University of Mississippi's Ole Miss Golf Course Named "Third Best Golf Course Renovation in America" in Golf Inc. Magazine's Annual Survey

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The University of Mississippi and Watermark Golf/Nathan Crace Design announced today that the recent renovation of the University's Ole Miss Golf Course has received national recognition from Golf Inc. Magazine. Earlier in January, the California-based worldwide publication that targets course developers, owners, and management company executives selected Ole Miss GC as one of its top five finalists for "Best Renovation in America for a Public/Semi-Private Facility" for the 2008 calendar year. On January 26th, the final results were released and Ole Miss GC finished in third place.

The University of Mississippi and Watermark Golf/Nathan Crace Design announced today that the recent renovation of the University's Ole Miss Golf Course has received national recognition from Golf Inc. Magazine. Earlier in January, the California-based worldwide publication that targets course developers, owners, and management company executives selected Ole Miss GC as one of its top five finalists for "Best Renovation in America for a Public/Semi-Private Facility" for the 2008 calendar year. On January 26th, the final results were released and Ole Miss GC finished in third place.

"Naturally, like everyone else, we wanted to win," explains Nathan Crace, the golf course architect for the project and the principal at Watermark Golf/Nathan Crace Design. "But when you go back and look at the other courses in the top five and consider the caliber of competition we have no reason to hang our heads."

The caliber of the competition was indeed impressive. Among the other top five finalists were two PGA Tour stops: the TPC at Los Colinas in Dallas and the Dubsdread Course at historic Cog Hill Golf & CC in Lemont, Illinois. Those two courses finished number one and two, respectively, leaving Ole Miss GC, The Links at Bodego Harbour overlooking California's Pacific Coast, and Brackenridge Golf Course in San Antonio.

"The very fact that a University-funded golf course tucked away in north Mississippi finished third out of that group is exciting," continues Crace. "It sounds cliché to say it was an honor to be nominated, but everyone involved with this project was thrilled when we heard that the course had been named among the top five."

Also impressive is the fact that the TPC at Los Colinas (owned by the PGA Tour and home to the EDS Byron Nelson Classic) and Cog Hill's Dubsdread course (site of this year's BMW Championship) are both semi-private while Ole Miss GC is public and its highest-priced weekend fee for 18 holes with cart is just $43. And while the PGA Tour may not be coming to Oxford anytime soon, the first test of the new layout will be a ladies collegiate tournament hosted by the Ole Miss Women's Golf Team in early April of this year and it is already getting a workout from the now nationally-ranked Ole Miss Men's team.

Architects for the other projects in Golf Inc. Magazine's top five included world-renown names such as Rees Jones and Robert Trent Jones, Jr., as well as PGA Tour player-turned-designer D.A. Weibring. Crace says that while he is honored to have his work recognized in such elite company as the two sons of the late Robert Trent Jones, Sr. (the father of modern golf course architecture), he is quick to point out that the success of the project was a direct result of the combined efforts of the entire project team.

"The University was extremely supportive of the project from day one," explains Crace. "From Chancellor Khayat to the University staff to everyone at the golf course both in the clubhouse and on the course maintenance staff, there are simply too many people to name without forgetting someone. Of course, any golf course project is only as good as the golf course contractor and I think we had one of the best in Eagle Golf and Athletics."

Though Crace is quick to share the success with other members of the project team, he says he does remember one particularly prophetic moment early on in the project.

"Shortly after construction began," Crace recalls. "We were standing on the 13th tee looking toward the new green complex and new fairway bunkers and I turned to [golf course superintendent] David Jumper and [men's golf coach] Ernest Ross and said I thought that when it was all said and done, Ole Miss would be one of the best public courses in Mississippi. They both looked at me like they thought I was just talking up the project, but I had a feeling even during the design phase that--given the beautiful rolling property the course is situated on--if we were allowed to do what needed to be done, it could be one of the best in the state."

While the recognition from Golf Inc. may be vindication of Crace's earlier declaration, for the University and the Oxford community it is one more reason for people to come to visit or live in Oxford. The city is a regular at or near the top of annual lists of America's "Best Places to Live" and "Best Small Cities," and now they can add one of the country's best public courses to that list of amenities. Crace and representatives from the University will attend the Golf Inc. annual conference in St. Augustine in late March to be recognized for their efforts during a ceremony at the World Golf Village's Hall of Fame. For more information about the renovations of Ole Miss Golf Course or Watermark Golf/Nathan Crace Design, visit http://www.watermarkgolf.com/olemiss

Watermark Golf/Nathan Crace Design is a Mississippi-based professional golf course architecture firm specializing in renovation, new course design, and master planning which services clients in both the private and public sectors in the United States and beyond.

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