MOULTRIE — In the fall of his first year of eligibility at Auburn, Billy Edwards qualified for the No. 5 spot on the Tigers golf team.

But Auburn golf coach Mike Griffin decided to give the position to another player, who happened to be Edwards’ roommate.

Griffin told Edwards that he just felt the other player “was more ready.”

Griffin’s decision meant that Edwards would not play in the team’s first two tournaments that fall.

“That was a blow,” Edwards said. “I got upset.”

But in hindsight, Edwards came to realize what he considered a slight may have helped him elevate his game.

“I got determined,” he said. “I worked harder. I got way more motivated.”

And when the team assembled in the spring, Edwards won the qualifier.

There was no bumping him now for another player.

And when he played in the Gator Invitational, his first tournament as an Auburn Tiger, he finished in the top 10 and went on to play either No. 1 or No. 2 the rest of his career.

Edwards, who played at Colquitt County High and at Abraham Baldwin College before heading to the The Plains, went on to be named All-SEC and represented Auburn in the NCAA Tournament.

He also had a fine amateur career, was an Academic All-American at Auburn and ultimately was honored for work on fairways and greens with his selection this year to the Colquitt County Sports Hall of Fame.

He will be part of the Class of 2009 that will be inducted on Thursday at the Hall of Fame’s annual banquet.

Edwards said he first got hooked on golf as a 5-year-old when his cousin Jeff Wilson visited from Wilmington, N.C., and took young Billy to Sunset Country Club.

“I just fell in love with it,” Edwards says. “And my dad played a lot and I’d ride along and watch him play.”

It wasn’t long before he won the first tournament he played in as a 6-year-old, claiming the Sunset Junior Club Championship.

He would go on to claim the Club Championship many more times.

As a junior golfer, he turned in a number of outstanding rounds in sectional, state and region tournaments.

He played the Junior Masters a number of times and while never winning, he had several top-10 finishes.

And Edwards was essentially self-taught.

“Truthfully, I just learned playing a lot and working through things,” he said. “I didn’t take a lesson until I got to college.”

He did have some golfers to emulate at Sunset Country Club, he said, including Harry Spires, who also is going into the Hall of Fame this week for his work as a youth baseball coach.

In fact, Edwards played for the Spires brothers as a youth baseball player.

He also got to watch up close the play of Bob Windom, Zess Willis and Chad Willis, who was a senior on Region 1-AAAA championship team on which Edwards played as a sophomore.

Edwards was always a long hitter, but it was Chad Willis who pushed the younger player to work harder on his short game.

Windom, who won the State Amateur in 1983, also was a presence at Sunset Country Club.

“We all looked up to him,” Edwards said of Windom, who is now Sunset’s golf pro.

While at Colquitt County, Edwards, a two-time All-Region 1-AAAA selection, played with a number of other fine golfers, including Deron Croft and Jack Faison.

Tift County had a strong high school program at the time that included Chris Cooper, son of Abraham Baldwin College coach Wayne Cooper, and Nanci Bowen, who went on to play at Georgia and on the LPGA Tour.

Chad Willis had played golf at Abraham Baldwin College before heading off to Ohio State and encouraged Edwards to take advantage both of the fine facility at ABAC and Cooper’s coaching.

Edwards’ game continued to improve under Cooper during the 1985 and 1986 seasons at ABAC.

“He was serious about your golf swing,” Edwards said.

In his second season at ABAC, Edwards finished eighth in the Junior College Nationals and was named a Junior College All-American.

Edwards, then 18, had one of biggest amateur victories when he won the West Lake National Junior Golf Tournament at the West Lake Golf Club in Augusta, beating Robert Dargan of Columbia, S.C., on the second hole of a playoff.

A final-round 69 sent Edwards to the playoff.

Following his fine junior college career, Edwards heard from a number of top golf programs, including Augusta College, South Carolina and Auburn.

He chose Auburn and had an outstanding two-year career. His scoring average still ranks No. 7 on the school’s all-time list.

And he continued to refine his game under Griffin.

“He was a good coach and a good man,” Edwards said of Griffin.

And while he never won a college tournament, his best finish was a runner-up in the Billy Hitchcock, the tournament held at Auburn that included all the top programs in the SEC.

And while understandably proud of his work on the golf course at Auburn, he is equally pleased at being named an Academic All-SEC and Academic All-America.

“Something clicked over there,” he says. “I decided if I’m going to be here, I’m going to do my best.”

He graduated from Auburn in 1989 with a degree in business administration.

Edwards seriously considered a professional golf career after a second-place finish in the Pacific Coast Amateur, reaching the quarterfinal round in the U.S. Amateur and turning in a fourth-place finish in the State Amateur.

But just before he was to play in Sunset Country Club’s annual Pot o’ Gold Pro-Am as a professional, he broke his wrist while playing basketball.

“I was sitting there with a cast on, thinking I really loved playing, but I didn’t really want to play professionally,” he says.

Instead, he went to work with his father Bill Edwards at Destiny Industries and now manages Edwards Motors in Albany.

Edwards has continued to play golf successfully, winning the Sunset club championship and the Ramsey Pidcock several times.

While playing with his father, he set the Sunset Country Clubcourse record with a 61.

He and wife Susan are active members of Heritage Church and have four children, Billy, Davis, Elle and Grace.

Billy and Davis are members of the Colquitt County High golf team and their father is there to watch them tee off.

“Now I know what my dad went through,” he says. “Watching is much more difficult than playing.”



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