“We can’t control the weather,”said Mike Ranew, the director of golf at Club Okefenokee, earlier in the week when the prediction of weekend rain was really foreboding. “We can only hope for the best.”
Meterologists have since decreased the odds and today’s 60 percent chance of showers is the highest of the weekend. The rain chance Saturday is 50 percent, 30 percent on Sunday.
Bill Sharpe, the Albany Woodmen of the World employee who won the last three Okefenokees, did not return this year, opening the door for, perhaps, a local Okefenokee golfer to claim the K.S. Varn Cup.
Ranew cites some hot, young talent having an inside track at winning the 54-hole tournament.
“There are two or three Pierce County High golfers off the state champion Bears team that could absolutely shoot lights out,” he said, listing Zac Thornton, Taylor Sweat and John Ben James.
Local men who have dominated club play in recent years are darkhorses in the field. They include Robbie Williams, Timmy Crawford, Stacey Anderson and Tony Wheeler.
“Travis Lane is another local but ‘not local’ who has always got a shot,” Ranew said. “And Josh Williams from Brunswick will be a contender as well. Scott Ferrell will be back and he is ever a force.” Ferrell, who cut his golfing teeth on the Okefenokee course when it was brand-spanking new in the late 1970s, has two Okefenokee Invitational title feathers in his headdress. He won in 1995 and in 1999. And he has been in the title hunt many times since.
Jesup’s Carl Carroll, the Senior Division champion, is in the field defending his title.
“We’re maxed out,” Ranew said. “We have 153 golfers signed up … largest crowd we’ve had in years.”
After weeks of drought, rains of late have done the golf course a world of good.
“Tremendous shape,” is the way Ranew described the current conditions. “It has been greening up nicely after the rains, and our course superintendent, Brandon Key, and his staff have done a real good job preparing the course,” he said.