Club welcomes kids, invests in future leaders

“Lakeview is the diamond of our whole community.” ~ Dan Walker, longtime golfer and Club board member.

Walker isn’t the only one who feels that way. Locals across Pierce County were heartsick to see the Club’s 40-acre lake drained to a muddy swamp in December after torrential rains eroded a hole in the dam, and overjoyed when it refilled just days after the dam was repaired in February. The Club and its scenic lake are intertwined with fond memories for countless locals.

“Lakeview is the most kid-friendly club,” Walker adds. “You never see kids in abundance like you do at our course … We have a great feeder program through the middle school and a golf course that really supports junior golf more than any place I’ve been around or seen.”

Lakeview Golf Club, which opened as a nine-hole course in 1972 and was later expanded to the existing 18-hole course, has been a kid-friendly, community-focused group since the very beginning when Wes Bennett, former basketball coach and high school principal, struck a deal with the Club.

The high school golf team, headed by Bennett, would clean up around the course, picking up golf balls on the driving range and debris on the greens, in exchange for play time. They even waded into the newly dug lake.

“We’d go out and put on swim trunks and clean the lake out,” Bennett recalls. “We did a lot of work and they let us play. We played free.”

In 1979 Bennett hatched another scheme to host the state tournament at Lakeview. There was just one problem  — the course only had nine holes at the time.

That was an easy fix for Bennett though. He got permission to use nine holes at nearby Okefenokee Country Club for the tournament.

“I went back to the state and told them I had an 18-hole golf course but it was different. I said, ‘it’s nine miles between the number nine and number 10 tee’,” Bennett says with a laugh.

With the help of parents and community members, Bennett bused teams from Lakeview to Okefenokee and fed them in between playing the ninth and tenth hole.

And, the Pierce County boys won!

Local youth golf instructor Bobby Buie remembers Pierce County’s first-ever state win like it was yesterday. He was on the team, and it was his senior year.

The Bears had made it to state play all four years of Buie’s high school golf career, but they’d come up a stroke or two short in the championship playing on hilly courses and mountainous terrain in North Georgia.

This time was different. The boys were playing much better on home turf.

Three teams were tied after regulation play so the tournament advanced to a sudden death playoff. Well-known local golfer David Wall, now deceased, chipped in on a playoff hole to put them in the lead, Bennett says.

Wall played the state tournament with a broken toe and still managed to be low medalist that day.

“He was thrilled to death. He wanted to go break his toe and tape it up every week,” says his mother, Ann Wall.

Tensions were high leading up to the Bears’ first state win, but the thrill of victory was exhilarating.

“We won the playoff on the first hole … I don’t know if my heart could have stood it (taking more than one hole),” Buie says chuckling.

Buie went on to play golf on a scholarship to South Georgia State and never lost his love for the game. Now retired from UPS, he teaches six days a week at Lakeview. His daughter, Bailey, helps out too.

Golf is more than a game, Buie says. It teaches integrity and honesty, and Pierce County kids have been learning those values for decades at Lakeview.

“Golf is a game of integrity and honesty. When you see a kid that’s a golfer, it’s going to be a kid with really good character and morals. That’s what the game grows,” Buie says.

You can’t put a dollar value on that.

Now, the Golf Club is banking  — quite literally  — on community members remembering  Lakeview’s investment in their lives and the wellbeing of their children and grandchildren. The Club has launched a fundraising campaign “Friends of Lakeview” in an effort to raise $60,000 needed to cover the cost of the dam repair in February.

Even those who don’t play golf have been impacted by the Club, members say, through numerous family gatherings, class reunions and weddings held there over the years.

“We do things in life that don’t benefit us directly, but it’s for the good of the community  — that’s what we’re doing right now with this fundraiser,” Walker says. “A lot of people see the good in the Club even if they don’t play golf.”

The Club explored several funding options prior to launching Friends of Lakeview, but without much luck.

“Now we’re going to ask the community. We need help,” Walker continues.

Friends of Lakeview offers multiple options for locals to show their support, culminating with a benefit golf tournament May 18:

1. The Club is selling $100 raffle tickets with cash prizes of $10,000, $5,000 and $2,500. Drawing will be done at the Club Saturday, May 18. Tickets are available at the golf club pro shop and at Jot ‘Em Down Hardware in Blackshear. Only 400 tickets will be sold.

2. The Club is partnering with the Men’s Golf Association to host next month’s tournament — a one-day, 27-hole event for two-man teams. Entry fee is $200/team and is capped at 44 teams. The tournament will be played ‘fun style’ with a 15” hole at each green. Reserve a spot now by calling or visiting the pro shop at Lakeview.

3. Lakeview has also created a GoFundMe page “Friends of Lakeview” detailing the dam break and following repair work where supporters can make a donation.

About Lakeview Golf Course: The 18-hole course was designed by Southern Engineering Company of Georgia under Club President J. A. McDuffie. It measures 6589 yards from the longest tees and has a slope rating of 122 and a 71.5 USGA rating. The course features four sets of tees for different skill levels.

Sidebar

Rain in excess of 12 inches over a weekend in early December eroded a hole approximately five feet deep in the lake dam at Lakeview Golf Club. Initial estimates for the repair were upwards of $100,000, but due in part to donated equipment and man hours, the work was finished in February for approximately $60,000.

Sixty-feet of pipe was installed in the section that collapsed, the spillway and secondary valve were repaired in just two weeks. The Club was fortunate to save the spillway which also reduced repair costs.

“Being able to save the spillway saved some money,” says Club president Tommy Pritchard.

Pritchard thanked Jake Popham, Randy Simmons, Rodney James, General Manager of Golf Course Karl Chancey and his team, John James, Dan McIntosh, Lamar Brantley, David Ferrell and Chad Nimmer for their tireless efforts in getting the dam repaired.