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story.lead_photo.caption Photo submitted For the second time, the APT tour will bring golfers while Bella Vista provides volunteers and a cash purse for a professional golf tournament on the Highlands Golf Course.

Bella Vista not only has a lot of volunteers, it also have some experienced volunteers, Charlie Teal of the Bella Vista Foundation said, and that's why it's already become one of the top spots on the APT professional golf circuit. The volunteers, he pointed out, also work when the LPGA's Walmart NW Arkansas Championship comes to Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers each summer.

"They seem to enjoy being out there with the guys," Golf operations director Phillip Wright said about the volunteers. "There's no question -- without them it would not have been as successful."

Gary DeSerrano, APT president, said the volunteers are phenomenal and the tournament is very well organized. But he was also impressed with the beauty of the area.

"The courses we play don't all have that terrain -- the trees and the rolling hills," he said. Area residents make the golfers feel very welcome so they want to come back to Bella Vista.

The second annual Cooper Communities NWA Charity Classic is scheduled for the week of June 4 at the Highlands Golf Course. It's a joint project with Cooper Communities, the city of Bella Vista, the Property Owners Association and the Foundation, Teal said. It is rare that all these diverse entities cooperate for one event, Teal said.

The charities that benefit from the tournament will also be involved during the week, he said. That includes the Bella Vista Animal Shelter, the Benton County Boys and Girls Club, First Tee and the Courtesy Van. One way they are involved is providing prizes for the silent auction. The Boys and Girls Club and First Tee may send some of their clients to a new junior clinic planned during tournament week.

The professionals who play in the APT tournaments are typically young, Teal said. He compares them to the players in minor league baseball. They're still improving their game so they can move up to the PGA, he said.

"You can't be a part-time pro anymore," DeSerrano said. The golfers with the APT play about 30 tournaments a year, including many outside of the APT organization. Each golfer has to make up his own schedule.

"It's not very glamours on this level, but once you get to the PGA level ... It's an amazing living if you can get there. But you have to be very, very good."

The Highlands course is good for spectators, DeSerrano said, and most of the golfers enjoy the audience. Some spectators will move along the fairway with their favorite golfer.

"The Highlands has a lot of holes where you can hang out under a tree and watch the guys come through. It's a great place to place to watch."

New this year is a garden area for spectators.

There's no fee to watch the golf action, Teal said, and the garden area will make it more comfortable.

Tournament week begins on Monday, June 4, when the pros arrive and practice on the Highlands course. That evening a Pro-Am party is scheduled at Lakepoint along with a silent auction.

On Tuesday, the Pro-Am tournament takes place with a scramble format. Each four-person team is made up of one pro and three amateurs. Later that day, the junior clinic and a long drive contest are both scheduled and the professional golfers will be involved with both.

From Wednesday through Saturday, the pro tournament takes place.

Last year, Darryl Muldoon, the POA's golf operations manager and Bob Brooks, who was the POA board chairman, played in the tournament, Wright said. There were also a few golfers from the region involved.

The POA hasn't needed to improve the course for the tour. Work on bunkers and the "collars" around them was completed last summer, but it wasn't because of the tournament, Wright said. They may impose a "carts on path" rule for a week or two before the tournament so the greens will look their best for the pros. The course will be closed for other play that week, but with four other 18 hole courses, that shouldn't be an issue, he said.

The APT pays a fee for using the course, but the real benefit, Wright said, is the exposure. The young pros often bring family and caddies. Other tournaments may follow as well, he said. He's talking with the NCAA about a college tournament.

Last year the Foundation distributed $18,500 to three local charities. The year, even after providing cash prizes for the golfers, the Foundation expects to have top last years charity distribution.

General News on 02/28/2018

Print Headline: Bella Vista prepares to welcome professional golfers once again

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