The Rolex Tournament of Champions, hosted for the first time at Reynolds Lake Oconee in Greensboro, Georgia, has earned two 2016 awards from the American Junior Golf Association: Invitational of the Year and the Media Award.
Each year, the AJGA presents awards to the tournaments with the best individual hospitality, Junior-Am Fundraising Tournament, charitable giving and volunteer base. Awards are also given to the events with engaged media and social media participation. Finally, the AJGA recognizes the year’s most outstanding golf professional, superintendent and general manager, as well as the most improved event, best new event, best Junior Golf Hub Preview Series tournament, best ACDS Junior All-Star Series tournament, best Invitational and overall tournament of the year. Tournament awards for the 2016 season will be presented on-site at 2017 tournaments.
The Rolex Tournament of Champions was honored for providing an incredible overall experience for participants, families, AJGA staff and volunteers with the Invitational of the Year Award. The event also earned the Media Award as a result of an impressive footprint and highly-successful Media Day prior to the event.
“We’re very fortunate to be a part of the AJGA family,” said John Gunderson, president of Daniel Communities, the asset manager for Reynolds Lake Oconee. “We think the growth and health of the game of golf is in those juniors’ hands. We’re proud to host an event like the Rolex Tournament of Champions.”
In addition to serving as the host of the Rolex Tournament of Champions, Reynolds Lake Oconee sponsored the event and announced a five-year partnership with the AJGA during the tournament week. From 2017-2020, Reynolds Lake Oconee will host the AJGA Junior All-Star Invitational at Reynolds, featuring top 12- to 15-year-old players who have excelled during the 16-event ACDS Junior All-Star Series, or “Road to Reynolds” campaign.
Reynolds Lake Oconee’s Great Waters Course is a Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course that opened in 1992. The course features nine holes along the shores of Lake Oconee and has hosted events such as the PGA Professional National Championship in the past. Great Waters is often ranked among the top-100 courses in the nation and was recognized by LINKS Magazine as one of the “10 most significant and influential courses of the past two decades.”
Central to the event’s success was the impressive volunteer base assembled in the AJGA’s first year at Reynolds Lake Oconee. More than 100 volunteers, organized by Volunteer Chairman and Reynolds member Charles Finch, assisted at volunteer stations on and off the course, seeing to mobile-only entry of TaylorMade Live Scoring, serving as standard bearers, shuttle drivers, parking attendants and many other critical jobs, several days for 15+ hours through lengthy weather delays. Finch orchestrated an impressive operation from the tented Volunteer Headquarters outpost adjacent to the Nos. 9 and 18 greens. Volunteers had plenty of experience from other world-class events such as the annual collegiate Linger Longer Invitational, a top collegiate tournament featuring many AJGA alumni.
Rolex Tournament of Champions participants and families experienced the hospitality of The Ritz-Carlton® both as a host hotel and host to the Rolex Dinner of Champions, an annual tradition which honors the USGA-AJGA Presidents’ Leadership Award recipients. Daniel Berlin of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, and Angelica Harris of Harvey, Louisiana, shared their stories of leadership, character and community service through the AJGA’s Leadership Links program, created to encourage activism among AJGA members in 2009. Inspired by the speeches of how the juniors used golf to fundraise for suicide prevention and autism, Reynolds Lake Oconee donated to the Leadership Links campaigns of both Berlin and Harris.
The tournament cookout, hosted at Reynolds Lake Oconee’s recently-expanded Reynolds Kingdom of Golf presented by TaylorMade, featured a special BBQ dinner, launch monitor challenges and unique prizes for juniors.
“The support the AJGA received from the local community and Reynolds Lake Oconee staff was second-to-none,” said Tournament Director Jeremy Freyman. “This resulted in a memorable experience for the juniors and their families and jump-started a wonderful relationship between the AJGA and Reynolds Lake Oconee.”
Spearheaded by Director of Marketing Bev Berardo and her team, the Rolex Tournament of Champions was promoted throughout the year to a wide range of media.
In April, the resort hosted its annual “Monday after the Masters” Media Day at the Reynolds Kingdom of Golf to promote the Rolex Tournament of Champions to media from Atlanta and around the country. Now-collegiate AJGA players Andy Zhang (Florida) and Ana Paula Valdez (Clemson) and Stewart Cink and Brian Harman, alumni and current PGA TOUR players, presented to more than 30 members of the media in attendance. A long-drive competition featured players and members of the media and Reynolds Kingdom of Golf provided club-fitting and a round of golf on the Oconee course.
“Having Brian and Stewart there was awesome, especially knowing that they got their start with the AJGA,” Gunderson said. “I think it speaks to the reputation of both Reynolds Lake Oconee and the AJGA as partners to be able to be on the radar of some of the world’s foremost media. The junior golfers who participated in the Media Day and at the Invitational couldn’t have been better ambassadors for the AJGA and the tournament.”
During tournament rounds, Atlanta’s WSB-TV aired footage throughout the week. Golf Talk America’s Frank Bassett broadcasted live on PGA TOUR Radio and featured representatives from Reynolds Lake Oconee, TaylorMade-adidas Golf, players and AJGA staff. Golfweek also covered the event throughout the week.
The AJGA returns to Reynolds Lake Oconee’s Great Waters Course in 2017 for the AJGA Junior All-Star Invitational at Reynolds October 6-9.