Palmer's Greensboro Legacy

by Mike Purkey

 Mar 21, 2018 at 4:21 PM

The King's Affinity for Greensboro

The first ACC golf tournament was staged in 1954 at Old Town Club and was won by Arnold Palmer, who had re-entered Wake Forest after a three year hitch in the Coast Guard. Palmer had withdrawn from school, despondent about the death of his close friend and Wake teammate Buddy Worsham.

Worsham was responsible for Palmer being at Wake Forest. Worsham was a prized recruit and before entering school asked athletic director Jim Weaver if he could bring along a friend. Weaver wanted to know if that friend could play golf and Worsham assured the AD that Palmer could, indeed, play.

With Palmer and Worsham as the anchors, Wake Forest won three Southern Conference championships. Palmer won the ACC individual title in 1948 and 1949 and was the NCAA individual winner in 1950.

On October 14, 1950, Worsham and teammate Gene Scheer went to the Wake Forest homecoming dance in Durham after Palmer and Jim Flick turned them down, going to a movie instead. That night, a one-car wreck killed Worsham and Scheer.

Palmer left Wake Forest after the 1954 ACC Championship without graduating, heading instead to a career on the PGA
Tour. When he started having success as a professional, he endowed the Buddy Worsham Scholarship at Wake Forest in 1963. Years later, Palmer endowed another scholarship in his own name and went on to endow six more scholarships
at Wake. But the Worsham Scholarship remains the most prestigious.

The Greater Greensboro Open tournament became important to Palmer. He played it 13 times, even coming to Greensboro during the years the tournament was played the week before the Masters, when most big-name players skipped the event to get ready for Augusta.

Palmer always said he had an affinity for Greensboro and the GGO, drawn to Sedgefield because of the memories of his old friend and teammate, Worsham. And as if playing in the event was not enough to boost the fortunes and galleries of the GGO, he once called in a big favor and got his friend Bob Hope to come to Greensboro and play in the pro-am.

In 1965, Palmer agreed to attend the first Champions Dinner. While flying to town, he encountered bad weather preventing his landing in Greensboro. He could land in Charlotte but would need a ride to Greensboro. Jim Melvin, Greensboro’s mayor at the time, convinced the Highway Patrol to pick up Palmer at the Charlotte airport and race him to Greensboro. And race they did: They made it to the dinner in an astounding 45 minutes.

Palmer never won the GGO, coming close in 1972 when he had a two-shot lead with three holes to play. A triple-bogey
coming in thwarted his chances. But that hole on his resume doesn’t diminish what Palmer meant to Greensboro and the tournament now known as the Wyndham Championship.

Last August, the Wyndham installed a plaque dedicated to Palmer on the Wall of Champions behind the ninth green at Sedgefield. With his grandson, Sam Saunders, in attendance, the plaque was dedicated.

It reads: “Widely considered the most important figure in golf and one of the most influential players in Wyndham Championship history, Arnold Palmer had five top five finishes in 13 appearances at Sedgefield. In 1963, Palmer established the Buddy Worsham Memorial Scholarship at Wake Forest University in memory of his friend and teammate who died in a car accident while in school. Since that time, scholarship winners have been a consistent presence in the tournament field, always with great appreciation and admiration for Arnie.”

This plaque now serves as a permanent reminder of Palmer’s contributions. Now, there’s something tangible that will
remind people of his legacy every time they pass.

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Storied Past, Bright Future

by Mike Purkey

 Mar 13, 2018 at 4:11 PM

McConnell Golf's link to the ACC remains strong

Sedgefield Country Club has a rich and storied relationship with the Atlantic Coast Conference, providing the place where the conference was formed more than 60 years ago. McConnell Golf not only recognizes that history, but embraces it. Clubs under the McConnell umbrella continue to host men’s and women’s ACC golf championships, which makes them — and by extension all of McConnell Golf — part of the conference’s history, as well. The men’s championship has been hosted by Old North State Club and Musgrove Mill Golf Club, while the women’s championship has been held at The Reserve Golf Club and Sedgefield CC.

The ACC is Born
In 1923, Southern Real Estate acquired a tract of land southwest of Greensboro with the intention of building a self sufficient community. The 3,660 acres were originally owned by New York executive John Cobb, who turned it into a hunting preserve. He called it Sedgefield.

One of the amenities Southern Real Estate envisioned was a golf course. The great architect Donald Ross, who was well ensconced in Pinehurst, was summoned and agreed in 1925 to design two golf courses on the property.

The first course was called Valley Brook and it officially opened in the spring of 1926. The Great Depression prevented the construction of a second course, and Valley Brook is today known as Sedgefield Country Club.

But the history of Sedgefield includes more than just golf. On May 8, 1953, the birth of the Atlantic Coast Conference took place at the Sedgefield Inn, which years later would become the clubhouse for Sedgefield CC.

On that morning in May, seven members of the Southern Conference withdrew from the conference during the league’s spring meeting. That afternoon, Clemson, Duke, Maryland, North Carolina, N.C. State, South Carolina, and Wake Forest agreed at the Sedgefield Inn to form another conference. Local newspapers asked their readers for ideas to name the conference. Suggestions included Dixie, Mid South, Mid Atlantic, East Coast, Seaboard, Colonial, Tobacco, Blue-Gray, Piedmont, Southern Seven, and the Shoreline. But it was Eddie Cameron, Duke’s athletic director, who suggested the name Atlantic Coast Conference, and it passed unanimously.

