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As Swing Ding partners Garth Brown and Trey Moore approached Lookout Mountain Club's 18th tee box late Sunday afternoon — their championship match against the father-son duo of Jim and Max Markley all tied up with one hole to play — there was no way the 63-year-old tournament wasn't going to have both a history-making and feel-good finish.

If the Markleys prevailed, they'd be the first father-son pairing to ever win the event. Beyond that, 72-year-old Jim Markley would be the iconic tournament's oldest winner ever.

But Brown also had a special story and countless supporters among those who would soon rim the 18th green with close to 50 golf carts filled with friends and family pulling for one pairing or the other as the sun set to the west.

After all, Garth's late father Allen "Odie" Brown was such an important part of the private club before he passed away in July of 2016 while watching two of his five children play in the club championship, that that same club tourney now bears his name.

So the two teams of two reached the 18th green with nothing certain except the winners, whoever those winners were, would be a great story.

None of the four could produce a birdie, but Moore left a 35-foot birdie putt on the edge of the cup. When Jim Markley couldn't hit a downhill par putt of roughly seven feet, Brown and Moore had their Swing Ding red blazers.

"I was just trying to stay in the hole," said Brown afterward, his eyes more than a little moist after posing for pictures and accepting dozens of hugs, handshakes and kisses from much of the crowd of more than 100, all of those well-wishers telling him how proud his father would have been of him. "My partner needed me to stay in the moment."

Added Moore, who lives in Nashville, "(Garth's) such a good person. The Browns are such a great family. This is the best two-man event I've ever played in. So much fun."

Most private golf clubs have member-guest golf tournaments. But there aren't many, if any, more steeped in tradition and more revered than the Swing Ding, which was begun by the late business tycoon Jack Lupton — who also created the Honors Course — and John Stout in 1959.

A singular moment of excellence over the past six decades: No one has captured more Swing Dings than the late Lew Oehmig, who won it eight times with eight different partners. Having wrapped it up one year on the 17th hole, he decided to play the 18th in hopes of setting the course record. When his tee shot found the trees, his goal appeared over. Undeterred, Oehmig reportedly said of his path to the hole, "Well, it's 90% air". He proceeded to land his second shot within 3 feet of the cup, made the putt and set the course record of 63.

The size and scope of the tourney has ebbed and flowed through the years, but 168 golfers entered this year's event and the crowd of wives, girlfriends, children, parents and friends who attended some or all of the activities spread over four days — including a Junior Swing Ding tourney and a tennis social — were believed to be some of the largest and most enthusiastic ever.

"I love everything about it," said Gainesville, Georgia, resident Jeannine Callahan, whose husband Michael was playing in the tournament for the second time. "It's time with my family — our 19-year-old daughter Mary Michael is also here — and all the people are so welcoming and inclusive."

Ally Daniel, about to be a freshman majoring in biology at the College of Charleston, has been watching her father Paul compete in the Swing Ding and "riding around on the back of a cart since I was 10."

Much like Callahan, she said of the tourney, "I just love hanging out with my family."

This is exactly what club president Caroline Williams — the first woman president in the club's 96-year history — wants to hear.

"There's nothing like it," she said during a wrap-up party. "That it's a family event with some golf sprinkled in is so huge. You can't duplicate it."

It's not just spectators ranging from eight-months to 80 that make it special, however. There's the "Red Jacket Wine" that's included in the goody bags of all the flight winners, its back label containing the names of all the past Swing Ding winners. There's the giant stuffed bear named Gambo that guards a hole each day. There are the caricatures of all the past championship winners — many of them done by deceased artist Gordon Wetmore, whose brilliance can still be seen hanging in the White House, Royal Palace of Monaco and the universities of Duke, Harvard and Vanderbilt.

And thanks to the dogged determination of Doug Stein and the late, great Baylor School golf coach King Oehmig to properly finish the design Seth Raynor couldn't in the mid-1920s before his death, the club will soon begin — with much help from golf course architects Kyle Franz and Tyler Rae — to return the course to its classic roots.

But for Garth Brown, 42, it was about roots of a different kind — those put down by his parents all those years ago, including their move to a home behind the club's No. 2 tee when he was at Baylor School.

"I probably started coming to the Swing Ding when I was 5 or 6," said the local architect. "I've probably dreamed of winning it since I was a ball spotter for it. I've either been a spectator or participant for as far back as I can remember."

Come late Sunday afternoon, someone asked Brown if he felt his father watching over him from above as he stood on the 18th green and he replied, "I do. I certainly do."

Added someone in the crowd at the moment the match ended, "Here's to Odie."

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com.

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