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SML Lions decide to discontinue its sponsorship of Junior Open
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SML Lions decide to discontinue its sponsorship of Junior Open

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In all likelihood, the Smith Mountain Lake Lions Club Junior Open golf tournament will not reach its 30th birthday.

The Franklin News-Post has learned that the Lions Club has opted not to continue sponsoring the event, which began in 1991.

Reasons for the club’s decision to discontinue the tournament have not been made public; however, tournament official Jody Brown, a member of the Lions Club said in an email that “having to cancel (the tournament) last summer didn’t help.

“I don’t have any reliable information about whether some other organization (will take over the tournament) nor do I have any reliable information about why the SML Lions Club dropped the tournament,’’ Brown said.

Last summer’s event would have been the 30th, but it was canceled in April because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The last year that the two-day, 36-hole stroke-play event was contested was 2019. That year, The Water’s Edge Country Club in Penhook hosted a round of tournament for the first time.

From 1991 to 2006, both rounds were staged at The Waterfront Country Club. From 2007-2019, the tournament was known as the Andrew Haley Memorial-Smith Mountain Lake Junior Open golf tournament.

Both of these tournaments began in 1991 as separate events. The Andrew Haley was contested at the former Lynwood Golf and Country Club in Martinsville before moving to Mariners Landing Golf and Country Club in Huddleston in 1996, while the Lions Club tournament, in partnership with The Willard Companies, was played at The Waterfront.

Both events were staged in close proximity to one another, either in June or July, until they merged in 2007 with Mariners Landing and The Waterfront each hosing a round until 2018.

In 2019, The Water’s Edge came on board because the Mariners Landing course was being renovated. The Water’s Edge was slated to host the opening round in 2020.

In the first year of the merger, Michael Wade of Floyd won the championship in the premier division (boys 16-18 age group).

In 2019, former Jefferson Forest prep standout Garnet Manley III, who hails from Lynchburg, rallied from a five-shot deficit by carding a -under-par 69 at The Waterfront to win the 16-18 age division championship.

Manley used the 69 to produce an eight-shot swing. He was the only player among 17 golfers in the premier division who completed all 36 holes to shoot an under-par score at The Waterfront.

Manley’s (75-69) 144 total was three strokes better than runner-up Nick Rakes’ (70-77) 147.

Rakes, a former prep standout at Rustburg who hails from Evington, crafted his five-stroke lead after the first round with a 2-under-ar score at The Water’s Edge.

Manley was 3-under-par over his last five tournament holes to turn a 1-over score into a 2-under count. He carded birdies at hole Nos. 14, 16 and 17 and pars at home Nos. 15 and 18.

Rakes was 3 over-par on his last six holes after bogeys at Nos. 13, 14 and 17 and pars at Nos. 15, 16 and 18.

In the fall of 2019, Rakes won the Class 3 state individual championship with a birdie on the third playoff hole. He and Will Watson of Abingdon finished 18 holes of regulation play at Williamsburg National Golf Club deadlocked with 70s.

Manley is a freshman player at Campbell (N.C.) University and Rakes is a freshman competitor at Longwood University.

Franklin County prep golfers have been successful in this tournament with former standouts Matt Chandler (1999), David Hudgins (2008), Kolton Cooper (2013) and John Hatcher Ferguson (2018) winning championship in the premier division.

Chandler won the Group AAA state individual championship in Leesburg the following fall, while Ferguson was more than a year removed from winning the 2016 Class 6 state individual title when he captured the championship.

Ferguson’s win in 2018 was his second tournament triumph in a period of six days.

Ferguson, a junior, plays for Hampden-Sydney College and a 2018-19 NCAA Division III national tournament qualifier.

Two former champions compete for Ferrum College: Hunter Shelton (2015) and Brett Pennington (2017) Shelton is a senior, Pennington is a sophomore.

Former Cave Spring golfer Eric Voudren won the inaugural tournament in 1991 by besting his high school teammate, Scott Hunter.

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