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Former major champion helping transform Belmont Golf Course into a unique First Tee facility

"The golf world is watching."
Posted at 5:36 PM, Oct 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-13 18:40:55-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- At the age of 104, Belmont Golf Course is getting a make-over. And not just any make-over. A $5 million dollar face lift overseen by 21-time PGA winner Davis Love III.

Love was in Richmond to take a look at what his design company is doing with the A.W. Tillinghast design that first opened in 1916. Operated for the last several years by Henrico County, Belmont still has infrastructure that Tillinghast oversaw when the course was originally built.

“When you get an opportunity to touch something that Tillinghast and Donald Ross had their fingerprints on, it’s incredible,” said Love, whose father, Davis Love Jr. passed down a love of the history of the game to Davis and his brother Mark. “It’s a thrill to get to be part of a project like this.”

The First Tee of Greater Richmond made a winning offer to Henrico County for the facility which, in it’s heyday, hosted around 45,000 rounds of golf each year. But a small fraction of those turned out to be youth players. This new first-of-its-kind facility aims to change that.

“This fits the same mission of our other two facilities,” said Brent Schneider, CEO of the First Tee of Greater Richmond. “It’s a huge investment for us but it’s going to be very special.”

The facility, which is likely to have a new name, will have a driving range, 6-hole short course, expansive putting area, and a 12-hole regulation course allowing players to work on all areas of their games.

Children who are First Tee members will get to use the facility for free and it will also be open to the public. Schneider expects over 2,000 kids to take part in their programs once this new facility opens, depending on COVID-19 restrictions.

This type of facility is a first for any First Tee program nationwide and Schneider was quick to point out, would not be possible without benefit of their donors. But there are a lot of interested parties watching Richmond to see if something like this can be viable elsewhere.

“Our kids are watching, our families are watching,” Schneider said. “The community is watching. The people who grew up playing Belmont are watching. The golf world is watching. So far, the project has really been a true blessing.”

For Love, it extends his relationship with the First Tee. He supports a chapter in his hometown and has played in several tournaments with kids in their programs.

“These kids just watched Bryson DeChambeau win the U.S. Open on a Tillinghast course. They’re going to get to play a golf course that Tillinghast built and that we brought back from almost the dead,” Love said.

“It’s an incredible feeling for me to just be a part of something like that.”

Schneider expects the facility to be open in May of 2021.