Upstate Amateur Golf

Champagne tradition continues at Thornblade

The team of Jim Jacoby, Turk Pettit, Chuck Rudman and J.D. Nelson won the annual Champagne Shoot-Out at Thornblade Club. The tournament has been one of the most popular events at the club. The event which began as a modest 10-man shoot-out celebrated its 29th anniversary this year. (GolfClub Photo)

Traditions don’t happen overnight. You can’t start something and call it traditional before it is tested by time

The Champagne Shoot-Out at Thornblade has earned its Traditional label.

The New Year’s Eve tournament was held for the 29th straight year at the club in Greer. The tournament includes club members and guests playing with area Tour players.

The professionals who join in the fun included Champions Tour pro and club member Jay Haas as well as a number of aspiring professionals from the Upstate.

Two of the top college seniors in the PGA University rankings, Jacob Bridgeman from Clemson and Trent Phillips from Georgia tried to help their amateur partners take home the champagne given to the winners.

The full field and professional participants were not part of the first Shoot-Out. In fact the event now is nothing like it was when it began 29 years ago.

The first Shoot-Out happened more by accident than by design.

A group of members were helping long time club member Tommy Lever celebrate his birthday in the club’s bar when they decided to go out and play some golf.

“We had 10 guys and we played a shoot-out,” recalled Lever. “We all had a good time. I don’t remember if we said we would do it again, but we did,” he said.

Ron Johnson was one of the 10 who played in the first Shoot-Out and remembers the second year when it became an “event”.

“Julian Taylor, the Titleist rep, had hats made up for us,” said Johnson. “It got noticed by club members and it got a little bigger each year,” he said.

The Champagne Shoot-Out started as a birthday celebration for club member Tommy Lever (right). Ron Johnson joined Lever in the first Shoot-Out 29 years ago and played in the tournament again this year. (GolfClub Photo)

As more members wanted to play the Shoot-Out format changed to a tournament. The club which offered aspiring Tour players the opportunity to play at the club were added to the amateur teams for the event.

Playing on New Year’s Eve weather has been unpredictable and surprisingly has never forced the event to be cancelled.

“One year we had a bunch of rain and the tournament was supposedly cancelled, but a lot of us went out to play anyway to keep the steak going,” said Lever.

Some years it has been cold, some years rainy, some years there has been snow on the course and some years it has been unseasonably warm and perfect golf weather.

Even last year at the height of the pandemic the tournament was played with plenty of hand sanitizer, no rakes in the traps and social distancing.

This year golfers enjoyed the 70 degree weather and the tournament ended in a three-way tie for the team championship.

The 2021 NCAA individual champion, Turk Pettit, added a win in the Champaign Shoot-Out to his list of accomplishments for the year.

The former Clemson golfer eagled his teams last hole which earned them a tie and the eventual win over two other teams using a scorecard playoff.

Pettit was joined on the winning team by Jim Jacoby, Chuck Rudman and J.D. Nelson. The team finished at 22-under par.

Lever, whose birthday is on New Year’s Eve, won a closest to the pin prize and enjoyed the gathering serenading him with a rendition of Happy Birthday after the tournament.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.