Most of the over 100 junior golfers playing in the first Jackie Seawell Junior at Cobbs Glen had no idea who Seawell was or why the tournament was named for him.
The South Carolina Golf Association Hall of Fame professional passed away in June after a career that left a lasting impression on golf in South Carolina and Junior golf in particular.
“Mr. Seawell was helping young golfers play the game back when not every golf club paid much attention to Junior golfers,” said Matt Harbin, the chairman of the Jackie Seawell Junior tournament committee. “He had as much to do with helping grow junior golf in South Carolina as anyone,” he said.
Harbin was a 13 year old golfer at Cobbs Glen who Seawell helped start playing the game. His guidance led Harbin to play college golf at USC Aiken and then worked for Seawell.
While Seawell was always “Jackie” to everyone he met, Harbin still refers to him as Mr. Seawell.
“Junior golf has grown so much it might be hard to remember when kids could only play on certain days and times and there were only three real junior tournaments in the state. One at Myrtle Beach, The Frank Edwards in Spartanburg and the state junior at Lexington,” he recalled.
Now there are 18 tournaments considered major state-wide events, dozens of smaller tournaments and the Monday Summer Hootie and the Blowfish Series that operates 14 chapters in South Carolina.
Grant Bennett, who led junior programs in Florence and has a SCJGA tournament played in his name every year, is recognized in South Carolina for his work with juniors. Harbin believed Seawell deserved the same kind of recognition.
Over a year ago Harbin and his co-chairman Cobb Oxford decided to host a junior event in Seawell’s honor at his old club.
“Jackie was the first professional at Cobbs Glen and I bet every kid who started playing golf around that time took a lesson from him,” said Oxford. “All those kids are grown up now and they helped us make this tournament possible,” he said.
Harbin and Oxford contacted the South Carolina Junior Golf Association and the two groups developed a formula for the event. The tournament would be limited to boys and girls 15 and under.
Most SCJGA events get filled up with older players (16-18) so opening more opportunities for younger kids was an idea welcomed by the state organization.
The tournament received support from dozens of sponsors, many of whom had a relationship with Seawell when he was at the club. The support allowed the tournament organizers to put together a first class event.
The players received special tee gifts, more prizes for top finishers and meals both days. The event had enough volunteer help to even put spotters out on some of the more demanding holes to help the young golfers.
The 10-12 year old boys division was won by Davis Petty from Spartanburg. Petty finished two-shots in front of Bennett Scarletta from Belton for the age group title.
Caroline Richardson from Blythewood won the girls 10-12 year old championship while Claire Green from Okatie won the girls 13-15 year old division title.
Deaton Read from Lancaster won the boys 13-15 year old title by three-shots over Will Ruth from Roebuck.
Besides the hospitality and the exceptional course conditions the tournament will get some extra attention for the top prize won by the age group champions.
“When golf started the Champion Golfer of the Year (the Open Champion) got a belt. We thought it would be something to make our tournament unique,” said Oxford.
When the first winners were presented their belts they didn’t seem to know how to react after expecting a trophy or a plaque. Oxford hopes the award becomes a trademark for the event.
Seeing the over 100 young golfers enjoying the tournament allowed Harbin to imagine what Seawell would think of the tournament played in his name.
“I really think what Mr. Seawell would be proudest of was seeing all the kids playing golf. Not the tournament, but around the putting green, playing games with each other and just having fun. I know he enjoyed that the most,” concluded Harbin.
Scores from the Jackie Seawell Junior https://scjga.bluegolf.com/bluegolf/scjga21/event/scjga21113/contest/1/leaderboard.htm