Augusta National to help fix up ‘The Patch’ municipal golf course
AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Augusta National Golf Club will partner with Augusta Technical College, the city of Augusta and First Tee of Augusta to make improvements at the Augusta Municipal Golf Course and open pathways to golf for anyone interested in the game.
Augusta National Chairman Fred Ridley made the announcement Wednesday morning during his annual news conference ahead of the Masters Tournament.
“This initiative offers a unique opportunity to contribute to two areas of utmost importance to Augusta National’s mission, our community and golf development,” said Ridley.
Augusta Tech had previously announced a partnership with the city for the college to take over operation of The Patch and to relocate its golf course management program to the green.
Augusta National said in a statement that it “will assist in the planning and execution of this vision to complement their efforts, identify efficiencies and support the partnership’s success.”
Augusta Tech’s education programs will help train golf’s next workforce, Ridley said. Augusta Tech will train college students how to manage a golf course – everything from the turf to clubhouse hospitality, making the historically humble patch of grass a cut above.
And the effort involving The Patch and First Tee will create an affordable and welcoming pathway for anyone who wants to play the game, Ridley said.
“The resulting synergies will produce innovative programming, provide an affordable and welcoming pathway for anyone who wants to learn the game,” Ridley said. “And finally, we will assist in the master planning and renovation of both courses to present a public golf experience for residents and visitors to pursue a lifelong relationship with the game.”
The announcement is the latest among some monumental community-boosting efforts by Augusta National in recent years, including the launch of the HUB for Community Innovation to house nonprofits and help revitalize some inner-city neighborhoods.
“The importance of the community to Augusta National is founded in our mission statement,” Ridley said. “It’s one of our underlying principles. And so if we are true to that principle, then we will continue to look for opportunities to contribute back to the community.”
“We have been thinking about and looking for opportunities to really move the needle in introducing people of all different backgrounds and economic backgrounds to the game of golf,” he said. “We thought that the best place to do that was right here in our community.”
He said the people at Augusta National are excited about the project.
“It’s a fantastic facility,” Ridley said of The Patch. “It’s got great history, great traditions. So that’s the perfect combination for us to partner with the organizations I mentioned earlier to really make a difference in the community.”
Augusta Tech is excited about the plans, as well.
“Now the announcement is made, we are going to spend the next several months reaching out to the community and getting their feedback and incorporating that into future plans,” said Dr. Jermaine Whirl, president of Augusta Tech.
Ridley said the project can be a model for other communities.
“We are very interested in taking this on the road, as we say,” he said. “But right now, our focus is right here in Augusta.”
Djimon Dison is a product of First Tee of Augusta.
“It basically taught me a lot of life skills, things I use today,” Dison said.”It helped me develop my golf game, competitive skills, I got to network with a lot of people through golf and business, so it basically opened a lot of doors for me.”
Like so many local kids from age 10 to 17, Dison spent a lot of his afternoons and his formative years learning the game of golf at First Tee.
“When I went, it was ony six holes. I think they had an extra three you could play to make it nine, but now with the Patch, they can expand and grow. Great opportunity,” Dison said.
The effort will keep affordability and access at the heart, growing the game of golf, in the golf capital.
“Augusta has established itself as a place for a unique world-class golf experience, so now we get to share that with the First Tee kids and the public in general,” said Jill Brown, executive director of First Tee of Augusta.
This announcement trickled its way to The Patch, where the regulars play on a weekly and monthly basis.
“Oh, no kidding. Dude that’s wicked. That’s super cool,” said Mick Casey.
Mario Davis said: “I was excited by that because the Masters is such a private club. I think it’ll be good for the sport.”
They know the role The Patch plays in Augusta. There’s hope this partnership will help grow the game of golf.
“We were influenced by Tiger Woods, but we want the younger generations to bring that in. Golf is booming right now. Augusta National, the mecca of golf, brings it all together. The partnership brings more life into that and brings everyone along with you. It sounds like a phenomenal opportunity,” said William Owen.
Golfers know the future of the course is in good hands.
“Augusta National doesn’t play around their brand is their brand, and they take absolute pride in that, so I can only imagine what they’re going to bring here,” said Casey.
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