Friday marks the start of the 33rd Schenkel Invitational collegiate golf tournament. The storied event has showcased a number of PGA super stars over the years, before they became well known professionals.
Beyond the thrill of being close to athletes that will eventually grace wide screen televisions across the country, the tournament provides an economic stimulus at a time when many Georgia Southern students have left town for spring break.
Thirteen visiting teams will secure 78 room nights in Statesboro for four consecutive days totaling 312 room nights at an average of $89 per night.
"This alone brings $27,768 into our economy," said local businessman and tournament committee member Leonard Blount. "In addition, there will be seven officials and 50 plus families staying at least three nights. That is an additional 171 room nights and $15,219 in economic impact. This does not include the extra tax on hotel rooms that goes directly to the Statesboro Convention and Visitors Bureau and the city of Statesboro. With the purchases of meals, the immediate impact for the weekend is over $50,000. Over 33 years, that is an enormous impact."
Because Georgia Southern's golf team is the host team for the tournament, many local residents assume that Georgia Southern is the actual host of the tournament which is not the case. The Schenkel is hosted by a committee of local residents in conjunction with Forest Heights Country Club.
"We give up a very busy weekend in March for the golf tournament," said Forest Heights head golf professional Walt Garvin. "We are glad to do that. Bringing top collegiate golfers to Statesboro for the weekend is worth it."
Garvin said one of the most gratifying aspects of the weekend is the feedback he hears from participants, their coaches, and their families.
"They tell us the entire time how wonderfully they are treated," he said. "Families and coaches rave about the hospitality and the kindness. We are told that the treatment they receive here is the best of any tournament they will go to. We are very proud to be a part of that."
Local building contractor John Lavender has been a tournament patron for a number of years.
"I think there is somewhat of a misconception about the Schenkel," he said. "Anyone can come to Forest Heights and watch the tournament. There are no tickets, and you don't have to be a member or a student of Georgia Southern. All you have to do is drive out there, park your car, and go watch some great golf."
Distinguished alumni of the Schenkel include Bubba Watson, Camilo Villegas, Luke Donald, Curtis Strange, Jodie Mudd, Bill Hass, Andy Bean, Scott Hoch, David Toms, Gene Sauers, and Will Claxton to name a few.
Joining GSU in this year's tournament field are: Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Kentucky, Ole Miss, Notre Dame, North Carolina State, South Carolina, Alabama Birmingham, Minnesota, North Florida, Vanderbilt and Virginia.
Blount said the tournament is an excellent way to showcase Statesboro and Georgia Southern.
"We show off our town and GSU, not only to the attendees, but the results of the tournament are published in the hometown publications of the participating schools, as well as on their websites," he said. "In addition, there are more than 10 major golf publications that also publish the results. On Golf Stat.com, over 300,000 "hits" occur each tournament week checking on scores with each hit seeing Statesboro each time."
To learn more about the Schenkel, visit the tournament's website at www.schenkelinvitational.com. To learn more about the host course access their website at www.forestheightscc.com. The tournament runs through Sunday.