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 Web.com 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 AmateurGolf.com 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 7-12 at Druid Hills Golf
Atlanta, Georgia. The entry fee includes breakfast
tournament days as
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
the times, the modern Dogwood has produced fine
champions like Webb Simpson (’07), Brian Harman
(’09), Dawson Armstrong (’15), and in 2019 Brandon
seen also in our course renovations and set-up, our
relaxed tournament atmosphere, and our spirit of
Players are required to walk during tournament play
and may carry their golf bag themselves (push
allowed) or take a caddie. Caddies may be requested
in advance during registration, or players may
one on their own.
Player housing is provided on an as available basis to
, caddies and traveling
companions are not
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