Southern Association of Amateur Golfers visit Natchez at Harvest Club Open
NATCHEZ — As golfers continued to travel the Southern Association of Amateur Golfers circuit and make their way to Natchez, they usually depart from the city with a promise to return. At the 40th annual Harvest Club Open tournament Saturday morning, nearly 85 golfers kept their promise.
In a tournament that 90 percent of its 92 contestants came from out of town, tournament director K.G. Watkins welcomed familiar faces from Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Georgia, Tennessee, Arkansas and Alabama.
“I just told a guy that this is what golf is all about — socializing, fraternizing and simply communicating,” said Watkins, who has been tournament director since 1999.
One local who participated, Bob Cosey, said he’s golfed in the previous 10 Harvest Club tournaments, and was happy to connect with SAAG golfers he’s grown close to.
“What makes it so good is you get the chance to interact with everybody,” Cosey said. “If you’re lucky, you’ll get to see these guys participate two or three times a year.”
Forty years has passed since the Harvest Club first debuted, but Watkins said that doesn’t mean the tournament can’t evolve and add new wrinkles. One new attraction added was a tour bus for the wives who visited with their husbands to travel and learn more about Natchez.
“It was very informative,” said Katie Hall, who traveled with her husband from New Orleans. “I learned that the civil rights played a big part here in Natchez.”
Watkins said the decision was simple — if you want to keep the men happy, you have to keep their women happy, first and foremost. Hall agreed.
“We’ve been doing this for a whole bunch of years,” Hall said. “For the past few years, they seemed to stop doing things for the ladies. So this was nice. Some guys will not go if there’s nothing for their wives to do.”
Joe Percival of Lafayette and George Perry of Birmingham led the way in the opening round of the 36-hole tournament. Percival and Perry each shot a 68. Perry, who hadn’t participated in the last two Harvest Club tournaments, said he took some time to refine his game and believed the improvements paid off on the course.
“I made a few good puts and hit some shots in the fairway,” Perry said. “I got up and down a lot, so played well.”
Pete Powell, who has had major success in tournaments past with first-place victories, almost missed out on this year’s event because of an operation in January on a torn meniscus he suffered from hunting. Thanks to Powell’s speedy recovery and a bright, sunny day, the Natchezian made it back on the course for the event.
“I didn’t sign up until the last minute because I wasn’t able to play, and when I saw it wasn’t raining, I knew I could drive around in a golf cart and play,” said Powell, who was third on the day with a score of 70.
The golfers will return to Duncan Park today to finish the last 18 holes of the tournament. Perry, who is tied for the lead, said he hopes his nerves won’t get the best of him.
“I’m feeling a little ancy right now,” Perry said.