Mason having a blast at Par Tee

04/21/2013 12:00 AM

04/20/2013 11:03 PM

After 20 years of working at clubs, Tom Mason struck out on his own, purchased Par Tee Driving Range and quickly established a primary goal for the operation.

“I want this to have a country-club feel and atmosphere,” said Mason, who took over the facility on the Charleston Highway in West Columbia at the first of the year.

He hit the ground running with establishing a practice putting green an immediate objective. He hopes the new addition, which has MiniVerde bermudagrass, will be ready by the end of the month, he said.

Mason, a Class A PGA member whose career includes stops at WildeWood, Woodcreek, Oak Hills and Woodlands, discovered another side of the business after purchasing Par Tee from Don Gensamer, and he relished the challenge.

“We have clinics and individual instruction,” said Mason, who shares the teaching duties with Kevin Britt, who coaches eight of the top 18 ranked junior girls in the state, and Sammy Freeman. “We have a lot going on. Having been at clubs for so long, I was blind to the golf market outside of clubs. There are so many possibilities.”

Par Tee’s enormous teeing ground and flat terrain are obvious assets, and Mason and his staff went to work to upgrade other areas of the operation. In addition to the new putting green, the adjacent miniature course will re-open and the new owner has increased teaching opportunities. The complex includes a short-game area for the USC golf teams’ exclusive use, a long-drive setup and a golf shop that offers custom club fitting.

He wonders how many golf balls he needs to operate efficiently, but to make sure his clientele is well served, he recently ordered more than 1,000 dozen to complement his already huge inventory.

“You need good balls and good turf to be successful, and we have those things,” Mason said. “Other than the iffy weather we had for a while, everything is going smoothly.”

1973 Wofford team reunites

They had one scholarship and a volunteer coach, but those limitations did not stop Wofford from winning the 1973 NAIA national golf championship, and the old gang got together the other night to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the achievement.

“College golf was a whole lot different then,” said Marion Moore, a sophomore on the championship team and the Terriers’ top individual in the national tournament.

The truth is, the championship went unappreciated for years by the school. Players who wanted championship rings had to buy them themselves, and the banner signifying the national title vanished.

Happily, Wofford officials replicated the banner for Monday night’s gathering at the Country Club of Spartanburg and saluted the team — Moore, Stan Littlejohn, Pat Crowley and brothers Paul and Vernon Hyman. The late Earl Buice, who ran the school cafeteria, coached on a volunteer basis.

Wofford won the title close to home, at Village Green Country Club in Grambling, S.C., near Inman. The Terriers led by two strokes after the first round, nine after the second and 14 at the end of the tournament shortened to 54 holes by rain. Moore, Paul Hyman, Crowley and Littlejohn finished in the top 12.

“We went up there and practiced a lot before the tournament,” Moore said. “Earl coached the team for 19 years and he was a real card. He was a great motivator. He worked on our minds, not our golf swings.”

The championship team, which received plaques Monday night, will be honored at the homecoming football game this fall, and, happily, the school’s golf team has gained stability under coach Vic Lipscomb. One former Terrier, William McGirt, plays on the PGA Tour.

Chip shots

The Columbia duo of Bernie Shealy and Tim Teaster finished second, two strokes off the pace, in the CGA’s Carolinas Senior Four-Ball tourney at Dataw Island Club’s Cotton Dike course. ... Steve Liebler (Irmo) and Rob Simmons (Beaufort) shared third place in the CGA’s Carolinas Mid-Amateur championship at Raleigh Country Club. ... Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy have committed to play in the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte May 2-5. Tournament officials announced that all daily tickets for Saturday’s round have been sold. Tickets can be purchased at or by phone at (800) 945-0777.

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