History of the Pot o' Gold
By Max Hancock, Tournament Committee Chair
The Pot 'o' Gold was started in 1956 by the then Sunset Country Club pro, George Berry, who decided to invite the surrounding clubs to send their club pro and the three best amateurs in their club to play in the tournament. The contest was to be played using the best score of the team, thus a "best ball" scratch tournament. As the news got out, there was more interest in the tournament. Teams started coming from Jacksonville, Tallahassee, Macon, Atlanta, and other places, and the tournament grew. I am unable to list the year that Berry left the club; however, I do know that he went to Saugahatchee Golf Course in Alabama and started a very similar tournament there. He called it the "Heart of Dixie Pro-Am", and it continues until today.
Sunset Country Club was a nine-hole course at the start. After Berry left for Alabama, Emory Lee became club pro. The tournament continued to grow.
During this time the tournament was played during February. Many stories are told of the cold and freezing weather and how metal trash barrels were placed around the course and fires were built in them so the players could get warm.
Weather has always been a topic of discussion when talking about the POG. One golfer told me once that he packed three different bags when coming to Moultrie - one for hot weather, one for cold weather, and one for rainy weather. He went on to say that he ended up using all three sometimes. There have been floods and also snow, sleet, and wind storms, as well as some beautiful springtime weather. In one tournament there was cold wind blowing and misting rain. Bob Duval told me that was the first time he was more concerned about finishing the tournament than winning it. He was leading at the time. Bill Robinson did, in fact, catch him. We call the uncertainty of Moultrie weather in March one of the mystiques of the tournament.
Lee led Sunset Country Club into building nine more holes, and he was the architect for this project. The new addition became the "back nine".
Lee accepted a job at Cannongate in Atlanta and left SCC a month before the new nine opened. Fred McDuffie followed Lee as pro at SCC. I'm not sure how long Berry, Lee, or McDuffie stayed at Sunset.
Herring Cole came to SCC in 1971 and remained until 1989. During his tenure improvements were made, and the tournament continued to grow. He brought Miller Brewing Company on as the title sponsor during the 1980s. Needless to say, we became known for all the free beer available at the tournament. The purse grew with the tournament. Miller made it possible to do this. The association with Miller Brewing Company continued for approximately 20 years. Herring was very strict about who played in the tournament. The rules of entry were changed to having the club pro receive an invitation rather than the club. The pro had to be attached to the club he represented, and at least two of the three amateur players had to be members of his club. We acquired the reputation that we ran a fair and honest tournament. During this time a rather large "Calcutta" was held on Friday night of the tournament. This was later changed to a "dogfight" as it is now.
After Herring left, the tournament became a "member-run" tournament. It had a chairman and about ten committee members. It has continued to keep that format. The pro is still a very important part of the tournament; however, the committee allows the pro to have more time to look after his shop, the golf course, and his game. This appears to work well for all.
Joey Sprayberry followed Cole as club pro and remained for four years. During Sprayberry's tenure and in the year of 1993, we had the "no name storm" on Saturday. The tournament had been changed to a three-day event for sometime by now. We lost 21 trees on the course that day. One tree fell across the #6 hole while Ed Everett's team was on the green. We called the tournament for that day. Our ground crew removed the tree, patched up the putting surface, and play resumed on Sunday. On Sunday the chill factor had to have been in the teens.
Following Sprayberry was Richard Hatcher. He remained for four years. Richard was the first resident pro to have a team win the tournament. The POG Committee and Richard moved the tournament to an even higher level than before.
Kerry Smith followed Hatcher. Kerry was able to lead our SCC team to two victories, one in 2001 and the other in 2002.
Following Kerry was our present pro, Bob Windom. Bob has worked very closely with the committee to improve the tournament and make improvements where possible. Bob has led our SCC team to one victory after finishing tied for first two years in a row and finishing 2nd after the tie-breaker. We continue to grow with Bob's support.
Max Hancock has been chairman of the POG Committee since we went to the committee format. The committee members do much of the work putting on this "premier pro-am tournament of Georgia".
A look at the past players and winners is like looking at a "who's who list" in Georgia golf for the past 58 years. Add to that the teams from Florida and Alabama, and you will see many recognizable names like Bob and David Duval, Davis Love III, Tommy Brannen, Ray Barr, Stephen Keppler, Greg Wolff, Richard Crawford, Hugh Royer, Ed Everett, Jim Grant, Fred Holton, Larry Hinson, Dewitt Weaver, Emory Lee, Davis Love, Jr., Terry Catlett, Charlie Harper, Jim Stamps, Dan Sikes, Jim Ferree, Hugh Royer, Jr., Downing Gray, Jimmy Lee, David Philo, Pete Cox, Jimmy Gabrielson, Boog Layton, Curt Wagner, Bill Ploeger, Louis Brown, Allen Doyle, Jim Stuart, Carter Mize, Paul Tesori, Mark Drury, Griff Moody, David Noll, Jr., Dave Wommack, and Bob Windom.
Our tournament has a rich history. I hope you will add to the history.
Max Hancock, Tournament Chairman