Let the amateur season begin: It's Dogwood week
05 Jun 2019
by Julie Williams of

see also: The Dogwood Invitational, Druid Hills Golf Club

Druid Hills Golf Club (Photo submitted)
Druid Hills Golf Club (Photo submitted)

Meticulous records are kept at Druid Hills. The list of past professionals who once appeared in the Dogwood Invitational, the Atlanta club’s flagship amateur event, takes up three pages. It’s alphabetical, and it’s impressive.

Word of mouth from those on the list goes a long way. This year, it brought a former NFL quarterback into the field.

While playing the AT&T Byron Nelson on a sponsor exemption last month, a Dogwood alum tipped off Tony Romo to the tournament’s strength and charm. Shortly after, Dogwood officials fielded a request from Romo. He’ll play the event for the first time this year.

While there is no better endorsement than that, tournament chairman Edward Toledano takes a sort of “Field of Dreams” approach to tournament growth as it relates to strength of field.

“Our goal is to hold a competitive event regardless of who the players are,” he said, “so that starts out with the golf course and the condition of the course and the way it plays.”

Druid Hills is an historic Atlanta course that tests short game. Most of the par 5s are reachable but the green complexes force accuracy on approach shots. Past the condition, details like an electronic scoreboard near the clubhouse give it a Tour feel, like most elite amateur events have.

But it has something else, too. Druid Hills members embrace this event, housing many of the players for the week and striking up genuine friendships with them.

“I got to know a number of the members last year very closely,” defending champion Ashton Poole said. “That’s all you can ask for.”

Ten men in the field have Druid Hills ties, giving the membership a very personal rooting interest this week, and that’s maybe the most brilliant way in which this tournament overlaps with this place. The top four finishers in the Druid Hills men’s club championship earn a Dogwood invitation, along with the men’s match-play champion, junior club champion and the winner of a member qualifier. A community qualifier also created a space for a member of another local club. That’s a unique twist for a tournament of this caliber.

Three other members were invited by virtue of their college success. This year, that includes Harry White, a sophomore at North Georgia College; Jake Milanowski, a sophomore at Auburn; and Wesley Heston, a freshman at Berry College.

“It’s really cool to have these young men who played here as juniors now validate themselves for an invitation,” Toledano said of a tournament edit made in the early 2000s.

In recent years, Toledano has noticed the tournament take a higher standing within the club itself. Druid Hills is invested in many ways, not the least of which is through a college scholarship for junior golfers in the state of Georgia. The Dogwood annually raises money for the Druid Hills Golf Course Foundation, which administers the annual Reynolds Scholarship to a Georgia junior golfer. A recipient receives a $4,000 annual stipend toward their tuition. Toledano compares it to something like an Evans Scholarship, the long-running caddie scholarship run by the Western Golf Association.

Recent Georgia Southern graduate Steven Fisk, a finalist for the Fred Haskins Award, was a Reynolds scholar. Fisk, who withdrew from the Dogwood with an injury this week, has been one of its great success stories. He finished runner-up at last week’s NCAA Championship among players from much larger schools.

As the Dogwood starts, seven days have passed since the official end of the college golf season. Two days have passed since U.S. Open sectional qualifying, a marathon that more than 200 amateurs entered. The Dogwood field lost one man, Duke’s Chandler Eaton, to Pebble Beach.

The Dogwood falls squarely into the time of year that collegians are looking for a breakthrough that can launch them to the next level, whatever that may mean.

For some, like defending champion Poole, it’s a confidence boost to finish out a college career with gusto. For others, it’s a springboard and a tune-up for Qualifying School. But this is also a Walker Cup year, so a player’s body of work is important. Every opportunity counts.

The mid-amateur presence has grown at the Dogwood, too. In addition to Romo, this year’s field includes Garrett Rank, No. 7 in the Mid-Amateur Rankings, and his past U.S. Amateur Four-Ball partner Patrick Christovich.

Rank, a late entry into last year’s field, played this event even as it was sandwiched between U.S. Open sectional qualifying, from which he advanced, and the U.S. Open itself.

“Those are really great ambassadors for us,” Toledano said of the mid-amateur presence. “If the mid-am group beings to talk about this, then it trickles through and that’s always great.”

But when Toledano highlights the field, he is just as likely to highlight that eight of the top 20 players in NCAA Division III golf are the field as he is to mention Romo and Rank. That’s a kind of varied depth that makes the Dogwood great.

ABOUT THE Dogwood Invitational

Tournament week is June 6-11 at Druid Hills Golf Club in Atlanta, Georgia. The entry fee includes breakfast and lunch tournament days as well as special events.

The history of this prestigious event extends back to 1941, when legendary amateur Tommy Barnes captured his first of five Dogwood titles. Evolving with the times, the modern Dogwood has produced fine champions like Webb Simpson (’07), Brian Harman (’09), Dawson Armstrong (’15), and in 2019 Brandon Mancheno. This evolution can be seen also in our course renovations and set-up, our relaxed tournament atmosphere, and our spirit of social responsibility.

Players are required to walk during tournament play and may carry their golf bag themselves (push carts are allowed) or take a caddie. Caddies may be requested in advance during registration, or players may select one on their own.

Player housing is provided on an as available basis to players only, caddies and traveling companions are not provided housing.

View Complete Tournament Information

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