Albany Herald Guest Columnist Furman Bisher
ST. SIMONS ISLAND -- First, let's get these names deconfused.
The golf course is called Sea Island, but it's located on St. Simons Island. It was designed originally by two Scots named Harry Colt and Charles Alison way back in 1929, when this whole community was just growing some hair on its chest. It was a gem from the start, but sort of off the main track of the tournament crowd. Best I can get is that the PGA had played one event here, many years ago, with a $5,000 purse and Willie Goggin won.
In recent years, Sea Island brought Tom Fazio in for a re-designing job, which is what a lot of clubs do to keep up with the times. I'll tell you this, before Fazio ever laid a hand on it, I played it and I thought it was the best course I'd ever played. And I still do. But lying here uninvaded, off the tournament trail? It deserved more attention.
Meantime, a lot of playing professionals had taken notice.
Several began making base here, 14 at the latest count. Davis Love III had lived here for years, beginning when his father settled in and players came in to study at his feet. Now, there are two major locations around the country where playing pros have pitched their tents, mainly from overseas -- the Orlando area in Florida, and Scottsdale in Arizona.
St. Simons, under the Sea Island name, began attracting PGA Tour residents a few years ago when it became a popular place to work on their game, first with Jack Lumpkin, later Todd Anderson, who won attention as Teacher of the Year. Several tour players have residences here, including Love II and Zach Johnson, a Masters champion, and those names are significant in the arrival of The McGladrey Classic a year ago.
Love and family have become key citizens, and Zach, an Iowan, moved in awhile ago. McGladrey is an Iowa company, so you get the connection with Zach there. It's an assurance and consulting company, by the way.
Love III is the tournament host, and his brother Mark is tournament director, and so The McGladrey is making a solid base. The field took on an added glow this year when 14 former major champions checked in, and you may truthfully say that this is a tournament the players themselves created. Heath Slocum, who won the inaugural a year ago, spoke lovingly of it.
"When the FedEx Cup started, I had no place to work for four weeks, only the 140 qualifiers did," he said, "and by the time the Tour Championship came around, the number was down to 30."
The second McGladrey got off to some chamber of commerce weather, sunny, breezy, and if you chose to refer to the area as The Golden Isles, the tourism board would be highly pleased. Now, we move on to the first tee, and your first-round leader is Webb Simpson, who has been the leading American on the PGA Tour this year.
Furman Bisher is one of the deans of American sports writing. The longtime Atlanta sports journalist is a member of the Georgia and Atlanta Sports Halls of Fame and in addition to his newspaper writing has authored multiple books on major figures like Hank Aaron and Arnold Palmer. He writes periodic columns for the Daily Post.