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Seasonal tradition continues despite sluggish economy
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Forsyth County News

Blue skies, cooler temperatures, falling leaves.

They can mean only one thing -- golf season.

The economy may be slowing and contributions may not be on par with the past, but that's not enough to halt golf tournaments that have become a seasonal tradition in Forsyth.

The Keller-Williams Realty Golf Classic, in just its second year, is one of several area tournaments set for September and October.

But since last year's tournament, organizer Steve Shultz said, "We're seeing fewer people coming out."

"We're very short on golfers and hole sponsors, corporate sponsors and sponsors in general," he said.

"A lot of people are committed to one already and we understand that. We're going to knock on a lot more doors and beg people basically."

The Keller-Williams tournament benefits Court-Appointed Special Advocates and Grayson's Gift Inc., a resource for parents of children with disabilities.

Shultz said the real estate agency tries to do something every month for local charities and has a committee assigned to select which ones to assist.

It hasn't always been easy for local philanthropist Bill Norman, owner of Norman's Landing restaurant.

Norman, who sponsors various charity events throughout the year, including ping-pong tournaments and a spaghetti-a-thon at his eatery said increased food costs and surcharges have caused him to cut back on golf tournaments this year.

"We have done a boatload for everybody in Cumming, but I've got to say 'no' to some people or we're not going to be here much longer," Norman said. "We are like everybody else in this world and are in a giant 'try to save program' and try to get through this.

"It's funny, even the Norman's Landing donation box for ping-pong-it's normally about $100 every three to four weeks, and now I look in there and there's like $23 in there."

Unlike previous years, Norman won't be participating in the sixth annual Ted Paxton Golf Tournament, which benefits Georgia Sheriff's' Youth Homes. He said he likely will donate money and gift certificates, but "we can't play" in this year's tournament.

"[The word] 'No' and I don't go along very well, but I've got to learn to say no," he said. "I can't fool myself and do all of that."

Capt. Frank Huggins, event organizer, said the sheriff's tournament has become too popular in the county to take a hit.

"I don't expect the turnout to be much less than previous years," he said. "Our event is very, very popular ... and we don't expect our enrollment to be down, because it's well-established, it's well promoted and we have had a lot of support over the years."

But even a popular event could require more work this year, as the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce is discovering.

The Chamber Membership Golf and Tennis Challenge is entering its 21st year. While some members are scaling back their donations, others are stepping up, said spokeswoman Kris Carroll.

"While fundraising across the board is requiring more phone calls this year than perhaps years past, we're still finding we have a number of chamber members that want to associate themselves with the chamber and the chamber's events," Carroll said.

Kevin Johnston, organizer of the Putting for Pets Golf Tournament, remains optimistic that the Humane Society of Forsyth County event will fare as well as years past.

The tournament, once an annual event, returns after a hiatus of a couple years. Knowing the gap could hurt its popularity, Johnston is staging this year's event at Polo Golf & Country Club.

"I stepped it up," he said. "This is a private course and there are people out there that can't play this course unless they play in a tournament."

Jolie Vaughan, regional tournament sales manager for the Heritage Golf Group, which operates the Polo club said this year is busier than last.

"We've actually added events," she said. "We have two new tournaments in September we've never had before and two new ones in October."

April, May, September and October are the busiest months for golf tournaments, she said, because of the "perfect weather and golf course conditions."

Because it's a private course, Polo is open to tournaments only on Mondays, so availability is limited.

As the operator of a Goodyear store, Johnston said he relies heavily on his vendors and business contacts for Humane Society events.

While donations across the board have slipped, Johnston said people feel strongly about the Humane Society, and will continue to serve the organization.

"My wife and I have been with the Humane Society for 11 years," he said.

"It depends on what you're passionate about ... whether it's to animals that need help in our county, or children, or a blood drive, or whatever, it depends on how you feel about the individual donation. It just depends on where your heart goes."