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Jerry McLamb is gone now, passed away from cancer five years ago, but his spirit lives on at Crow Creek.
His spirit is there in the friendly greeting you get from the bag attendant when you arrive, in the smile of the cart girl as she hands you a PowerAde on the 13th hole.
It’s there in the welcoming hand of Bryan Thomas, the general manager.
Best of all, it’s there in the fast, velvety greens, the flawless fairways, pristine bunkers and crystal-blue ponds that fall under the keen eye of Joe Jamison, Crow Creek’s renowned golf course superintendent.
It’s there in the golfers who return year after year to their favorite course. Comments such as “I wouldn’t miss the course ever!” “Best course we’ve played this week!” and “We’ll be back!” fill the guest book in the small hallway of the temporary clubhouse.
This is because Crow Creek was a labor of love for Jerry. He dreamed of a beautiful golf course and a friendly golf-course community. That dream was shared by his wife, Monnie, and continues in large measure today because of her and the family that owns and operates Crow Creek.
It all began in 1945 when Jerry’s father purchased a 440-acre farm near the North Carolina and South Carolina border. Jerry grew up in the midst of corn, sweet potatoes, green beans, collards and tobacco, and in 1963 he took over the farm from his dad.
In 1980, Jerry went into the construction business and leased out the farm. In 1996, after operating a successful construction business, he decided to put the old family farm to good use. Why not build a golf course community on the 400-plus acres? Others members of the McLamb family had moved into golf operations, so why not build a premier course community, one that would reflect his values and his creed?
So in 1998, Jerry and his son-in-law Henry Bennett hired Rick Robbins, a former designer for the Nicklaus Group, as the architect. It was a good match and a great collaboration between Jerry and Rick.
“Jerry was there every day when the course was built,” Monnie said. “We rode around together watching them build it. Jerry was always giving advice to the architect, working with Rick to make it perfect. It was a joint effort between the two of them.”
According to the family, Jerry cleared the back nine holes himself on a bulldozer.
After the course was completed, Monnie and Jerry rode around it every day, admiring the natural beauty of the fairways, lakes and greens, and the old hunting cabin that it still on the course. They would greet the golfers and talk with the workers.
“Jerry wanted everything to be perfect,” Henry said. “He hired the best people and worked hard to make the golf as enjoyable as possible. The staff had to be efficient and friendly. We wanted the golfers to have a warm, family experience at a great golf course. Jerry wanted the course to be user-friendly, so golfers of different abilities could enjoy it. We have five sets of tees and large greens for that very reason.”
Since Jerry’s passing, Crow Creek has continued to grow and prosper under the watchful eyes of Monnie, Henry Bennett and manager Bryan Thomas.
Bob Timberlake, a North Carolina native, built the first model home in 2002, and today new homes and condos are being constructed all around Crow Creek. A new, 20,000-square-foot clubhouse will open in the fall.
To honor the Jerry's memory, his family and friends host an annual charity golf event for the benefit of the American Cancer Society. Called the Jerry McLamb Memorial Golf Tournament, the event has raised more than $50,000 in the past four years.
Last week, I attended a committee meeting and got a chance to see Jerry’s legacy in operation. The meeting was friendly and dynamic. Goals were set; goals were met. Telephone calls and solicitations were tracked. Who had signed on as a sponsor? Who was sending a team? Who was coming back to play again?
It was four weeks and counting until the tournament, and everyone was working hard to make it a success.
“Five years ago, we started with family and friends doing the cooking, running the tournament. The dinner was in the maintenance building,” said Ken Duncan, a former employee and close family friend still heavily involved in the tournament.
“We’d roast a pig, serve sweet potatoes, beans and cole slaw. Now it’s rib steaks and baked potatoes, but it’s still family and friends doing it all. Jerry’s family always comes to help; grandkids come home from college for it. It’s a big deal for everyone who knew Jerry.”
This year, the tournament will take place on June 28. There are all sorts of giveaways, raffles, mulligans, a 50-50, a hole-in-one shootout and a chance to win a kitchen appliance package.
“Just about everyone goes home with a prize,” Bryan Thomas said. “All our suppliers pitch in and help. Local people climb on board to sponsor holes for $100. It gets bigger every year. Now new folks who have moved into the community sign up to be volunteers and to work the event. We only take 144 players, and each year we fill up and have a waiting list.”
“This is the last year the tournament dinner will be held in the maintenance building. Next year’s event will be in the new clubhouse.
“We are very proud of this event. It builds public awareness of cancer, and it honors Jerry’s memory. It’s our way of paying tribute to a man we all loved dearly.”
“Jerry was dedicated to his family and friends, he had pride in everything he did,” Ken Duncan said. “He was strong in his convictions and beliefs.”
Jerry McLamb would be proud of his family and friends and the way they are continuing his traditions.
GOLF GAB GROANER
Elmer, an elderly gentleman, had always wanted to birdie the 8th hole on his home course. It was a long par-3 over water, and despite all the years of trying, the old guy had never managed a birdie. In fact, most of the time, he took doubles or triples on the hole.
One day, Elmer was playing a round all by himself. As he ascended the steps to the tee box on his nemesis hole, he said a particularly poignant prayer.
When he put down an old cut-up golf ball, Elmer suddenly heard a voice from above say, “Wait! Put down a new ball!”
Elmer looked around and saw no one nearby. He looked up at the blue sky above. Perhaps this would be the day he finally birdied the 8th hole.
He reached into this bag, pulled out a brand new Titleist Pro V, set it on the tee and started to swing.
“Wait,” said the voice. “Take a practice swing.”
Elmer took a practice swing, then stepped forward.
“Wait,” called the voice. “Take another practice swing.”
The voice boomed once more. “Put back the old ball!”
Elsa Bonstein is a golf columnist for the Beacon. Reach her at email@example.com.