Story by Jonathan Branch
Photos by Josiah
TD Club tourney carries on Cochran’s name, spirit
For the community. For the football program. For the kids.
Those are three reasons the late Bill Cochran Jr. worked tirelessly in support of the Morgan County high school football team.
Those are also three reasons the Morgan County Touchdown Club hosts its annual golf tournament each summer.
Thus, when the Touchdown Club discussed renaming the tournament to honor the club’s multi-term president who died in May, the decision was easy.
“Bill had been involved with the Touchdown Club his entire life,” said Morgan County Touchdown Club (MCTD) president Steve Collier. “He wouldn’t like having his name on this tournament because he never wanted recognition, but that’s why he deserved it.”
Morgan County head football coach Bill Malone added: “[The tournament] is important in the fact that we have another opportunity to carry on the memory of Bill and what all he did for our program for so many years. Naming the tournament after him is a very small ‘thank you’ but a great legacy leaver.”
The tournament, held last Friday at The Creek at Hard Labor Golf Course, featured over 25 four-person teams and served as one of the largest fundraisers of the year for the Touchdown Club.
Golf carts lined the paths of the course, two by two like the start of a NASCAR race, as the cannon blasted signaling the shotgun start of the tournament. The foursomes streaked down the cart path to their respective opening holes, as a few dozen Morgan County high school football players—clad in their Friday night best—gathered at tee boxes around the course.
Inspired by a similar tournament in Newton County, the tournament has included the high school players, scattered along the course in their uniforms, each year as a means of saying ‘thank you’ to the sponsors and participants.
“It’s good for the boys to get out here,” said Malone. “It’s great for the people to see the boys, and let the guys say ‘thank you’ by being here and by actually saying it to the participants. This is the first time most of our guys have even been to a golf course, so this experience is something that is brand new to them. We hope they will be able to take away from that.”
Though some of the high school players needed a briefing on golf etiquette before hitting the links, Collier was quick to point out that the coaches have made sure the boys understand the importance of the tournament.
“We feel like they need to be appreciative and show that appreciation,” said Collier. “If our coaching staff has done anything, it’s that they’ve made better citizens. These boys are courteous. They shake hands. They are talking to people. We didn’t select just the ‘good ones,’ either. There are about 30 out here, and they all behave well.”
Not every member of the football team set up shop at certain tee boxes. In fact, four current players entered the tournament as a foursome, and several foursomes were comprised of former Morgan County Bulldogs.
“We have four players out here actually playing in the event, and we have some alumni out here,” said Collier. “That’s a great thing, and we’re excited about that.”
Malone shared Collier’s excitement over the tournament’s attendance.
“This is going to probably be the biggest that we’ve had,” said Malone, who graciously noted that he couldn’t say ‘thank you’ enough. “We’ve got 31 hole sponsors.”
Collier mentioned that many supporters have been around through the good and bad seasons.
“We have a core group that will be here no matter what,” said Collier. “From 1-9 to 8-2, they have been here. That says a lot about the community.”
Supporters echoed Collier’s sentiments.
“I think the tournament is a lot of fun,” said Brian Breda, whose foursome was sponsored by Amici’s Italian Café at Lake Oconee. “It’s important for the community. It’s important for the football program.”
Prior to the event, Breda and his teammates assessed their goals for the tournament.
“We’re a bunch of hackers,” Breda said. “We’re out here to support the program and have fun. We have no illusions of winning this thing, but we’re going to have fun.”
A pair of teams did have illusions of winning and saw those dreams become reality. The team of Danny Tillery, Jason Singleton, Jason Powell, and Brandon Knight took home prizes for finishing first overall in net scoring. Philip Williams, Isacc Frank, Hyan Kang and Larry Murray finished first in gross score.
The Touchdown Club will use the tournament proceeds to outfit the football team and provide financial stability to the football program.
“Up until a few years ago, the school wasn’t able to provide athletic teams much money,” said Collier. “Because of this and our other events, we were able to buy shoulder pads, helmets, jerseys—all paid for by the Touchdown Club. Now that the school is able to provide financially, we hope to do other things for the team. The camps they go to, we sponsor. Every dime we raise is for the team.”
The Touchdown Club’s assistance has meant less headaches for Malone, who greeted participants on a back nine par-5 green, where he added a fifth putt to the end of each team’s hole.
“Financially, this is one of the biggest things that we do each year, so we get an awful lot of good out of this tournament,” said Malone. “[The Touchdown Club] has done all of this, and I have been involved almost none which is tremendous. They have done all this without any assistance from me. It has been headache-free for me, which is such a blessing.”
Those involved were inspired by the tournament’s new namesake, said Collier.
“Most of the people you see working are here because they are following Bill Cochran Jr.’s lead,” Collier said. “We’re happy to carry on Bill’s name. We don’t want people to forget what he did for years, and it was all about the kids with Bill.”
For as many people the man inspired, his mission is as far-reaching.
“A good football program can help make for a better community,” said Breda.
And that’s just what Bill Cochran Jr. would’ve loved to hear.
Printed in the June 14th edition.