The Future Masters develops young golfers - Alabamas13.com WVTM-TV Birmingham, AL

The Future Masters develops young golfers

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Robby Shelton IV won last year's Future Masters tournament. Robby Shelton IV won last year's Future Masters tournament.
BIRMINGHAM, AL -

The Future Masters has long been a rite of passage for junior golfers from far and wide.

From its inception in 1950, an idea of the late Press Thornton, it has become a proving ground for golf's brightest junior stars, as well as home for sportsmanship, the thrill of competition and the love for the game of golf. It was for those reasons the Dothan Country Club first served as host for the tournament and continues to do so.

The tournament committee salutes the membership and staff of the club for their years of faithful dedication to the tournament. The 2002 Future Masters was played at Highland Oaks, while Dothan CC was redesigned by Bill Bergin Golf Design. The following year welcomed the Future Masters contestants home to the new course, a par of 70, with new challenges, new victories and disappointments, and a new chapter in history.

After giving careful consideration to the tournament's format, the needs of the contestants and their families, in 2004, the tournament's Board of Directors made the decision to play the 14 and under divisions on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday of tournament week with the 15-18 division playing Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Dothan Country Club has had only seven club professionals in the 64-year history of the tournament. Telfair Ghioto, who helped organize the first Future Masters, remained in Dothan until 1964. Telfair's son Teddy won the 1956 tournament.

Fred Settle came to the club in the summer of 1964 and enthusiastically worked with the tournament committee until he moved to Kentucky in 1973. King Thornton married Fred's daughter Stephanie in 2000.

Denton Scott, and his wife Suzanne, worked tirelessly with Future Masters from 1974 until 1981 when they moved to Birmingham. Andy Inman, a native of Augusta, Ga., home of the Masters, was DCC pro from 1981 - 1984 when Buddy Davis accepted the position. During Buddy's years, the Future Masters was a family affair. His parents always came from Moultrie, Ga. to help out in the pro shop.

In 1992, Brad Snider came to the Dothan Country Club. Brad's organizational skills and computer knowledge were valuable assets to the efficiency of the tournament. In 2004, Kevin Klein experienced his first Future Masters, and with great enthusiasm continues to step up the tee.

An impressive list of golfing greats who have competed in the tournament continues to grow every year and includes past U.S. Open Champions Hubert Green and Jerry Pate; Masters winners Larry Mize and Trevor Immelman; PGA Championship champions Bob Tway, Mark Brooks and Shawn Micheel; and British Open winner Ben Curtis.

As well as PGA Tour players such as Andy Bean, Bruce Lietzke, Bill Rogers, Allen Miller, Mac McClendon, Buddy Gardner, Eddie Pierce, Steve Melnyk, Joey Hager, Wayne Player, Phil Hancock, Gary Koch, Hal Sutton, Chris Couch, David Jackson, Chip Beck, Curtis Strange, Steve Lowery, David Duval, Vance Veazey, Stewart Cink, Briny Baird, Robert Floyd, Bubba Dickerson, Charles Howell III, Casey Wittenberg, Harris English, Lee Williams, and many, many more.

In 1996 Press Thornton Sr. and the Future Masters were inducted into the Wiregrass Sports Hall of Fame. The Future Masters is staffed by approximately 125 volunteers, many who have performed their duties for decades. The club membership gives up the use of their course and facilities, the club staff works extended hours to accommodate our visitors, and the City of Dothan welcomes the participants and their families with open arms and Southern hospitality.

The Future Masters is not, nor has it ever been, just about golf; it is about the spirit of competition, friendships made, sportsmanship on the course and the challenge of preserving over 60 plus years of growing golf -- Mr. Thornton's dream realized again and again.

Ages 10 and under, 11-12 and 13-14 competed for three days ending Tuesday, with ages 15-18 teeing it up today-Saturday.

Last year's overall champion was Wilmer's Robby Shelton IV, who will begin his freshman year on the golf team at the University of Alabama this fall.

Click here to follow all the action from all the age groups this week.

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