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Column: Glad to have state golf tournaments back on Jekyll Island

The views of the author are not necessarily the views of AllOnGeorgia.

The other day I was sitting in my recliner writing a preview story for the Class 6A state golf tournaments which will take place this coming Monday and Tuesday on Jekyll Island.

When I was maybe halfway through the story, my cell phone made the noise that I have set up to alert me when a text message comes in.

Naturally, I couldn’t resist the temptation to see who was texting me even though I needed to finish the story as quickly as possible so I could meet other deadlines that same day.

Well, the person messaging me was none other than Herman Hudson, the longtime golf coach at Glynn Academy.

For me, it was one of those “things that make you go hmmm” moments.

See, I talk to Coach Hudson periodically, but not every day, not even every week. Like he noted in his text, we hadn’t talked in a while and he just wanted to see how I was doing.

Certainly, that was a nice gesture. It’s just that I found it strange that it was him of all people who would send me a random text when I’m writing about the upcoming state golf tournament.

If you know the history of golf in Glynn County, you know that Coach Hudson won numerous state championships with the Red Terrors and established the Glynn boys program as a state power in high school golf.

And it was former Glynn County Schools athletic director Frank Inman, along with former Jekyll golf pro Johnny Paulk and Hudson, who brought the state’s largest classification tournament to Jekyll back in the 1980s and made it one of the best state championship events the Georgia High School Association had for many, many years.

It stayed here until well into the 2000s when finally the state moved it away from the Golden Isles after growing tired of the continuous squawking by a few boisterous and apparently influential coaches who were jealous of the success of the Glynn program and the Terrors’ knack for knocking out state titles left and right like the Alabama Crimson Tide does nowadays in college football.

It got so bad that one coach once blew the whistle on Glynn for its head coach at the time carrying his players’ bags from the ninth green to the 10th tee in between nines.

Yes, it was a violation of the rules for high school golf, but most people would simply turn their head and let it go since it was a minor technicality and wasn’t really giving the Terrors any sort of advantage when it came to the competition itself.

This particular coach was just tired of coming here year after year and settling for something other than the first-place trophy because his team could not beat Glynn Academy.

So, when he got the chance to pull one over on the Terrors, he did. Glynn was caught red-handed and was penalized by the GHSA for the rules violation, costing the team added strokes to its score for the tournament.

Turns out, the Terrors wouldn’t have won that year, anyway.

But, Glynn didn’t win all the time because their coaches mistakenly carried their players’ bags to the next hole while they ate a sandwich and guzzled a cold drink.

Did it help that the Terrors played the Oleander Course a few more times than the other teams leading into state tournament? Sure, it did, even though Glynn didn’t play the course as often as some would like to believe.

At the end of the day, the Terrors won because they always had one of the best teams in the state, if not the very best one most every year.

Glynn won at state because it won, or had a chance to win, everywhere it went to play in tournaments and matches around the state during the regular season.

And that’s because the Terrors had the Johnnys and the Joes who could flat out stripe a golf ball down the fairway, knock down flags from 150 yards or wedge it close to the hole for a virtual gimme putt or maybe even drain a 20-footer that breaks left to right like they were Ben Crenshaw putting at Augusta National.

The GHSA used to, and to some degree still does, have a history of holding some of its state championship events at the same venues year after year.

At one point, Jekyll was one of those spots, and that was largely because of Inman’s influence at the state level. Plus, he did a good job of running the show here and the powers-that-be in the state office knew the state golf tournament was an event they wouldn’t have to worry about. Inman had it taken care of.

Ironically, it wasn’t until after his death, if I remember correctly, that the state golf tournament was moved elsewhere for the first time since coming here in the 1980s.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I do feel that a state golf tournament is one championship that should change sites every year or every couple of years so no team has a home-course advantage year in and year out.

Because, let’s just face the facts. Most likely, only the better teams in the state are going to want to host the event which takes work to put on correctly.

And, they’ll want to do so because they value golf at their schools and know playing on a course they are familiar with might be worth a stroke or two or more and could be the difference in them winning a state title or falling just short.

So, I have no problem with a state golf tournament moving around, maybe going in a rotation of venues if those venues are willing to host from time to time.

I also like that GHSA decided last year to make all the state tournaments across its different classifications 36 holes each. Like current Glynn boys coach Mike Zito told me recently, this takes away the “one-hit-wonders” who might have the round of the century and walk away a state champion.

As least with two rounds, such a team would have to back up such a round with another good one.

But really, all the good teams that might be stacked up in a bunch after the first 18 can at least have another 18 to separate from the pack and allow the tournament to produce a truer champion, if you will.

Back when the highest-classification was here, only that class played a 36-hole event, and it was two rounds in one day.

Oftentimes, the title came down a survival contest between the fittest, not necessarily the best ball-strikers and putters. And yes, a lot of times that was Glynn Academy, too.

Playing 36 holes over two days is a better and more fair test if you ask me.

And as for me, I just like the fact that Glynn County Schools is hosting state tournaments again.

State golf on Jekyll was always one of the highlights of the yearly athletics calendar and was a good way to close the year in high school sports.

We used to have a joke at the local newspaper when I worked there regarding the region and state tournaments that were always on Jekyll.

The region tournament was the “cookie tournament” because the players got those always-delicious school-baked cookies as a snack during their rounds.

And if you asked nicely, the media got to enjoy those as well.

Then, came the state tournament which we called the hamburger and hot dog tournament. And yes that was because the players were served grilled burgers and dogs between the first and second 18s.

And yes, reporters and photographers were treated to those as well, as long as we were willing to add the ketchup and mustard ourselves.

I think it was Mike Morrison and Bobby Haven who first distinguished the tournaments by the food offerings, and then I just followed tradition from there.

Maybe we’ll get something of the like next week, too. I don’t know.

But as long as we can get a golf cart to help us cover the event, we’ll be happy.

It’s good to have state golf back on the Smilin’ Island.

Kevin Price is a freelance writer for AllOnGeorgia with more than 20 years experience in journalism and communications.

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