• 82°

Canebrake ready for State Four-Ball

HATTIESBURG – Canebrake Golf Club is ready. Hopefully, the 88teams entered in the BancorpSouth State Four-Ball Championship willhave their skills fine-tuned for the Mississippi Golf Associationevent. The 54-hole tourney is scheduled April 20-22 and it shouldbe highly competitive.

“We have some great teams and a great course,” said MGAExecutive Director Jeff Morton. He provided the official welcomeand introduction for Tuesday’s Media Activities at Canebrake.

Canebrake, opened in November of 1998, has taken giant steps inpopularity. Golf Digest ranks it as the third best course inMississippi, behind No. 1 Old Waverly in West Point and No. 2Dancing Rabbit (Azalea) in Philadelphia.

If you’re on a budget, Golf Digest considers Canebrake the No. 2best new course with an under-$50 green fee.

Jeff Q. Smith, Canebrake’s PGA Professional since its birth,praised Dr. Bennett York, his family and business for theirgenerous support of Jerry Pate’s creation. “The York family isresponsible for the high quality of this course. Dr. York wantseverything done right, from the restrooms, drainage system andgreens.”

York, an oral surgeon, became a multimillionaire due to wiseinvestments. He continues oral surgery as a hobby. He was dressedin his white medical coat for the press conference.

Smith, a Pike County native, has been working at Canebrake forfive years. It is a beautiful sight to behold. There are 130 acresof 419 bermuda, zoysia and centipede. Add 57 bunkers, four lakesand 20 acres of natural fauna.

It is a par 71, measuring 6,553 yards from the blue tees.Golfers with PGA-distance on their drives can use the gold teeswhich make the course 7,003 yards.

There are six miles of hand-formed concrete cart paths. Thereare dual driving ranges and putting greens, plus bunkers if youcare to practice before teeing off.

Joel Keller, Course Superintendent, has the course in top shape.”Our two main goals are esthetics and making the course as playableas possible. We want the greens to be real receptive to good shots.It’s very important that the course is pleasing to the eye fortournaments.”

Dwight Dyess, BancorpSouth president of the Hattiesburgdivision, said his company was delighted to provide corporatesponsorship. His family lived in Brookhaven for 12 years and he’sgood friends with former mayor Doug Sullivan.

Dyess also works closely with the Hattiesburg Chamber ofCommerce. “We have the zoo and golf,” as tourist attractions. Dyesssaid the chamber has erected a billboard outside St. Louis, Mo. Itreads, “Golf Hattiesburg.”

Defending State Four-Ball champions are Don Hershfelt and BillCollins of Tupelo. “Canebrake has always been one of my favoritecourses,” said Hershfelt.

Collins said Hershfelt sank a 2 1/2-foot putt to win last year’schampionship on the 54th hole. They shot rounds of 67-68-70 -205 tofinished 11-under par.

Hershfelt and Collins have been playing golf together for fiveyears. Last year was the first time for them to play on the sameteam in four-ball.

Looking at this year’s field, MGA President Benji Nelson and hispartner, David Coleman of Madison are among the favorites. From theBrookhaven area, Ralph Smith and Greg Brooking of McComb expect tomake a strong showing.,

Certainly, the southwest area of Mississippi has some moretalented golfers but none of them are entered. Maybe next year.

According to Ronnie Ross, the Brookhaven Country Club’scertified PGA professional, there are some talented young juniorgolfers in the area. Among them are Craig Smith, Jeffery White,Garrett Jackson, Austin Mills and sophomore Trent Maddox of LoydStar. Another rising star is Dale Murphy Sykes of LawrenceCounty.

We had the opportunity to play a round of scramble golf withKeller, MGA board member Charlie Wines of Biloxi, D’Iberville HighSchool sophomore Nick Ladner and WDAM general manager Randy Swann.Wines and Ladner are going to be teammates in the four-ballcompetition. Ladner is an outstanding young golfer and we should bereading a lot about him in the future.

Looking ahead for a moment, Loyd Star has agreed to host theClass 1A-2A State Tournament at the Wolf Hollow Golf Club May 8-9.According to Loyd Star golf coach Ricky Myers, many of thecompetitors are expected to arrive in Brookhaven the Sunday beforethe tournament so they can practice on Monday.

Myers hopes to enlist some volunteers to help with thetournament. The Brookhaven business community should definitelybenefit financially from this 2-day tournament.