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Golfing Gwinnett: Longtime educator, coach rises to golf director at Chateau Elan

Spending endless days on the golf course seems like a great job.

It is for Chip Spiler, the director of golf at Chateau Elan.

But as much as he enjoys his current profession, he still has a special place in his heart for his previous one, particularly on evenings in the fall.

For 17 years, Spiler was a teacher and a high school coach. Nearly all of his coaching experience was at Winder-Barrow High School, most of it under head coach Phil Jones and the last two under his successor, Jeff Beggs.

"I still get chills and goose bumps every time somebody mentions Friday night football," said Spiler, a Ware County native who briefly went to Georgia Southern to play football before an injury ended his career. "It's an experience I'll never forget. There's something about Friday night football that just flips that switch."

Not that the 44-year-old minds his career path.

Wanting a change of pace in the mid-1990s, Spiler left education for a job with Chateau Elan. His first full-time position with the Panoz-owned venture was as head golf professional of The Legends, Chateau Elan's private club.

He advanced to another position back in January, when he was named as Geoff Sarazen's replacement as director of golf.

It completed a steady rise for Spiler, who barely had any golf experience growing up. Although his grandfather owned Okefenokee Golf Club in Waycross, he didn't play golf regularly until he began playing a nine-hole course while he was a student at Georgia Southern.

He first became interested in working for Chateau Elan when he was Winder-Barrow's golf coach. He saw his high school players employed there and thought it looked appealing.

So he pursued the Chateau Elan job, and has worked on PGA management programs, adding that course work to the master's degree in education already in his possession. He also has worked hard on his own golf game in the past four years, getting down to "scratch" level.

Spiler said the work's been worth it because his time in the golf business has been so enjoyable. Not even the memories of Friday night lights can lure him away.

"Chateau's a great place," Spiler said. "They've done so much for me here, from the beginning when they hired me. They do so much here as far as hiring within. The hospitality service here is impeccable. My superiors are very employee-related. It's just a great place."

Locals shine in AJGA events

Emilie Burger of Hoschton and Patrick Lovely of Lawrenceville each had top-10 finishes in American Junior Golf Association tournaments last week.

Burger tied for eighth in the girls division of the Nike Golf Junior at Fort Myers (Fla.) with rounds of 84, 83 and 76. Lovely tied for seventh in the Houchens Industries Junior Open (Ky.) with rounds of 78 and 81. His former Peachtree Ridge teammate, Billy Shida, tied for 19th in the same tournament (82-76).

Also in the Nike Golf Junior at Fort Myers, Kevin Lee of Dacula (74-74-76) tied for 18th and Duluth's Seth Reeves (82-73-71) tied for 21st. Lee added a top-10 finish this past week at the Nike Golf Junior at Jacksonville (N.C.), tying for ninth with rounds of 72 and 74.

Moon third in SJGT tournament

Lilburn resident Ted Moon was third in the Willow Creek Junior Classic (Tenn.), a Southeastern Junior Golf Tour event. Moon shot 80 and 83 for third in the 12- and 13-year-old division.

Suwanee's Matt Whittlesey tied for sixth in another SJGT tourney, the TPC Junior Classic at Sawgrass (Fla.). He shot 81 and 79 in the 16- to 18-year-old division.

Local makes U.S. Junior Amateur field

Duluth golfer Lion An, who gets instruction at The Hooch Golf Club, qualified for the U.S. Junior Amateur earlier this week. An, a rising junior at Northview, shot back-to-back 71s to place third in qualifying at the Country Club of Birmingham (Ala.).

The U.S. Junior Amateur is July 17-22 in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.

Golfing Gwinnett is a weekly column that highlights golf in the area and welcomes

contributions from courses and individuals. To be included in the column, fax information to (770) 339-8081 or e-mail to will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com.