Tony Parrish looks to revive Sampson County golf

Adam Capps, Sports Editor

January 22, 2014

Timberlake Golf Club, sitting off of highway 403 in Clinton is the newest course in the county, and could quickly be the home of a resurgence of golf in Sampson County.

Tony Parrish, the new golf pro at Timberlake, is ready to get the game of golf jump started in the county. From junior golfers to senior golfers and everything in between, Parrish has many plans to get more people involved in the game that he and many others are so passionate about.

Parrish has been in the golf business since 1985. He got his start working for Carolina Custom Golf, one of the biggest golf shops on the East Coast. He always wanted to be a PGA Tour player, and was greatly influenced by his fellow employees at Carolina Custom Golf. “They would always tell me that if I couldn’t beat them, I surely wasn’t going to be able to make it on Tour.” While Parrish never did reach the highest level of professional golf, which is the PGA Tour, he can more than say that he was a professional golfer at one point in his life, and a dominant one at that.

Parrish played on the Grand Strand Tour in Myrtle Beach from 2006-2010. He led the money list on the Grand Strand Tour nearly annually. He was the most dominant player on the Grand Strand for a stretch, winning many tournaments, including an 8-win season.

He has also competed in Nationwide Tour events (now known as the Tour), including the annual tournament played in Raleigh at TPC Wakefield Plantation. Parrish was paired with present-day PGA Tour winner Tommy “Two-Gloves” Gainey in the qualifier of the tournament, as he shot a 66 to get into the tournament. He was in the top 10 after 3 rounds with scores of 68-70-70, but fell down to 28th after a final-round 74. Nevertheless, Parrish went toe-to-toe with players that have now reached and won on the PGA Tour, and held his own.

Tony was married in 2002 to his wife Julie, whose family is very passionate about the game of golf too, as her father was the golf coach at Triton High School.

When asked what kind of changes Parrish wanted to make around Timberlake, he said that it was not just the course, but the entire county that he wanted to make changes with. “I want Sampson County golf to develop as well as Wake and Johnston Counties have done in the past.

Parrish wants to get a The First Tee program going at Timberlake, and if not The First Tee, a program resembling it that will get the youth and juniors more interested in golf. “If we don’t get the kids involved, the game will die” said Parrish.

As for the course itself, not many changes are set to be made. The course is in great shape with the winter conditions and and the precipitation that has fallen in the recent weeks. One change that Parrish would like to make is to get USGA caliber bunkers on the course, and remove the clay that previously made up the sand traps. This will be done over a time span though, as re-bunkering is not a cheap task.

Timberlake can provide many issues for a golfer if they are not finding the fairway. The Gene Daniels designed track has well-placed bunkers and ponds, along with waste areas filled with wire grass that will penalize any shot that is mishit in the slightest.

With the course having this type of difficulty, Parrish believes that if the course, that is currently just over 6500 yards from the back tees, was stretched out to around 7000 yards, he could convince the Hooters Tour to come play an event at Timberlake. He is also acquaintances with 8-time PGA Tour winner Dustin Johnson, and former Tour player Neal Lancaster. He would love to have the two at Timberlake in the future for a showcase. This would allow some of the best golfers on the planet to come to Clinton, and definitely bring a buzz about golf back into the county.

Parrish would also like to start Inter-County matches with surrounding counties in Ryder Cup format. This would feature the best 12 golfers in each county squaring off for the pride of bringing the hardware back to their home county.

The changes Parrish plans to make to golf in the county are exciting. Golfers of all levels will benefit from any of the ideas that Parrish has presented.

If you read enough of the newspaper, or watch enough of the news, you know all of the problems that the world faces. Golf is a great way to escape reality for a couple of hours. So get out there with your buddies, talk some trash, and have a good time. Let’s get golf back on the map in Sampson County.