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The Fabled Finish

by Irwin Smallwood

 Jul 02, 2016 at 9:27 PM

A reflection on the 2013 Wyndham Championship playoff

As the August twilight was about to descend on the lush fairways of Sedgefield Country Club on a soggy Sunday afternoon in 2013, little did the faithful who had remained for the Wyndham Championship playoff realize: They were about to witness the writing of the first draft of history.

That Sunday conjured snapshots from the first four years of the golf tournament’s forebear, the Greater Greensboro Open, when then-fledgling professionals Sam Snead, Ben Hogan, and Byron Nelson jump-started their illustrious careers on the very same soil.

No one then dreamed that the trio would later rule the PGA Tour and wind up as hall-of- famers, just as precious few in the late summer of 2013 realized that they were seeing authentic stardom in the making.

One of the contenders in the 2013 sudden-death playoff was still a teenager; the other had just turned 23. Both had been two-time participants in Greensboro’s American Junior Golf Association tournament, recently renamed the Haas Family Invitational.

But what they produced was a finish that is bound to earn legendary status as the years speed by. Barely three years later, the then-teenager, Jordan Spieth, has been ranked No. 1 in the world and has won both the Masters and the U.S. Open. The man who beat him, Patrick Reed, is closing in on a top-10 world ranking. So what else was so great about that playoff? The shot. The shot.

Looking Back

But that’s getting a little ahead of the story of the Wyndham Championship playoffs.

Most of the 15 earlier ones had their moments to remember. Two of Snead’s eight GGO victories came in playoffs, and he let another slip away when Earl Stewart beat him and Art Wall; and Doug Ford did the same in one that lasted 19 holes.

In 1972, George Archer had already packed his clubs in his car for the trip to the Masters when Arnold Palmer triple-bogeyed away a two-shot lead with three holes to play, plopping Archer and Tommy Aaron into an unexpected overtime that Archer won with a par.

Along the way there were also such notable playoff winners as Julius Boros, Gene Littler, Sandy Lyle, Ryan Moore, and Rocco Mediate, and such not-so-notable winners as Bud Allin, Trevor Dodd, and Frank Nobilo, the latter now a Golf Channel analyst. But the shot is what they will still be writing about when the tournament turns 100 or so — that and the two young lions who appear destined to become hall-of-famers. Turns out there was more than a little drama before Reed and Spieth got to the decisive second hole of the playoff in 2013. The final round of regulation had pretty much belonged to them as Spieth bested Reed by a stroke, 65 to 66, in the wake of overnight rains and an early morning storm that delayed play for three hours. And then came the real stuff.


On the first extra hole, Sedgefield’s par- four 18th, Spieth drove into the woods on the left and had to play a safety shot back into the fairway. Meantime, Reed split the middle with a textbook tee ball, and after Spieth put his third on the green, a good 26 feet from the pin, Reed hit another perfect one, leaving him maybe seven feet for a possible winning birdie.

But not so fast. Spieth, whose heroics with the putter have since become legendary around the world, curled in the putt with a good two-foot break. Par. Reed, perhaps a bit shaken, missed his birdie try and off they went to the 10th tee.

This time it was Spieth who hit the perfect tee shot, right down the middle of the uphill par four, and Reed found the trouble. Big trouble, it first appeared. Out of bounds in the trees to the right, someone signaled. As Reed later recounted, he was in shock. “My heart sank,” he says, but then came a turn of events that in the end saved the day. “All of a sudden,” he says, “three or four other people started running out on the fairway and gave me the safe signal.” 

Cut to the chase. Though just 150 yards or so from the green and inbounds, his ball was, as they often say, in jail. There was no way he could reach the green, right? Wrong. With Spieth already on the green in two and within good (10 feet) birdie range, Reed smacked a three-quarter 7-iron under an overhanging tree limb, straight as a string, and it stopped seven feet below the hole.

The shot. Of a lifetime for Reed, as it turned out. Spieth was the one a bit spooked this time, and his birdie attempt lipped out. Reed’s was dead center for a shot that earned him his first PGA Tour victory, and a certain place for him and Spieth in the storied history of the venerable old tournament a hearty band of young businessmen dreamed up eight decades ago.

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Jack Returns to Sedgefield

by Jessie Ammons

 Dec 14, 2015 at 4:50 PM

It was a legendary appearance to honor an industry pioneer when renowned golfer Jack Nicklaus and his wife, Barbara, served as Honorary Chairman and Chairwoman of the A. Darrell Harris Memorial Golf Tournament last September.

As a tribute to the founder of Furnitureland South, the world’s largest furniture store, friends and family gathered at Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, N.C. for a gala dinner preceding a team-style tournament. Celebration and camaraderie were evident throughout the event, which raised money for Brenner Children’s Hospital in Winston-Salem, N.C. and the Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation.

Nicklaus, arguably one of the greatest golfers of all time, and Furnitureland South have a rich history. Two decades ago, the Nickaluses visited the showroom and had a standout customer experience thanks to longtime employee Harold Moose. Nicklaus referred Moose to his friends: soon, the High Point, N.C.-based retailer was the unofficial home furnishings resource for the PGA Tour.

So it was more of a reunion when Jack and Barbara returned to Sedgefield on September 28. “To see so many come together in the spirit of charity to honor [my father’s] memory was a true testament to the impact he made in his lifetime,” says Jeff Harris, son of A. Darrell Harris and CEO of Furnitureland South. “We were moved and inspired by the participation and support from our father’s closest friends and business associates.”

The Nicklauses called A. Darrell Harris a “great man, husband, father, grandfather, and friend.” Though Jack Nicklaus hadn’t played at Sedgefield in many years, it was this tournament - and the man, the brand, and the company it represented - that brought him back.

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