ELLABELL – When Hal Godwin looks out at Black Creek Golf Club, his eyes are filled with optimism.
Godwin, like many of Bryan County Residents, took one on the chin when an EF4 tornado ripped through the Pembroke and Ellabell communities on April 5.
The golf course, which Godwin and his wife Shannon purchased five years ago and nurtured back to life, was among those properties hit.
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A cart barn with 65 carts was destroyed. The clubhouse was severely damaged, and no decision on whether to repair or demolish the structure has been made by insurance adjusters and engineers. Miraculously, a nearby equipment shed was spared. The course itself had downed trees seemingly everywhere.
Despite the damage and the uncertainty of what they’re going to do with the clubhouse, Godwin wants to assure the golfing public he plans to have the course open for play by early May.
For the Godwins, it was a double whammy as their home was also destroyed. They and their son Nash are currently living in a motel in Pooler while, like everyone else who was affected, they search for a rental property.
“We live about 300 yards from the golf course,” Hal Godwin said. “We’ve got a hole in our front yard that is big enough for me to drive my truck through it.”
“We lost our house and our business,” Shannon Godwin said. “It’s hard. But there are people worse off than us. ”
Hal Godwin works as a longshoreman and puts in upward of 72 hours a week, he said.
“A lot of overseeing the rebuild of the course and our home is going to fall on Shannon because of my work,” Godwin said. “She can do it. I’m not worried about that. She’s a strong person. ”
The Savannah Morning News did a review off the course nearly two years ago explaining that the Godwins had bought the course from OC Welch, who had owned it for several years before it went into disrepair and was getting little play.
Welch, who by now was involved with the Revitalizing Bacon Park Golf Course, shut it down and was preparing to sell it to the land to the Catholic church when Hal and Shannon Godwin made the decision to buy it, Godwin said.
They then went about the business of restoring it into a quality course which golfers could play at a reasonable cost.
“We didn’t lose any of our equipment,” Godwin said. “I would say 99% of the carts have some form of damage, but we’re going to get the golf course open. Our insurance has approved everything, so we’re good to go.
“It’s unbelievable how people have reached out to us. It restores your faith in Humanity. This is a devastating thing for everyone up here, but we’ll (community) rebuild. We’re down but we’re not out. It’s going to be hard but we’ll get it done. ”
Black Creek is Bryan County’s only public golf course
Black Creek is the only public golf course in Bryan County, and it attracts golfers from several outlying counties including Chatham, Bulloch, Candler, Evans and Screven. It is also home to the Bryan County High School golf team while Bulloch County teams use it as a practice facility.
Once they took over the course, the Godwins poured all the resources at their disposal into reshaping the course into one of the finer public Venues in the area.
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And not only the golf course got a makeover. Shannon developed Bogey’s into what was arguably the best restaurant in north Bryan.
To the untrained eye, it would appear the most expeditious thing to do would be to demolish and rebuild. But it’s amazing what skilled craftsmen can do when it comes to working with damaged buildings.
There is also a great deal of debris on the parking lot, and the trees which lined the entrance to the clubhouse are for the most part obliterated. Fortunately, the houses just across the street remained unscathed.
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Godwin said he was on his way home from work when the twister Struck. Shannon and Nash were at Sam’s Club where they had gone to pick up supplies.
There were five employees on the premises and, while getting a severe scare, they escaped uninjured.
“We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us,” Godwin said, “but we’re going to keep it going. The biggest thing, though, was none of our employees were injured. That’s more important than any building. “