Hitting greens to raise green

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 20, 2006

Area high school uses golf tournament to help athletic program

By George L. Jones

The Selma Times-Journal

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CAMDEN – A simple look around is all it takes to see what kind of toll proration has taken on Alabama’s schools in recent years.

But one school’s athletic program is – and has been for the past few years – taking proactive steps to combat what cutbacks have taken away.

Interestingly enough, the battle is being waged in one of the most serene of places.

The Wilcox-Central High athletic department will hold its sixth annual Golf Tournament, a three-man scramble August 6 at Roland Cooper State Park.

The school holds the event in order to help cover the basic needs of its athletes.

“This offsets some of the school’s expense as far as travel, equipment and uniforms because the school funds all of that,” Jaguars basketball coach Mark Dukes said. “To my knowledge, we don’t get any help from the board (of education).”

Dukes said travel is the biggest expense the school has to compensate for.

Some of his players live 30 miles away from the school or more, which makes coordinating practices and traveling to games not only difficult, but also expensive.

The event began several years ago under the coordination of the sheriff’s association.

Dukes said Sheriff Prince Arnold was a big help in the event, which then primarily assisted in funding for the school’s baseball team.

As the tournament grew bigger and moved to its current venue, it became possible to provide more assistance for the basketball program.

The tournament typically draws anywhere between 50 and 60 golfers, but the goal this year is to hit the mid-70s.

To do that, more local golfers are encouraged to participate.

“I’d definitely like to see more support from the neighboring counties,” Dukes said. “I know there are a lot of golfers in Dallas County and in Wilcox County. We get a lot of golfers from Mobile and even Birmingham.

“But this year, I hope to get more golfers from the Black Belt.”

As if the beautiful views from the Alabama River and healthy competition weren’t encouragement enough, Dukes said golfers likely will get the chance to see some of the state’s finest collegiate basketball players.

“I hope to have some of my former players there, particularly (University of Alabama freshman) Yamene Coleman,” Dukes said. “He’s supposed to bring some of his team members. They’ll be signing autographs in the morning during registration time.”

The registration fee for the tournament is $60 per golfer and $180 per team.

Prizes will include cash, gift certificates and golf items. There will also be awards for the longest drive, closest to the pin, and a hole in one.

For more information, call Dukes at (334) 963-4001, Arnold at (334) 682-4715 or Wayne Phillips at (334) 682-4950.