published Sunday, July 21st, 2013

School gets golf course: Gift is largest ever for Northeast Alabama Community College

Golfers Charlie Kinser, left, Rex Hairston, Mickey Chapman and Ken Presley putt-out on the 15th green Friday at Dogwood Hills Golf Resort and Gardens in Flat Rock, Ala.
Golfers Charlie Kinser, left, Rex Hairston, Mickey Chapman and Ken Presley putt-out on the 15th green Friday at Dogwood Hills Golf Resort and Gardens in Flat Rock, Ala.
Photo by Tim Barber.

TEE IT UP

Golfers can support the Northeast Alabama Community College Foundation and its Dogwood Hills Golf Resort & Gardens by sponsoring and playing Sept. 5 in the foundation's annual Golf Classic. Dogwood Hills has been rated as a four-star course by Golf Digest three times since 2004. For more information, contact Heather Rice at riceh@nacc.edu or 256-638-4418, ext. 2301.

When longtime educators Bryce and Doris Slater moved in 1974 to land on Sand Mountain that would become their golf course, they had a vision.

Starting out in Flat Rock, Ala., they grew corn, beans, okra and tomatoes in the fairways of their 145 acres to finance their dream.

They spent decades of developing Dogwood Hills Golf Resort and Gardens into one of region's finest public rural courses.

Finally, 36 years later, the last part of that vision was realized when the Slaters gave the course and its properties, now 205 acres, to the Northeast Alabama Community College Foundation.

Course builder and designer Bryce Slater died April 17 at age 79.

"We enjoyed watching the college grow and progress like it has," said Doris Slater, who will continue her role as course manager as school officials prepare to take over operations down the road.

The road so far has been an adventure.

"We actually started with a chain saw, the two of us, clearing the land," said Slater, 71. Family members helped them irrigate and sculpt the course, and Bryce Slater's masterful hand shows everywhere.

"You could tell where he'd been because there was just a touch there," she said of Bryce, who started working on the golf course full time in 1976 and did all the trimming until last year.

"I always made the joke that he would always have a fresh pile of dirt somewhere on the golf course where he would be improving something," she said. "But me, I'd have a new flower going in somewhere."

She said she hoped the course will always benefit the school and the education community in Jackson County.

The gift includes the 18-hole course, a clubhouse and dining facility, pro shop and four resort cabins.

Officials at Northeast Alabama Community College in Rainsville are "elated" about this "extremely generous donation," said Dr. David Campbell, NACC president.

"This represents the largest donation, by far, in our college's history. We are honored that Mr. and Mrs. Slater chose and trusted us with the gift," Campbell said.

He said Doris Slater will continue to manage the course as long as she likes.

When the college eventually takes over, foundation and school officials will weigh options for future operation and management.

"Personally, I would really like to see Northeast manage Dogwood Hills through a professional contract arrangement and utilize it not only as a golf course but as a conference center, as well," Campbell said.

Campbell said college officials consider the course to be a "masterpiece."

Campbell also commended NACC Foundation director Heather Rice and officials for their work with the family on details and legal issues involved in the donation.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569.

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

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