Serving Amateur Golf with Passion

05 Jun 2022

Jack Nance’s leadership encompasses all facets of the sport


The Carolinas Golf Association (CGA) has been serving amateur golf in North and South Carolina since 1909. Leading this important steward of the sport as executive director is Jack Nance, whose roots in amateur golf stretch all the way back to when he was learning to play at age 10.

“I took a real interest in the game later in my early teens when I and my twin brother Bill began playing regularly. We grew up around the first tee of Coharie Country Club in Clinton. We still have fun playing golf with lifelong friends from that time. That’s what’s great about the game,” he says.

Nance then played college golf at Wake Forest University, where he served after graduation as an assistant golf coach for two years before joining the CGA staff in 1984. He was promoted to executive director eight years later.

The CGA was founded more than 100 years ago to promote and protect the game of golf in North and South Carolina through competitions, education, support, and benefits to clubs and golfers. A non-profit, it is the second largest golf association in the United States and has more than 700 member clubs with almost 150,000 golfers.

Because some think that the CGA is a subordinate organization of the U.S. Golf Association (USGA), Nance often has to clarify the relationship. “We’re not a chapter of USGA, but we work closely with USGA on lots of golf fronts. There are 58 allied golf associations across the country; at the state and regional level, we are eyes and ears of USGA. We conduct qualifiers for tournaments, help process a professional’s return to amateur status, and help promote tournaments and procure volunteers for USGA events,” he says.

An important arm of the CGA is the Carolinas Golf Foundation, which was founded in 1977 to support a variety of golf initiatives. It has provided more than $3 million to support and promote junior golf, women's golf, turfgrass research and management, disabled golfers, and similar projects. Annually the foundation reviews requests from organizations for funding support; the deadline for new applications is January 15, 2023.

Junior golf, in particular, is a major focus of the foundation, and it has donated more than $250,000 to developmental initiatives, community college programs, golf academies, youth golf activities, and First Tee programs.

The foundation also supports students who aspire to become golf course superintendents and turfgrass managers in the Carolinas. Individual grants with a value of up to $2,000 are provided to students at N.C. State University and Clemson University.

Both universities also receive research grants from the foundation for turfgrass projects, another important mission of the CGA. Recent initiatives have helped to develop new grasses for the growing zone that includes the Carolinas. Researchers have also studied the effects of various soils on new kinds of Bermudagrass and developed soil and fertilizer management practices for these grasses to combat hot, arid summers and improve water quality.

In addition to funding these extraordinary golf initiatives across the Carolinas, the CGA has added a new one, Youth on Course. This program provides kids ages 6-18 access to more than 50 participating courses in the Carolinas for just $5 per round. In the Sandhills, these courses include Knollwood, Midland, Pine Needles, Southern Pines, Stryker and Ryder (at Fort Bragg), Whispering Pines, and Whispering Woods as well as Numbers 1, 3, and 5 at Pinehurst Resort.

“Youth on Course is a neat model that started on the West Coast and has since gone nationwide. It has really taken off in the last couple of years. We have 3,000 kids in the program who are active participants right now,” Nance says. He adds that last year the CGA spent $100,000 in subsidies “to courses to help kids get out and play golf.”

The Carolinas are home to hundreds of golf tournaments each year that appeal to a wide range of skill levels. The CGA administers its own calendar of championships, considered one of the strongest tournament programs in the country, as well as qualifiers for national events. It annually conducts 48 championships and five team match competitions for men, women, juniors, and seniors. Most CGA tournaments are open to only amateur golfers.

“We have over 100 events for everyday golfers to compete in — any kind of golfer with any ability. As part of the tournament program, we also have really strong junior and women’s programs, and there’s been a lot of growth in these areas,” Nance says.

The CGA even has a special division in its junior program known as “Tiger Tots.” Children ages six to 11 play in entry-level tournaments on shorter courses. “We make it fun to develop their interest in the game, and the kids learn golf rules and etiquette,” he explains.

The CGA is licensed by USGA to issue course and slope ratings, which are used to calculate handicap indexes and course handicaps at all member facilities. “Handicapping is one of our core services, which we provide to 172,000 golfers and about 700 club members,” Nance says.

The CGA also conducts workshops on the rules of golf, and they focus on the most common rules encountered by golfers when playing on a course. Before the coronavirus pandemic, they were conducted as in-person seminars but are currently being held virtually. Each webinar is open to the public and is designed to benefit golfers of all abilities, including tournament volunteers. “We hope to get out in person again next year,” Nance says.

Another important service that the CGA provides is advice on turfgrass issues at a club, Nance adds. With an agronomist on its staff since 1982, the CGA was the first state or regional association to offer agronomy service to its member clubs, and it provides this service free of charge (less expenses). This service is helpful to member clubs on topics such as winter cold damage, painting Bermudagrass, overseeding fairways, and the effects of tree shade on turfgrass.

The CGA also administers the Carolinas Golf Hall of Fame, which includes noteworthy amateur players, golf professionals, superintendents and administrators, golf coaches and volunteers, and media members who by birth or residency have a connection to the Carolinas. The primary qualification for selection is golf-related accomplishments and service to the game in North and South Carolina. Nominations for new inductees who are at least 50 years old are received through September 1.

The initial inductees in 1981 were three amateur golfers (Estelle Lawson Page, Billy Joe Patton, and Harvey Ward), Donald Ross (golf professional and architect), and Richard Tufts (golf administration). Plaques commemorating all inductees are housed in the conventional hall of the Carolina Hotel that is open to the public.

“We have a great, rich heritage of golf and want to promote it by identifying and celebrating the people who have had impact on golf in the Carolinas over the years” Nance says.

In 2018, the CGA opened the Xan Law, Jr. Hall of History at its headquarters, the Carolinas Golf House, in Southern Pines at 140 Ridge Road across the street from Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club. Open to the public during business hours (8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays), the hall is filled with a collection of clubs, scorecards, pictures, trophies, and information about people who have made this part of the country so historic when it comes to golf.  

Visit the hall and be inspired by the legacy of amateur golf in the Carolinas and the dedicated work that Nance and his team of professionals do each day.

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