Up & Coming Weekly

September 22, 2020

Up and Coming Weekly is a weekly publication in Fayetteville, NC and Fort Bragg, NC area offering local news, views, arts, entertainment and community event and business information.

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Page 13 of 24

WWW.UPANDCOMINGWEEKLY.COM SEPTEMBER 23-29, 2020 UCW 13 COVER STORY Billy West with wife Suzanna and children Will and Lila West "I think omas Owen is the guy," Robinson said. "He's the guy who is going to play in the most num- ber of them if he doesn't move. He definitely has the game. He's got a couple of bad breaks the last couple of years where he finished second. He's just got to get comfortable in that last round." West likes Owen's chances to be their successor, too. "omas has been incredible," he said. "He's ei- ther won or been the runner-up the last four years. omas is not only one of the best players in the area but he's one of the best in the state. He doesn't have any weaknesses. He hits the ball a long way and he has a good mental game. He's going to win many more county championships." But whoever takes over as the best golfer in Cumberland County won't do it overnight. It will take decades for anyone to beat West and Robin- son's accomplishments. "It's going to take some serious golf over quite a bit of time to catch up to what they've done," Owen said. Robinson agreed. "ere will be somebody to come along at some point to beat us," he said. "But they're going to have to play for a long time. You don't win eight, nine or ten times by just playing in it eight, nine or ten times." One top player who will be missing from the field is Spencer Oxendine, who won in 2018 when he was a senior at Jack Britt High School. Now, he is a sophomore on the golf team at N.C. State. Although the Wolfpack fall season has been cancelled because of COVID-19, Oxendine still has team ac- tivities and school work that will prevent him from playing. is marks the fourth straight year the tourna- ment will be held at Gates Four. Bill Bowman, the publisher of Up & Coming Weekly and a major sponsor of the event, took over as tournament di- rector in 2016 and has staged it at his home course. Gates Four has a large clubhouse to host the pre- tournament Champions Dinner and pairings party and an outside pavilion for the awards presentation after the tournament. Of course, the pre-tourna- ment events have been cancelled this year because of COVID-19 and the awards ceremony has been scaled back. "We're going to do everything virtual for the awards on Sunday," said Gates Four general man- ager Kevin Lavertu. "We don't encourage every- body to hang around and we're taking all the pre- cautions like trying to provide single-rider carts." Bowman is attempting to build up the tourna- ment participation to where it was years ago when nearly 200 golfers played and two courses were used to accommodate them. Last year, there were 88 players. Lavertu is hoping for at least 100 players this year. "Because of Covid there hasn't been the event fatigue like we've had in years past," he said. "People have not been traveling and playing in a lot of events so I'm thinking registration and partici- pation might be up. e rounds are up all over the county this year because golf is one of the only things you've been able to do during the whole pandemic." West and Robinson like the Gates Four course but they would like to see the tournament rotate to Cypress Lakes, King's Grant and Baywood as it has in the past. "I think Gates Four is a great competitive test, particularly from the back tees," West said. "But I would like to see it rotate. Each course presents its own challenges. I think that is one thing that makes the tournament special, the fact that it has moved around. Gates Four has been a great host while we have gone through a transition period with some of the other courses doing some renovations." Robinson is a co-owner of King's Grant and said he would like to host the tournament "but not every year." "I've won a lot of tournaments at Gates Four and I think it's one of my favorite courses in the county, other than King's Grant," he said. " But holding the tournament in one place is not how the tourna- ment was founded and I don't think that's how it should be. I think it should be spread around at all the courses and let them enjoy it." Lavertu said, "King's Grant and some others have shown some interest so I don't know what the future holds. I think some of the players would still like to see it rotate around, so whatever works the best for everybody." e tournament was pushed back from Septem- ber to October this year because of COVID-19 and Lavertu thinks that will make playing conditions at Gates Four even better. "We've always played the tournament the second week in September, historically, but that's really the worst time for the golf course coming out of the heat of summer," Lavertu said. "We've usually just aerified and it takes two or three weeks for the greens to heal. e green speeds will be up a little bit. It actually worked out better this year to have a delay with all the uncertainty. It seemed to be a natural fit. It should be a tough challenge for three days." Any golfer who lives in Cumberland County and is at least 16 years old is eligible to play. ere are divisions for championship, men's open, senior men and super senior men (65 years old and up), women's open and senior women (age 50 and up). e super seniors and women will play 36 holes on Oct. 10-11 and the entry fee is $145. All other divisions are 54 holes and the entry fee is $175. e deadline to enter is Oct. 2 at 5 p.m. Players can register online at cumberlandcounty- golfclassic.com or return an application to Lavertu at klavertu@gatesfour.com. Toni Blackwell won the women's title last year when she was a senior at Cape Fear High School. But she will not be able to defend this year. She is now a freshman on the UNC Pembroke women's golf team and their season starts in October. EDDIE SOUTHARDS, Contributing Writer. COM- MENTS? Editor@upandcomin- gweekly.com 910-484-6200. Gary Robinson Billy West

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