The 2014 GSGA Amateur Championship was played under sunny skies at Idle Hour Golf Course and Country Club in Macon, Georgia. A gorgeous site for a tournament in its 98th year, this wasn't Idle Hour's 'first rodeo'…the course has hosted this event eight times; more than any other site since the tourney's inception in 1916.
Many golfers that played in this championship in its early years have passed on. But one legend in Georgia amateur golf, who's been around for nearly all of those 98 years, found himself back on his native course, taking in its beauty alongside the generations now carrying on his beloved game.
A wise but personable '92-years-young', Arnold Blum cracked a smile as he described the course he knows like the back of his hand. A five-time champion of the GSGA Amateur, Blum has never had to travel very far for a round at this one. Besides his stint in World War II, he's always lived within a handful of miles from Idle Hour.
"How far is my home now? Oh, about a mile away. Never been more than three, four miles away," Blum said.
Blum had his game in full-swing by his mid-teens. At 15 years of age, he won his first state amateur. While pursuing his college degree at the University of Georgia, Blum led the Bulldogs golf team to an SEC title as captain in 1941.
Golf was set on the backburner while Blum served overseas in World War II, where he won the extremely honorable Purple Heart award. But the former soldier said the U.S. army had its own knack for the game, as tournaments were organized when time allowed and at war's end.
"Women served as our caddies….there were no men left after the war so they did it," Blum chuckled.
Upon returning to the states, however, the Georgia lifer picked back up on a bright career in golf, winning tournaments not only in his neck of the woods, but in Athens, Augusta, LaGrange, Columbus and Atlanta.
Blum played in the prestigious Masters five times and contributed to a win for the U.S. on the 1957 Walker Cup team.
He was later named president of the Georgia State Golf Association and also served as director for the Southern Golf Association. His careers accomplishments were widely recognized upon induction to the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame and the Southern Golf Association Hall of Fame.
As the tournaments, awards and years of play stacked up, Blum recognized changes in the amateur game.
"All of 'em hit the ball a mile…it's amazing. I don't know what courses are gonna do to keep up with the length of these guys that hit the ball so far," he wondered.
Upon observing the GSGA Amateur and listening to Blum's tales of his playing days, I had a feeling the looks of today's attire on the course may be somewhat different from what it used to be…
"Back in the days when you were younger playing, did guys wear these…I see bright purple shirts..I see bright pink, orange…was it quite as colorful then as it is now?" I questioned.
"No way," Blum responded. "Although we did wear shorts and t-shirts and no one ever told us in those days that the sun was dangerous but we played in 'em all day long."
It's been nearly eight years since Arnold Blum last picked up a club and took a swing but his legacy will live on long beyond his years.
The Arnold Blum Golf Learning Center was built two years ago to train both up-and-coming golfers and those looking to brush up on their skills. A brother in Bulldog spirit, UGA's own Russell Henley has spent some quality time there, among many others.
But a building named after himself is the last thing Blum would ever request.
"He's personable but he doesn't like talking about himself. To get him to talk more than a few minutes about his career is nearly impossible. I told him when I had this built that it was going to be named after him. He came to the dinner celebrating its opening but that's probably the only time he's ever been in the place. He doesn't like a lot of recognition," said Ray Cutright, Director of Golf at Idle Hour.
Luckily, I had the opportunity to squeeze more than a few words of reflection from Arnold Blum while covering this year's GSGA Amateur.
Catch the story is below.