Wednesday is last day to register for The Natchez Open

Published 2:02 pm Monday, October 16, 2023

NATCHEZ — Both professional and amateur golfers from across a good portion of the nation will descend on Natchez to play in the fourth annual Natchez Open, which will take place Friday, Oct. 27 through Sunday, Oct. 29 at the historic Natchez Golf Club at Duncan Park.

This 54-hole event is limited to a field of 100 golfers spread over four divisions. Among those participating this year are the first three overall champions — defending champ Wesley Hunter of Birmingham, Ala., who shot rounds of 65-64-63 for a three-day total of 192; 2021 champion Michael Arnaud of Covington, Louisiana, and 2020 champion Hayes Weathersby of Hattiesburg.

Wednesday is the last day to register for this tournament. Entry fee for the three amateur divisions is $225, while the professional entry fee is $400.

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As of Monday morning, Duncan Park golf course superintendent Greg Brooking said 75 players had already registered and he looks to end up with a full field. 

“We have Illinois, Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, Texas, Arkansas. Of course, Louisiana, and we have one player from Georgia and one player from South Carolina. We have one from Kentucky,” Brooking said. “There’s five players from Louisiana. We have 35 pros right now. Those are the ones that come from all around.”

There will be an enormous number of returning players in this year’s field, Brooking noted. He added that so far, eighty percent of this year’s field are returning players.

Brooking said he didn’t know where two of those pros are from because when they filled out their registration form out, they said that they were from Natchez. He noted he thinks it’s because those two had trouble with their entry form.

“I knew they were not from Natchez. They called me up and they’re from Florida,” Brooking said. Also, 40 amateurs have registered to play in this three-day tournament. Of those, Kelly Wilson is from Ferriday, La. and six of them are from right here in Natchez — Brooking, who won the senior division last year, Adolph Hayes, Pete Powell, Tom Bryant, Avery Middleton, and Casey Ham.

“Adolph, myself, Pete, and Kelly will be in the legends (division). Tom will be in the seniors. And Avery and Casey will be in the amateur division,” Brooking said.

Brooking said there were a couple of significant changes made to the ages for both the seniors and the legends division because of a conflict between the World Ameteur Golf Rankings and the Mississippi Golf Association.

The ages for this year’s event in the seniors division were originally scheduled to be between 55 and 64 years of age and the ages for the legends division were supposed to have been 65 years of age and older. However, Brooking said that the world amateur rankings will now be only for the amateur division.
“We had to pull the senior division out because of a conflict with the Mississippi Golf Association. The age group for seniors in the Mississippi Golf Association is 50 years old. We had to drop it back to 50 years old to coincide with the MGA. The World Amateur Golf Rankings will not recognize seniors that are younger than 55,” Brooking said. “We had to move it down to 50 to get MGA points. Amateurs will get World Amateur Golf Ranking points as well as MGA points. So now, it’s a fully-sanctioned MGA event.”

Which means the ages in the senior division will now be between 50 and 59 years of age and the legends division ages will be 60 years of age and older. Brooking said because of that change, he will be in the legends division and said that Powell will be among the favorites there.

“The favorite in the senior (division) is going to be Tom Bryant. The favorite in the amateur (division) is going to be Casey,” Brooking said.

One factor that could determine who wins each division is the condition of the course. It has been extremely dry throughout much of the region since May. Even the recent rain event last Wednesday didn’t do nearly enough to help the course back to lush green.

“My course has been experiencing severe drought situation. I’ve had less than an inch year since July,” Brooking said. “They’re (the fairways and greens) are brownish-green. They back side has no irrigation. We’re lucky to have any green. We’re bringing hoses and attaching them to the faucets and turning on yard sprinklers to make it as green as we can. We’re doing the best that we can.”

The minimum purse for this event is $25,000 with $6,000 going to first place for the overall champion. The top prize for each of the amateur divisions if $1,000. There will be four divisions — professional, amateur, seniors (50-59), and legends (60 and older). All divisions will be flighted after 36 holes. There will be a practice round for the golfers next Thursday, Oct. 26 starting at 8 a.m. There will be a $20.00 cart fee. The course will be closed each day until after 2 p.m. After then, Brooking said regular clientele can come play on the course.

“We’re going to have a lot of families coming down with the participants (dining) at our restaurants, (staying at our) hotels and (using our) gas stations,” Brooking said.