HOWARD WARD: Sandhills Golf Scene Humming
It's only the middle of May, but things are definitely humming in the golf world of the Sandhills.
For instance, in just this past week, Bill Baker, the director of golf and head professional at Foxfire Resort, has accepted the position as executive director of The First Tee of the Sandhills Chapter, following the resignation of Danny Kirby.
Scott Medlin, an assistant professional at Bayonet at Puppy Creek, won his second straight Carolinas PGA Open Championship.
And Stuart Taylor and Dale Briggs have purchased the Eastern Junior Golf Association from founder and director Curtis McGirt.
Kirby, who assumed The First Tee position last July, handed in his resignation a couple of weeks ago, saying that although he had enjoyed the job, it had proved to be more than he had bargained for.
"I was talking to Bob Burwell (a member of The first Tee Board of Directors) one day last summer, and he mentioned that Al Arrigoni was leaving," Kirby said. "I said I wished I was able to do to that. And Bob said, 'Why not? You don't have to be a golf professional.'"
That's true, although Bill Baker brings a solid background in that area to the job. But what Kirby found was that the position did demand a lot of other expertise. And that it was a gratifying but demanding task.
"There was a lot more administrative and clerical work than I had expected," Kirby said. "Together with the fundraising and regular programming, there was a lot going on at once."
Truth is, the job wore at Kirby, making him appreciate more than ever the work that Arrigoni had done to make The First Tee of the Sandhills Chapter one of the best in the country.
"I really appreciate the job that Al did in getting it organized and functioning," Kirby said. "He's a better man than me. It's with a feeling of regret that I'm leaving, but I just wasn't able to handle all the aspects of it. The big picture was just too demanding for me."
Kirby was grateful for the opportunity and for the help he received from volunteers, but he simply felt it would be better for him to give it up despite the fact that The First Tee had grown under his leadership.
"I just couldn't give my attention to it full time," he said. "I had volunteers and I couldn't have run it without them. But like most First Tee programs, there is only one paid employee and it's taxing.
"My passion is helping kids and that's what got me involved. But the more I got into the business side, the more I realized that I wasn't equipped for all that."
That's honesty, speaking from the heart. Kirby did an admirable job but found it too taxing and decided to call it a day. He'll still help the organization as a volunteer, but the details now belong to Bill Baker.
Taylor, who has given as much of his time to junior golf as anyone in the area, figures to be the perfect man to take over the reins of the EJGA from McGirt. Taylor is the co-owner, general manager and head professional of Whispering Woods Golf Club, and Briggs is the head professional at Knollwood Fairways. Briggs was an assistant to Taylor at Woodlake Golf Resort several years ago.
McGirt, who resides in Fairmont, founded the EJGA a decade ago and has turned it into one of the most respected junior circuits in the Carolinas.
The association ends its regular season today at Seven Lakes Country Club, where the annual Tour Championship is being held.
The announcement of McGirt's resignation will take place at the end of the event, and Taylor and Briggs will address the contestants and their parents with plans for next season, which begins in August.
And then there's Medlin, who denied Kelly Mitchum the Carolinas Open title for a second straight year.
Medlin says he's content to play at club professional level now, despite having been on the PGA tour for a brief stint a few years ago. To beat out Mitchum two years in a row, he has proved he can still play the game.
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