That could be said about many places in Georgia. You can understand why Indians liked it here if you know about Big Spring, which supplies water for the town. There’s hardly an Indian settlement anywhere in our state where there was not a body of water of some type.
The Cherokees and Creeks inhabited this area, which was once named Cedar Valley. Then it became a village called Beaver Dam. Legend is conflicted about the water rights to Big Spring. Some say the rights went to the white encroachers when a white kid beat a Cherokee kid in a footrace. That was, of course, before Jim Thorpe’s time. There is a version that says the rights to the spring were won by the Cherokees from the Creeks in a ballgame. What could have been the game they played? It gets more confusing when you learn that just before the Civil War, the place was known as Big Strickland, which gave way to Cedar Town. Then Union troops burned the city to the ground during the Civil War. Apparently, Hugh Kirkpatrick, the Union general, wanted everybody to know he wasn't solely of a sinister bent. He magnanimously left one mill standing near the edge of town.
After Cedartown ingloriously and apathetically sent the Indians — who died from starvation, disease and abuse — west on the Trail of Tears, the community settled into an industrial enclave whose inhabitants became addicted to the game of golf. Doug Sanders grew up here and went to the PGA Tour, where he was credited with winning 20 tournaments. Sanders won the Canadian Open as an amateur in 1956 and immediately turned pro.
They like football in Cedartown, too. Doc Ayers, who grew up in Winder, wound up here in 1952 to coach the Cedartown Bulldogs. He won a state title and was the toast of the town. He became a mentor to Sanders and was best man in two of Doug’s three weddings. After the second divorce, Doc told Doug, “You better give me a break. Things aren't working out too good.”
Today Doc, aging gracefully, runs his business, H. Doc Ayers Co., from a back suite at the Frank Mundy Law Firm on Cave Spring Road. He is Cedartown’s goodwill Ambassador who visits two coffee clubs every morning before hosting one at the law firm. Everybody knows Doc, and everybody has a kind word for him.
He and Georgia Tech All-American Ray Beck, who died in 2007, ran a charity golf outing for years. When Ray passed away, Doc kept on running the event, which this past year topped $500,000 in contributions to Polk County charities. “I miss Ray so much,” Doc said recently from his office. “He was so generous. When he died, I decided that we should continue on in his memory. I think he would be proud that people still flock to Cedartown to play in our tournament for the good of our little community.”
Doc’s office is filled with photographs of famous sports celebrities: Bear Bryant, Bobby Dodd, Vince Dooley, and Gene Stallings, along with luminaries from sports other than football. He has photos in the bathroom, on the desks in his office — even on the ceiling. Look up and you’ll find Masters tickets through the years displayed above.
Doc is a colorful, small-town celebrity, who has always had great affection for golf. Cedartown, which has three 18-hole golf courses, has always been a scene of intense competition when the locals start their matches on the weekend. Seems that years ago, caddies often looped without wearing shoes. When they moved down the fairway and in the edge of the woods, out front of the players, they learned how to grip errant balls and hobble them into better lies, even to the edge of the fairway. Players knew which caddies had the best feet for advancing a golf ball, which usually resulted into bigger tips.
It brought about a lot of heated arguments The end result? The club put in a rule — caddies must wear shoes.
Loran Smith is an administrative specialist for the University of Georgia sports communication department. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.