Why a part of Georgia not named Augusta is buzzing with pro golfers

There’s a whole lot of golf going on in the St. Simons and Sea Island area. There always is, but now more than ever.

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You hear a lot about three great American enclaves for the modern professional golfers: Palm Beach Gardens and its neighboring burgs; Orlando; and Scottsdale. But there’s a fourth hotspot that’s more under-the-radar: St. Simons and Sea Island, the East Egg and West Egg of coastal Georgia. There’s a whole lot of golf going on there these days. There always is, but now there’s even more.

Why there’s Zach Johnson, working with Morris Pickens, author of The Winning Way in Golf and Life. Zach would be Exhibit A of that, right? (We’re saying it loud and we’re saying it proud: Johnson will someday be enshrined in the World Golf Hall of Fame.) And here comes Michael Thompson, winner of the 2013 Honda Classic, looking for some of that Doc Mo performance love.

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Speaking of love: There’s DL3, father, grandfather, godfather of the Sea Island golf scene, trying out his bagful of new Titleist clubs. Papa’s got a brand new bag. Davis is walking the local courses, carrying his own sack, a slender carry bag. All the fellas are carrying their own; they’re all kosher for Covid. Six feet way, don’t touch a rake, flagstick stays put.

Well, most everybody is carrying. Lucas Glover comes up from South Florida for two-a-days: workout, morning game, workout, afternoon game. Next day, same thing. Next day, same thing. That’s work, and that’s cart golf. Then home, for some R&R. The draw north for Luke is his teacher, Tony Ruggerio, who has a local shop called the Frederica Learning Center.

You wanna see a lefthander? St. Simons is proud to present you with the toy cannon himself, Brian Harman, working with a teaching legend, Jack Lumpkin. Dude’s 84 but don’t tell him that. Brian also works with Justin Parsons. Parsons used to work for Butch Harmon. Lumpkin, way back when used to work with Claude Harmon, Butch’s father. These are the ways of golf.

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Joey Garber is making the scene. Don’t know the name? You will, you will. Patience, grasshopper. Ditto Mookie Demoss. (Where have you gone, Mookie Wilson?!) Patton Kizzire is around. Of course he is. Harris English, too, though a little less so. Hudson Swafford, about the same. Tom Lovelady, going long and going low. Jonathan Byrd and all that legacy (five PGA Tour wins, same as Rickie Fowler). He’s playing. J.T. Poston. J.T, you know, won at Greensboro last year, got himself paired with Tiger the next week, and wouldn’t you know it: Tiger knew all about his win. Good stuff. The Colonial begins June 11.

Nobody has seen Kooch. Matt’s like the wind. He comes, he goes. When, no one can say.

They play at Sea Palms, at Frederica, at Ocean Forest, at Sea Island, now that it’s open again.

The game is a $20 Nassau, plus this, plus that. A no-bogey round gets you a Benjamin from those with cards less clean than yours. Dinner is takeout from Halyards, Porch and of course Bubba’s. Bubba Garcia’s Mexican Cantina, if you must.

The next day, whatever day that might be, it starts all over again, bright and early, right around 10.

Michael Bamberger welcomes your comments at Michael_Bamberger@golf.com.

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Michael Bamberger

Golf.com Contributor

Michael Bamberger writes for GOLF Magazine and GOLF.com. Before that, he spent nearly 23 years as senior writer for Sports Illustrated. After college, he worked as a newspaper reporter, first for the (Martha’s) Vineyard Gazette, later for The Philadelphia Inquirer. He has written a variety of books about golf and other subjects, the most recent of which is The Second Life of Tiger Woods. His magazine work has been featured in multiple editions of The Best American Sports Writing. He holds a U.S. patent on The E-Club, a utility golf club. In 2016, he was given the Donald Ross Award by the American Society of Golf Course Architects, the organization’s highest honor.