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Smith: Stadion an instant classic

It had been an innerving week for golf when former Georgia golfer Hudson Swafford, now an aspiring touring pro, reached for the winner’s trophy late Sunday at the UGA Golf Course.

The weather never threatened and birdies were plentiful as the Robert Trent Jones layout was manipulated for an exciting finish — Swafford’s 62 turning heads and delighting those in red and black. Birdies are like home runs. The more you produce, the more the crowd celebrates.

It takes more than a baker’s dozen to run a golf tournament, even when it is hosting the stars of tomorrow.

For the Stadion Classic, more than 450 men and women volunteered from the first practice ball struck on Monday until the sun was dropping behind the pines, oaks and magnolias that abound on the course.

Before moving on, the good looks of the golf course should not be ignored. Tournament chairman George Stafford, director of golf Dave Cousart and their staff had the place groomed like it was hosting the Kentucky Derby or the Henley Regatta.

Kempt and sparkling, it was as becoming as a bridal shower. Coeds, fresh and radiant in sundresses, moved about the course, eliciting warm greetings. Burgers were sizzling on grills with the smoke wafting with an aroma that made you think it might be football season and tailgating hour.

If an errant napkin drifted across the landscape, a volunteer quickly captured it and stuffed it out of sight. The volunteers treated the golf course like it might be their own lawn.

“We could not put on this event without our enthusiastic volunteers,” said Bryan Harris, the man in charge of the tournament’s public relations.

While I don’t know if a pre-tournament speech was made by Harris or any of the tournament officials, it is clear that the volunteers function with a smile and a “What can we do for you?” attitude. It would not be in order to suggest such spirit of accommodation and hospitality makes these players want to return — for obvious reasons. While their goal is to move on to the PGA tour, they do talk about their Athens experience, which brings about positive residuals for the Stadion Classic.

The attitude of the caddies is often a reflection of the quality of an event. They express generous appreciation for complimentary meals and little things like generous transportation courtesies, which send them on to their next stop with rave reviews about their time in Athens. Word gets around that the Stadion Classic is one of the most appealing events on the Nationwide Tour.

Over in the VIP section, Tim Chapmen, the CEO of Stadion, was beaming with good reason. His company invests $250,000 in the tournament and more than $100,000 entertaining customers. He believes he is getting his money’s worth. Asked for an appraisal, however, and Chapman, a manager on the 1980 Georgia national championship football team, sounded somewhat like Vince Dooley. “We are pleased but not satisfied,” he said.

The tournament is a success, it is as well run as you could want, the players and caddies speak approvingly, where could there be improvement?

“We’d like the community to take advantage of our tickets-for-charity plan,” Chapman said. “This year $130,000 goes to charities in the community, but we’d like to see that total accelerate.”

If you have a favorite charity, then you should heed Chapman’s advice. Sell all the tickets you can for the next Stadion Classic. Sell a hundred tickets for $10 each and your charity benefits by $1,000. Tim Chapman, a wizened financial planner, would like to see more big winners other than Hudson Swafford at the Stadion Classic.

Georgia, Samford to play in ’17

by Marc Weiszer

Georgia has added a home game for the 2017 season against Samford, according to a  memorandum of understanding obtained by the Athens Banner-Herald in an open records request. Full Story

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