WEST POINT, Miss. — Old Waverly Golf Club of Mississippi is celebrating its silver anniversary this year. As the club reaches the 25-year benchmark, it honors its beginnings and the milestones that have led to the acclaim it holds today.
In the early 1980s, the idea for a championship level golf course evolved in founder George Bryan’s mind first as a state park course that adjoined Waverley Mansion in east Clay County. While legislators thought the idea justified funding a feasibility study, they ultimately decided that providing for a series of golf courses throughout Mississippi would be beyond the scope of the state’s budget.
It was at that point that Bryan turned his focus toward creating a private course. He, along with several local community leaders, put together a group of 30 founders who each bought a membership and a lot adjacent to what would become the golf course. Bryan contracted with the highly acclaimed team of Jerry Pate and Bob Cupp to design the course on a property located just east of West Point that featured rolling, contoured hills and peaceful lakes surrounded by age-old evergreens.
In a tribute to his Scottish heritage and his family’s Southern roots, Bryan named the course Old Waverly and hired architectural firm Pryor & Morrow to design the Greek revival clubhouse and other amenities, as well as to lay out the residential plan.
Bryan knew the club would need to reach beyond the small population base of Mississippi’s Golden Triangle in order to be successful.
“From the beginning, Old Waverly was developed as a regional club,” he says. “We built cottages for groups to come stay and play golf for the weekend before we built the clubhouse.”
His strategy paid off. While the majority of current members come from the 200-mile radius he targeted, it is impressive to note that the club boasts members from 22 states and several foreign countries. Some of the more well known members include NFL greats Brett Favre, Jerry Rice, Reggie Kelly and Archie Manning.
Highlights through the years include hosting the USGA’s 2005 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship, several Southeastern Conference Championships and the internationally televised 1999 U.S. Women’s Open Championship. Old Waverly still holds the number two spot in all-time attendance for a U.S. Women’s Open with 126,000 fans.
“It couldn’t have been a more successful tournament,” shares Kenny Dill, mayor of West Point during the Open. “Media were here from more than 100 countries. Volunteers
came from all over to make the event happen. It still gives me chills when I think about everybody’s ‘can do’ attitude – primarily George Bryan’s. After it was over, we received a number of letters from different organizations commenting on the wonderful Southern hospitality. It really made a difference in some people’s attitudes about Mississippi.”
In addition to professional and high level amateur events, Old Waverly has also been the site of a number of charity fundraisers including the Governor’s Cup – an event hosted by then-governor Haley Barbour to raise funds for rebuilding the Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina.
“Over the past 25 years, Old Waverly Golf Club has been a staple of Mississippi as one of its premier courses,” says Barbour. “Beyond providing a championship quality venue for golfers everywhere, they’ve also given back to Mississippi. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Old Waverly offered to host our inaugural Governor’s Cup Golf Tournament which raised more than $300,000 for the victims of the storm. Old Waverly is a shining example of the beauty Mississippi has to offer.”
Old Waverly has been a tremendous benefit to the state in other ways as well. Having a place to entertain and house industrial prospects has been a factor in the development of over $4.6 billion in new area industry since 2003.
“Old Waverly has given us a world class facility to recruit and support world class companies,” comments Joe Max Higgins, executive director of the Golden Triangle Development LINK.
Although the strengths of the club are many, Bryan attributes most of its success to the members, employees and the championship golf course.
“Our employees have a tremendous amount of experience. They treat our members and guests with sincere hospitality,” states Bryan. “Some have been in managerial positions for 20 years or longer, and our family has been involved in this, too.”
Bryan’s son, Wilkes, serves as the club’s general manager and has been a part of the club’s growth for over 20 years.
Wilkes comments on the course, “Local members never tire of playing it. The beauty of the design is in its diversity. Each hole provides a different experience. Even the changing seasons mean the course is constantly providing new looks and challenges.”
In addition to the world class golf course, many companies have found Old Waverly an
ideal place for corporate retreats, making use of its conference rooms, lodging, superb dining, tennis courts, swimming pool, hiking trails and more. The full spectrum of amenities provided in such a scenic and quiet locale has been the formula that brings groups back again and again.
So what is the club’s focus now? The next generation of golfers. A standout junior program has risen to prominence in a short period of time. Pros V.J. Trolio and Tim Yelverton have become two of the most renowned teachers in the country. Junior golfers come from all over the nation to take instruction at this highly respected program. At present, a cottage is under construction that will house young golfers for golf camps beginning this summer.
“Golf can teach those life skills to youngsters that are so important to their development,” shares Bryan. “Things like discipline, judgment, character and patience are integral parts of the game that can translate to all areas of their lives.”
It is fitting that Old Waverly and the Bryan family link the future of the club to the golfers of tomorrow.
“Our own grandchildren are growing up on this course,” concludes Bryan. “The game is a legacy we hope to pass on to them as well as to others.”