More than a golf match

Published 11:49 pm Saturday, March 7, 2009

When the Jubilee Golf Tournament began in 2006, it was intended as an additional event for the annual festival’s main festivities.

The tournament moved from Craig Golf Course to Valley Grande this year, and the field’s 70 participants saw a tie-in between golf and the progress made in the Civil Rights movement.

“This one is a little more difficult, but I’m proud of the fact it’s 18 holes,” said Ora Burks, a Jubilee tournament veteran. “A lot of people are looking for places where they can play golf in golf tournaments. Had it not been for the Jubilee, I don’t believe I would have been here today.”

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Johnny Moss III sees the tournament as an opportunity to create a diverse field and spark an increase in black youth’s interest in golf.

“The tournament is a good statement of how far the movement has come because of the rate that African-Americans are starting to participate in and appreciate the sport,” said Moss. “Hopefully, in years to come we can hope to build a more unified golf tournament. It’s not just for African-Americans, but society as a hole.”

Saturday marked Edward Colliers’ first Jubilee experience. He and his wife recently moved to Montgomery from Brooklyn, N.Y., and she convinced him to sign up for the tournament.

He last played at Valley Grande shortly after it opened as Ocmulgee, and he left impressed with the changes he saw. A good performance didn’t hurt his impressions of the course, either.

“I’ve made a number of birdie putts, so that makes my day,” he said.

Alabama Sen. Bobby Singleton made his first Jubilee tournament appearance as well.

“It adds a lot in terms of the significance of what this Jubilee is about,” said Singleton. “In the past, there have not been a lot of blacks who have been involved in golf that will have evolved into other areas outside of civil rights that it can be totally mixed in.

“We can be serious about our heritage, but yet still be able to mix in golf and another activities that are going on around the game.”

Matthew Leshore and Mose Ngirailab finished first in the two-man team group. I.B. Hopson and Tom Jones finished second and Collier and Albert Southall finished third.

Essie McGhee and Patricia Elliott took first in the women’s team group. Mary McIntosh and Patricia Gregory placed second, and the combo of Edmonia Borden and Tommie Gilbert came in third.

Doris Collier and Annie Lovett topped the senior list, Burks and Annye Braxton placed two strokes behind.

Rachell Lovett and Leroy Maxwell Jr. won the mixed couples bracket. Mae Tullis and Richard Suddeth placed second.

The tournament was a welcome sight for Valley Grande manager Rex Bible, who is already planning for next year’s tournament.

“I think we’ve got a good breeding ground for even a better tournament,” said Bible. “I feel sure that next year the tournament will be bigger. [The organizers] have been a fun bunch to work with.”