When asked about “exciting” incidents in his life, Cole denies that any have taken place, but running the golf course maintenance in a beautiful setting like Willow Point for going on thirty years sounds like plenty of excitement to me.
Cole grew up in Hattiesburg, Mississippi where he hunted, fished and played ball until he was about thirteen and started playing golf and started on the path to becoming a golf course superintendent. “Things were different when I was growing up than they are today. Everyone in Hattiesburg left their doors unlocked. We lived on the edge of town, across the road from the countryside. I would come in from school and take my bird dogs across the road and go hunting in the woods.
Cole started out in school in architecture and transferred to Auburn University to study in the architecture program there. “After three and a half years of sitting behind a drawing board I decided I wanted to spend more of my working life outdoors and because of love of golf transferred to Agronomy and Turfgrass Maintenance and got his degree from Auburn in 1981.
Immediately after graduation Cole came to Willow Point where he worked under superintendent, Tony Dickenson. He stayed there about 18 months and then went to work at a course in North Palm Beach called Lost Tree Club. He was the assistant there to Doug Ward (Coleman Ward’s son). “I had worked at Lost Tree as an intern when I was in school and the lifestyle appealed to me as a young man. You got beach time every afternoon!”
Due to his father’s health, Cole accepted a job at Northwood Country Club in Meridian, Mississippi as superintendent. During his first year there Gene Davenport, who was President of Russell Lands at that time, asked Cole to come back to Willow Point. The rest is history as they say.
Willow Point was opened in 1964 and the original course design was by Tommy Nichol. Mr. Nichol was a civil engineer from Tuscaloosa who loved to play golf and designed several course. Willow Point was built on an old Russell Mills farm. They gave the original Alex City Golf Course to the State of Alabama at that time to become the Central Alabama Community College. Gene Gwaltney, who was President of Russell Mills at that time started the development of Willow Point.
In 2002 Willow Point was re-designed and the work was done by Hurzdon and Frye. The course re-opened in the fall of 2003. The Alabama Chapter was fortunate to have a meeting there in 2004.
“I work for a great group of people with Russell Lands,” said Cole. They take care of their employees and give us what we need to work with. We have had a stable position in this economy that has been so rough on so many courses in the past decade.”
Cole remarks that, “Being on the lake is peaceful. We have a lot of seasonal play so we have time to enjoy the setting we have on Lake Martin.”
Cole met his wife Karen, who worked selling real estate for Russell Lands. Some twenty years later they have a son, recently married, named Forrest and a thirteen-year-old daughter, Mally. Cole’s wife, Karen, has recently returned to school to get a nursing degree. When asked about his recent activities hunting and fishing Cole said he had “given all that up.” These days he spends a lot of time being a Dad and providing a lot of transportation for Mally.
Cole is active in our Chapter and hosted this year’s Donnie Arthur Tournament. He also serves on the board of the Alabama Turfgrass Association. We appreciate Cole’s support and wish him the best!