By Leila Dycus intern
The Hard Labor Creek Golf Course was packed with teams from across the area this week aiming to save the water wheel. On Friday, April 25 Friends of Hard Labor Creek and The Creek Golf Course hosted the first Save the Waterwheel Golf tournament. The event began with a ball drop from Walton County EMC and shotgun start at 12 p.m. The whole intent of the event was to save the water wheel located on hole 14 of The Creek golf course.
The wheel was not running for a few years due to budget restraints. It’s a $10,000 project to repair the water wheel and get it in working order again. “We were in a friends group meeting last fall coming up with fundraiser ideas and what was important with the park,” said The Creek golf pro-shop manager Karl Gross. “I’ve always had this brainstorm of how can we get more people aware of the wheel because it didn’t run and had been around for a very long time, that’s how it started.” The original wheel was made by the CCC, civilian conservation corps, a program designed by Franklin Delano Roosevelt. However, while the gristmill is the original the waterwheel has since been replaced.
The hope for the event was to raise near $10,000. However, Gross felt like the event would raise between five and six thousand. Although the exact numbers have yet to come in it is believed that the Save the Waterwheel tournament pulled in around $6,000. “We’ve always got a donation box in the pro-shop that people are good about helping with,” said Gross.
“We’ve got several hundred dollars just from that.” On top of the money raised from the tournament and the donation box the Friends of Hard Labor Creek State Park applied and received a grant from Friends of Georgia State Park and Historic Sites for $5,000. Bee Jay Sentell, a member of Friends of Hard Labor Creek, said that with all the money combined they believe that they have enough money to save the waterwheel. Nearly 100 people participated in Friday’s efforts.
The tournament was called a four-person scramble, meaning that the teams of four took to the course. Most of the teams came from local business. The Yesterday’s Café team said that they were happy to participate in the event because it is a good cause and they love to play golf. The team also commented on the weather and how beautiful the course is. “All the community support has been great,” said Gross. “We had kids from the high school team that came out and volunteered moving golf bags around, people that did food and people running a putting contest. Without all the volunteers I could not do all this.” There were multiple ways that people could donate to the event. Rutledge Liquor Store was the platinum sponsor.
Yesterday’s Café, Real Time Fishing Guide Service on Lake Oconee and Southern Cross Guest Ranch were gold sponsors. Hole sponsors included Ace Hardware Social Circle, Williams and Guined PC CPA, Walmart of Madison, Covington Auto Repair Service, Madison Chamber of Commerce Economic Development and Glenn Williams Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
Cart Sponsors were Madison Car Care and Lowe’s of Madison. A number of other donors participated in the event. When not on the course players could bid on items in a silent action, participate in a 60-foot putting contest, and a longest drive contest. Prizes were handed out to first and second place, the putting contest, and the longest drive contest. The Rutledge Liquor Store team comprised of Stewart Williams, Jay McClellan, Lee Christian and Corbin Edwards were the first place team. Second place went to Hal Gerhardt, Warren Amos, Mike Smith and Bailey Smith.
The longest drive was Justin Paschal, and closest to the pin was Bailey Smith. Bailey Smith also won the 60-foot putting contest, which he holed in the qualifier but did not make it in on his final shot. No one was able to make a hole in one on the 14th hole so that contest was not awarded. Although this was the first event of its kind the hope is that the event will become annual. Gross said that they want to keep the waterwheel in peoples’ minds. “It took a lot of people to come together for this cause,” said Sentell. “Each one had a meaningful part to play in this event.”