Cragmont tourney elicited great loyalty from many of its participants

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Ray Wells, the pastor at Marsh Swamp Church, pledged his support when Rick Watson, the founder and director of the long-established Cragmont Golf Tournament, informed him that the superball event that benefits the Baptist-sponsored Cragmont Assembly in Black Mountain will be staged for the final time in 2017.

The dates are Thursday and Friday, Aug. 3-4, at Happy Valley Country Club — the first and only venue for the event.

It will end after a stirring run of 38 years.

“I was hoping to make it to 40,” joked Leroy Marshall, who missed participating in only the 1980 inaugural.

Kay Manning, who also only missed the first tournament, admitted she felt “awful but joyful” upon learning the environment of Christian-based golf and, oh, yes, the abundance of Hershey’s ice cream will be available for the final time at the golf course some three weeks from now.

Mickey Grizzard will be a team member for all four tee times in the finale.

The overall sentiment has been regret, but patrons are not only applauding Watson but his lasting power for an endeavor that involves the 68-year-old retired banker some nine months a year.

Many refuse to abandon hope the tournament, in some form, is salvaged.

“I told (Watson) I would support him,” Wells commented. “He has about spent himself. He’s a great man and has raised a lot of money. But things come to an end.

“It’s going to be tough, but we’ll come up with something else to help Cragmont. I played in the first one and I will play in the last one.”

Wells has never missed a year in participating in the tournament.

Observed Manning: “Rick has done it so long. We’ll miss him and miss Cragmont. He was such a good person with people of all ages. (The tournament) was good for youngsters and good for Cragmont. He took it to another level.”

Watson estimates Manning has played more rounds in the Cragmont than any other individual. She has entered a team for all four tee times each of the last several years. Ditto for the farewell. Manning is bringing even more newcomers this time.

“I met so many new friends and I will miss all of that,” she said. “But (Watson) has earned a chance to release it. I have played in all but one and it will be bittersweet.

“But I look at it that he’s not quitting; he’s just stepping aside.”

The news surprised Marshall, a veteran golfer.

“It’s like a part of you gone,” he reasoned. “I look forward to playing in it every year. It’s a great tournament and Rick is a fine man.

“I hate to see it happen, but it’s been a good ride.”

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