

“Some people are very excited about the possibility. Some people are very apprehensive about it,” Johnson says. “We’re gathering information, and we’re going to put it before the voters.”

Conducted by Valdosta State University, the study is available online at columbiacountyga.gov.

The report concludes, “Based on our analysis, we find existing revenues of $248 million exceed likely expenditures for the services identified to be provided, projected at $191 million, and therefore have concluded that the City of Columbia is likely fiscally feasible.”

According to the study, consolidation could provide the county with additional revenue streams such as franchise fees, which are paid by companies or utilities to operate within a county or municipality.

For the purpose of the study, Georgia Power fees were examined. As of March 2023, the county franchise fees were 1.1839% of usage cost, and Georgia Power’s municipal franchise fee rate was 3.0647% of usage cost.

“Franchise fees would go up if we were inside a city,” Johnson says. “We’re missing out on $8.4 million in revenue.”

While county residents’ power bills would increase annually by about $23, he continues, the new municipality could use the fees to reduce the current millage rate of 4.895 by 0.808 mills to 4.087.

Other potential revenue sources could include an increase in hotel/motel taxes, grants and expanded code enforcements.

What About Grovetown and Harlem?

“There are a lot of unanswered questions,” says Gary Jones, Grovetown’s mayor and a lifelong Columbia County resident. “From a personal standpoint, I like the aspect of having a rural area in the county.”

In addition, Grovetown and Harlem would be landlocked with no possibility of growth through annexation.

According to the county’s Geographic Information Systems Department, Grovetown has 556 acres of undeveloped land. However, Jones says, “Areas that are undeveloped are in the inner core. We need to spread out so we don’t have so much traffic congestion.”

He says he would like to negotiate with county officials in the near future about letting the city accumulate more land through annexation.

According to the county GIS department, Harlem has 1,843 acres of undeveloped land.

“We have at least two active developments with a third having started with their infrastructure and one more development that will be a combination of commercial and residential to start in the coming months,” says Debra Moore, Harlem city manager. “These are all within what I would call Harlem proper, with areas out toward the actual city limits to still be developed on both the north side and east side of the city.”

In the study, Harlem mayor Roxanne Whitaker and Elaine Matthews, Grovetown city administrator, raised other issues as well. They included sales tax distribution, intergovernmental agreements, public safety, the organizational structure of the new government and community identity.

“We have been told that there will be no changes, that all will continue to work as it is now,” Moore says.

Johnson also says that residents would be able to keep their current mailing addresses.

“The county has always given us a voice and a seat at the table, but it is still something to consider and think about. There has been some discussion with the mayor and council, but we have no concrete comments pertaining to being in support of or not in support of this move by the county,” Moore says. “We are waiting and watching to see what the next step is and will go from there. We understand that, as a city, our residents who live within our city limits will not have a vote in this matter as it impacts those who live in the unincorporated area more directly.”

GA Film Academy

LIFE + STYLE

filmmaking GeorgiaGeorgia Film Academy summer camp registration is now open for high school students ages 14 to 17 who are interested in learning about the film industry.

Four sessions are scheduled, where campers will receive hands-on training in screenwriting, filmmaking, advanced filmmaking and post-production.

Camps will be held at Trilith Studios in Fayetteville, Georgia, and will be led by industry professionals who have worked on major movie productions and television shows.

For more information, visit GeorgiaFilmAcademy.edu.