Unlike every other Dawson County sports team when the members of the boys and girls golf team play a home game, they are not playing on the high school campus.
Instead, the Tigers face off against their visiting opponents on the forested, rolling-hills alongside Lake Lanier that make up the Chestatee Golf Club.
According to its website the Dennis Griffiths designed course features a combination of “brilliant water holes and vigorous mountain-like terrain” and the 18-hole, par 71 course was named one of the top 100 courses to play in the United States by Golf Digest in 2002.
A challenging course is just one of the many benefits of the club that is extended to the members of the Dawson County golf team as part of a generous sponsorship package administered by Club General Manager Cheryl Howard.
“Brian Ferris, who owns the club, he told me several years ago that we promote junior sports. We want to promote junior golf. Those are our future golfers,” Howard said. “That’s kind of how it all started, him giving me the leeway to say, ‘yes, promote the junior golf.’”
Members of the Dawson County varsity teams, in addition to practicing on the course Monday through Thursday, are given free access to walk the course or ride the course for a minimal cart fee so long as they coordinate ahead of time.
Chestatee’s resident professionals occasionally give lessons to the team during practice sessions and are made available to the individual players for private instruction.
“The pros give lessons, Mike gave the girl’s team a lesson on chipping and putting a couple of weeks ago,” Howard said. “They teach a lot of the kids.”
The support of the Chestatee Golf Club is rivaled only by the support of the membership and the surrounding community as demonstrated by last year’s bag drive organized in an effort to buy the Tigers matching team color golf bags with the team logo.
Howard came up with the idea of a bag drive. Using the club’s newsletter and flyers posted around the club house she explained the circumstances to the membership and put out a request for donations.
By the end of the drive the Club bought a complete set of bags for both teams with funds raised solely from the members’ donations.
“The members support the juniors. They love seeing them here, they talk about them, they like to watch the junior’s play” Howard said. “This year we turned over our rental clubs, and we gave the sets of clubs we no longer needed to team, and then the members will come in with buckets of balls that collect in their yards and they give them to the coaches.”
The Tigers have taken full advantage of the opportunities provided by the course sponsorship as the team’s have combined to produce a 9-1 record at the mid-point of the season and have risen to the top of the standings in the regional rankings.
“It’s a good environment for kids to be in because members, obviously, set such good examples,” Howard said. “Golf is such an integrity sport it is such a good sport for them to be in.”
Dawson County returned from spring break with a nine-hole tournament versus East Jackson at the Double Oaks Golf Course on April 10 but is not scheduled to play at Chestatee again until April 16 when they tee-off a tri-match with North Hall and Union. Results were unavailable as of press time.