For over a quarter of a century now Milledgeville and Baldwin County have served as the site of a unique competition.
This year is no different as this weekend the 26th annual Ray Rice Sr. Memorial Georgia State Amputee Golf Tournament will be played locally at Little Fishing Creek Golf Course. The three-day event is split into two portions — a family and friends scramble slated for Friday and the amputee-only golf tournament that will take place over the course of Saturday and Sunday and is open only to those with an amputation at a major joint.
The tournament’s namesake Ray Rice Sr., became an amputee after losing his leg in a hunting accident at age 17. He later played a role in creating the Georgia State Amputee Golf Tournament in Warm Springs, Ga. in the 1960s where it was held until 1987 when he passed away. Rice’s family decided a few years later they would like to see the event revived in his memory, so they turned to family friend Bill Eason, a practicing orthotist in Milledgeville, who helped get the tournament back up and running at what was then the Milledgeville Country Club. Although the event has bounced back and forth between the two local courses, it is now looking at its 26th consecutive year of being played locally.
Although he won’t have the final participation numbers in hand until the competitors get to town Friday, Eason expects between 80 and 100 people will compete in Friday’s scramble before 25 or so amputees hit the course Saturday and Sunday. By all accounts, the scramble, open to amputees as well as their family/friends, provides a reunion-type atmosphere for all players as it features a day of laughter, good conversation, and the occasional whacking of a golf ball. Things get slightly more serious over the final two days. Although the event is branded as the Georgia State Amputee Golf Tournament, it is open to competitors from other states. Winners of the scramble and high finishers from the weekend competition will all receive prizes for their efforts out on the course.
“We’ll have people coming out of Kentucky, Indiana, North and South Carolina, and Florida,” Eason said. “We try to give everybody an opportunity to win something, but they have to earn it. We’re not just going to give them a participation award.”
Also over the course of the three days, one college student, or soon-to-be college student, will be awarded a scholarship funded by the tournament. Scholarship applicants must be an amputee themselves or have an immediate family member who is an amputee.
Outside of Eason, two other parties are big parts of what makes the Ray Rice Sr. Memorial go each year consistently — Eason’s wife Debbie (“Without her help, we just would not make it because she does an outstanding job,” he said.), and area sponsors.
“I’d especially like to thank our new sponsors and the old sponsors, too,” he said. “Without their support, this tournament would not be what it is today. Hats off to the Milledgeville community and local businesses for supporting this golf tournament.”
The event kicks off Friday afternoon with the family and friends scramble.