Old Waverly and
Mossy Oak Golf Clubs
Receive Worldwide Recognition
By Jim Walker
Photo courtesy of Old Waverly
It is fitting that the two courses founded by George W Bryan, Sr., would receive this award as we close out 2023. The Bryan family suffered the loss of George on January 6, 2023, and on November 16, 2023, Old Waverly and Mossy Oak Golf Clubs were awarded the Distinguished Golf Destination Designation. The Distinguished Golf Destination Designation has been bestowed only on 160 courses worldwide. It was George’s vision to give Mississippi a world class golf experience.
George was a West Point, Mississippi, native and son of the Bryan Foods founder, John H. Bryan Sr. Bryan Foods was purchased by Sara Lee in 1968, and George worked for the company in various roles; he was named President of Bryan Foods in 1974 and Senior Vice President of Sara Lee in 1983. George moved Sara Lee’s meat division to Memphis making Memphis his home for
15 years as he raised his four children with his wife Marcia, ultimately serving as Chief Executive Office of Sara Lee Foods until his retirement in 2000. He spent the next 22 years living in his hometown of West Point, continuing the development of Old Waverly and Mossy Oak.It is during his time in Memphis that he and Marcia fulfilled his dream of giving something back to Mississippi, by founding the first of these two courses, Old Waverly, which no one would have viewed as possible, but 11 years later would be chosen to host the 1999 U.S Women’s Golf Open.
The event was covered by NBC and would show what Mississippi offers the world of golf.
The second course, Mossy Oak, would open in 2016 and became home to the Mississippi State Golf Team. Mossy Oak was recognized two years later as one of Golfweek’s Top 100 modern golf courses. The presence of these two world-class courses in the life of students at Mississippi State University will have an impact on golfers and golf courses worldwide for generations
to come. Mississippi State University’s Turf Management students care for courses across the country that its golfers play. All will have been marked by the energy, vision and passion of the late George Bryan.
George’s commitment to the next generation can be seen in the Junior Golf Program, which he created in 2008. His passion for golf started as a young man growing up playing golf, and he knew that if you were ever going to be at the top of your game you needed to start young. Not only did he pass that love on to his son Wilkes Bryan but also to his grandsons, George Bryan III and Wells Williams. George believed that if Waverly was going to fulfill its golf destiny, Old Waverly would need to be a place where golfers could develop early so they could achieve all the abilities God had given them. George knew that most young golfers would never end up competing in the PGA, but that was not his goal. The goal was the discipline of mastering the game against the only competition that ultimately matters in golf, oneself.
The Junior Golf Program has created a “bubble” of success, giving many of them opportunities to play renowned collegiate programs: Hunter Atkins-Southern Mississippi; Jacob Blanton-Ole Miss; Emerson Blair-Ole Miss;Jackson Cook-Mississippi State; Morgan Dabbs-Blue Mountain College; Claire Henson-Vanderbilt; Cohen Trolio-LSU; Collins Trolio-Ole Miss; Wells Williams-Vanderbilt.
The Distinguished Golf Destination Designations is the hallmark of excellence for a golf course; the merit-based award recognizes golf courses that exceed expectations in the quality of service, facilities, governance, and most importantly the teamwork of the staff and management. Developed by industry leaders, BoardRoom magazine and Forbes Travel Guide, the Distinguished Golf Destinations award is the most prestigious and valuable designation a resort, semi-private, daily fee or public golf course can achieve.
Congratulations to the Bryan family and all the people who work so diligently to make George’s dream a reality.
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