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The Georgia State Golf Association’s history has been kept and reviewed by different individuals over the years with varying ranges of emphasis on specific events. The Association was first believed to have been founded in 1914, but records as to who was involved in initial meetings or how it came to be in that year are nonexistent.
Based upon further research in more recent years, it is now believed the GSGA’s founding year was actually 1916. According to Atlanta Journal newspaper clippings from August of 1916, following the inaugural Georgia Amateur Championship, an “organizational meeting of a new state golf association took place and officers were elected.” These officers represented various parts of the state, as Dr. J.A. (Jack) Selden of Macon was elected the first president; Lowry Arnold of Atlanta tapped for first vice president; Robert Hull of Savannah chosen second vice president; and Colonel Charlton E. Battle of Columbus named third vice president. Lloyd Parks of Atlanta was elected to serve as secretary/treasurer.
As is well-documented, the first Georgia Amateur champion was 14-year-old Bobby Jones, who defeated Perry Adair in the final at Capital City Club (formerly called Brookhaven) in 1916.
Other than champions of the Amateur, we know very little of the Association’s history until it became incorporated on June 21, 1924. It operated strictly with an all-volunteer structure until 1973. From the initial Board of Directors consisting of 17 members, the GSGA volunteer force has grown to more than 300 strong who carry out many of the tasks in the field.
The earliest recorded mention of numbers of Member Clubs was 28 in 1928. The current by-laws open the membership to any “organized golf club” in the state of Georgia. Included are “regular” Member Clubs, which operate at one golf facility, and “associate” Member Clubs, which are not affiliated with a specific golf course facility. There are currently nearly 350 Member Clubs of the GSGA, representing 75,000 individual golfers who benefit from a variety of services.
The early Boards met and discussed the conduct of the Amateur Championship, but they knew they could and should do more for their Member Clubs. In the early 1960s, more services began to be added, and later the Board felt the need to hire a full-time staff member to better manage its fledgling new programs. The day-to-day duties of the now much larger GSGA are carried out by a professional staff of 14 who bring to the Association more than 100 years of collective golf administration experience.
In addition to the Amateur Championship, the Association now annually conducts 17 other statewide competitions for men and women of all age groups and skill levels, four interstate matches, a summer-long junior sectional program and nearly 35 local and sectional qualifying events for both GSGA and USGA championships.
The services provided by today’s GSGA, such as handicapping, course rating and measuring, speaker service and scholarship programs are logical extensions of the Association’s original concept. As we approach the 100th Anniversary of the association, we have grown to be a much different service organization than our forefathers envisioned. Yet, much of the original concept remains the same. From the first constitution to the present by-laws, the words “promote the game of golf” sum up a lasting objective of the Georgia State Golf Association.
This article, written by former GSGA executive director Mike Waldron, appeared in its original format in the January/February 1998 issue of Golf Georgia magazine, when the GSGA celebrated its 75th anniversary of chartered history.