SNELLVILLE — The annual Gwinnett Football Coaches Fellowship Golf Tournament has always marked a beginning, albeit an unofficial one that starts the countdown towards preseason practice, every summer since it started about a decade ago.
The 10th edition of the event Monday at Summit Chase Country Club still represented a beginning in a different way, especially for at least some of the county’s five new head coaches.
“It’s a good opportunity for them to network with other people in an environment that’s not competitive,” said Dr. Gary Levengood, the founder of the event and its primary sponsor, Sports Medicine South. “Everybody’s out to have a bunch of fun, and you really get a chance to talk to each other and (enjoy) fellowship with each other and get to know each other. That’s a big thing. You may know the guy on the other side of the field from you, but you don’t have a chance to actually talk to him or eat with him or do any of the other stuff.”
It was an opportunity first-year Grayson coach Adam Carter couldn’t pass up, even if he did actually pass up the golf portion of the outing.
While he usually likes to play golf at any opportunity, he said he simply had too much to do on the first day after the GHSA-mandated summer dead period Monday.
However, he did allow several of his assistants to hit the links, and he made it a point to be there to meet and greet his colleagues for the lunch and door-prize ceremony afterwards.
“I do (play golf), but it’s hard on Monday coming back from that dead period, said Carter, who was named the Rams’ head coach in February after guiding Creekview High School in Cherokee County to a 16-7 record over the past two seasons, including a 12-1 mark in 2018. “We go (for offseason summer workouts) in the morning. Some of (the other coaches) go in the evening. For me, some of our assistants (played) and our (athletics director) came out. It worked out better like that for me (Monday).
“Obviously being the new guy, I’ve been able to meet as many people as possible in this area that I can kind of lean on a little bit and get some information (from). That’s always a positive, and everybody’s been great. So it’s a great event. It’s a big-time deal that hopefully we’ll be able to be a part of for a long time. Our (assistant) coaches had a good time. They were able to come out and have a good time.”
Buford’s Bryant Appling shouldn’t be as much of a newcomer as Carter is. After all, he had spent the past 15 years as an assistant on the Wolves’ staff before being promoted to head coach in January.
However, Monday marked the first time he had ever participated in the annual golf outing, and it turned out to be a very profitable one, as he won the drawing for one of the most coveted items available at the post-tournament raffle — a 70-inch television.
“I actually haven’t,” Appling said when asked if he had ever been to the event before. “I’m not a big golfer. I guess I’m kind of like a non-golfer. I’ve never even played a whole round on my own (before Monday). I heard about (the event). (Former Buford head) Coach (Jess) Simpson told me about it a bunch of times. But I never have (been to one before).
“(Director of football operations Justin) Johnson was telling me at the end, ‘It’s a long day, but it will be worth it if you get that big TV or that Big Green Egg.’ At least I got one of them. … My 7-year-old (son Brendon) is going to be a happy kid (Monday) night when I get home.”
The big door prize notwithstanding, the outing was also worth it in getting to once again have some fun with his coaching colleagues from other schools, even though Appling is already quite familiar with many of them given his lengthy stay at Buford.
“It’s cool. I’ve known these guys for years, since I’ve been at Buford for 15 (years),” Appling said. “So I know all of them. I cross paths with them either on the playing field or at camps and things like that. But getting a chance to hang out with them on the golf course and just talk about life versus talking about Xs and Os all the time is pretty cool, even though it’s hot (Monday).”
A good time was had by all, newbies and veterans alike, though the best time might have been had by South Gwinnett’s quartet of head coach Steve Davenport, receivers coach Joey Sulkowski, quarterbacks coach David Hobson and secondary coach Leonard Warner Sr., who combined to shoot 57 in the best-ball format to win the tournament.
The tournament also proved to be a boost to the scholarship programs for each Gwinnett school that Levengood mentioned, with this year’s total helping bring the overall amount raised to maintain those scholarships to over $200,000 since the tournament began a decade ago.
But as much as Monday’s event represented a beginning on multiple fronts, it may also represent the end of an era.
With the possibility of Summit Chase selling some of its land to developers that would turn nine holes of the course into a senior living community looming, the event may have to look for a new home as soon as next year.
But even with the uncertainty of where it will take place, Levengood assures that there are no plans for the event will come to an end.
“We have thoroughly appreciated all the hospitality Summit Chase has extended to us over the last 10 years,” Levengood said. “Certainly if we can go forward in the future with them, then we will. If not, we’ll go with a different venue, but I don’t see this (event) ending this year.”