Natchez, Beau Pre CC rolls out ‘red carpet’ as amateur tourney tees off

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 30, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; Jeanne Taylor looks forward to this week of the year more than any other.

The outgoing president of the Mississippi Women’s Golf Association left a blackberry cobbler sitting in the oven for her husband, packed her bags and booked it for Beau Pre Country Club and Natchez for the 70th annual Mississippi Women’s State Amateur Championships.

&uot;When we hold the Amateur, it’s like homecoming for a lot of us,&uot; Taylor said. &uot;Like kids going to summer camp because we haven’t seen each other for the whole year.&uot;

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A jam-packed field approaching 80 got its first chance to see where today’s Qualifying Round pin placements would be in practice rounds Sunday.

While the top 16 from today vie for the title as the Magnolia State’s top woman amateur in match play beginning Tuesday, the rest of the field will continue to compete in subsequent flights.

&uot;What’s so nice about this championship is you can still be competitive even if you’re not in the last flight,&uot; Beau Pre PGA Professional Mark Powell said. &uot;We just want to have the best championship possible.&uot;

It seems as though all of Natchez has taken Powell’s sentiments to heart.

If 18 holes of golf in the 90s doesn’t suck the energy right out of the players, Jack and Peggy Benson will open their D’evereux doors for a players’ party from 7-9 p.m. today.

&uot;Part of what we’re trying to do is share the Natchez charm with the players as an incentive for them to come back,&uot; Sally Durkin, a competitor and co-chair of this year’s tourney. &uot;Everybody is so generous in Natchez to make it more of an inviting experience for the players.&uot;

At the D’evereux party tonight, players will sample some of the local flavor with contributions from the Castle at Dunleith, the Comfort Inn in Vidalia, La., Cock of the Walk and Pig Out Inn.

Each morning Natchez Market will provide fresh apples and other fruit, alongside a different brew of Canal Street Coffee, before the players hit their first tee shots.

MWGA officials handed out &uot;ditty bags&uot; that contained information of local restaurants, bed and breakfasts, a salad dressing from Pearl Street Pasta and other Natchez memorabilia.

&uot;Last time we were here in 2000, we met up at an antebellum home, and it was one of the most exciting things we’ve done in a long time,&uot; Taylor said. &uot;Mark (Powell) rolls out the red carpet for all of us and the Natchez ladies put on a wonderful show. We love coming here.&uot;

Bids for the championship are put in a year in advance. But it is becoming harder and harder for courses to lobby for the tournament due to the poor economy currently, Taylor said.

&uot;These courses where we hold the Amateur at give up a lot of money in green fees to hold a state tournament,&uot; she said. &uot;We try to move it around each year, so the same people won’t have to travel every year.&uot;

After the first round of match play Tuesday, an awards’ banquet/annual meeting will be held at the Carriage House on the grounds of Stanton Hall at 7 p.m.

There the MWGA will decide on next year’s championship site and elect a new president since Taylor’s required two years are up.

In addition, the MWGA will award the Elizabeth Eidt McKinney trophy to the woman, who has done the most in the state of Mississippi to promote the game of golf.

McKinney was the husband of former Duncan Park Golf Course Pro Bill McKinney, and nurtured her love of the sport through her children.

&uot;When the amateur first came to Natchez in 2000, it was our way to have a trophy maintain ties to the amateur championship,&uot; said co-chair Frances Mason.