Thursday, August 31, 2017

Old North State Club: Quarter Century of Excellence

Club celebrates a milestone 25th anniversary as one of North Carolina’s most heralded and storied golf getaways; ONSC is one of a dozen world-class clubs owned by McConnell Golf

(NEW LONDON, NC) — It’s a big year for one of McConnell Golf’s most iconic properties: Old North State Club in New London is celebrating its 25th anniversary.

Recognized by Golf Digest as the “Best New Private Course in America” runner-up following a splashy debut, Old North State Club has remained home to one of North Carolina’s finest courses. Created by Tom Fazio in 1991 along a 2.5-mile-long peninsula on Badin Lake, ONSC consistently ranks in the state’s top-five layouts according to the North Carolina Golf Panel.

During its first quarter-century, ONSC has witnessed some incredible moments and Director of Golf Tom Ducey has been there since the beginning. He remembers back in the early 1990s driving to the Stanly County Airport to pick up Tom Fazio, when the then-relatively unknown golf course architect was starting the process of building what would become Old North State Club.

At the course’s grand opening in July 1992, Ducey struck the ceremonial opening tee shot along with Fazio and famed Golf Digest instructor Dick Altman. “We kind of came out of nowhere,” Ducey said. “It was fun to be part of all that. A cool indoctrination to the big time.”

Soon thereafter, Ducey helped convince the Atlantic Coast Conference to come to Old North State Club. Soon after its grand opening, ONSC served as the host site for the ACC Women’s Golf Championship and the league was so impressed that in 1995 it awarded the men’s golf championship to Old North State — where it has remained for all but four of the years since.

“Hosting the Men and Women’s ACC Championship for 20-plus years has been a historic trip,” says Ducey, who is one of a half-dozen ONSC employees who have worked at the club since the beginning. “Watching college golfers who played here develop into world-class touring pros has been very exciting over the years.”

The list of stars who battled in the ACC Championships at ONSC is a long one. It’s even more inspiring to consider the major tour winners, like Webb Simpson, Lucas Glover and Stewart Cink, who began their careers walking this tract in college. Among these are also 2008 Wyndham Champion Carl Pettersson and the 2011 FedEx Cup Champion Bill Haas.

McConnell Golf VP of Golf Operations Brian Kittler began working at Old North State Club in April 1998, two weeks before an incredible ACC Championship field. Matt Kuchar from Georgia Tech was the defending US Amateur Champion and had made the cut the week before at the Masters. Clemson’s Charles Warren was the defending NCAA Champion while Tim Clark from NC State was the defending USGA Pub Links Champion. All would challenge each other for the lead, but Warren would go on to reclaim his title.

It’s not just ACC athletes whom have excelled here either. In 2011, a new member at ONSC, Bubba Watson, was looking for some low-key competition after edging out Phil Mickelson to win his second career PGA Tour event and championing the Zurich Classic in New Orleans for his third earlier that year. A condition of his membership was that he could participate in the Men’s Club Championship; Watson stated that he wanted an opportunity to meet his fellow members.

Of course, Watson won the Championship by a landslide. Even though he bogeyed Nos. 8 and 9 to shoot 36 on the front, he shot 27 on the back and claimed the title. While arguably unfair to the rest of the members competing, they all agreed that saying they lost to a two-time Masters winner makes for an interesting story. Watson’s locker remains to symbolize his presence at the club — and Bubba still holds the course record at 63.

Lodge Manager Robin Barringer has also been an employee at Old North State Club since the beginning. As the face of the club, Robin recalls a memorable story.

“One of my favorite members, Rick Dees — the Weekly Top 40-DJ — was stopping through on his way to the Masters with some friends, including Jack Nicholson,” she recalls. “They requested a big boat to rent for the day so I arranged it for them and waited to greet them on the dock. It just so happens some friends of mine were fishing close by and didn’t believe me when I told them who was coming. Sure enough, Rick Dees, Jack Nicholson, and the rest of their entourage unloaded from a van. You should have seen my friend’s faces when Mr. Dees said ‘Hello Robin!’ At that time, I had only worked here for a few years, so I was just amazed to have them playing our course, dining at the club, and staying at our Lodge!”

With the privacy of the Lakefront Lodge, many others from all walks of life have stayed overnight on the property. Politicians, including a former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, have stayed in the lodge numerous times. With a beautiful lake, a great golf course, five-star lodging and five-star dining, it’s not surprising that so many keep coming back to this destination property.
The Uwharrie Point community maintains a relaxed, easy-going atmosphere that transcends to its social hub at the clubhouse. Meals are often enjoyed on the patio and catching up with friends occurs between Adirondack chairs with sweeping views of Badin Lake.

“McConnell Golf is making a really big impact here,” says Ducey. “We’ve got members I’ve known for 20-plus years. We’ve watched each other, I hate to say it, get old together. I’ve grown up with them and all of a sudden we’re old. But to have that type relationship with your membership is pretty special.”

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