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RTJ celebrates 25 years

The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail has maintained a tradition of excellence that has been par for the course for 25 years. 

Various Greenville officials gathered at Cambrian Ridge Friday to honor that milestone with a media conference, followed by lunch.

In addition, golfers were treated to a $25 round of golf, including a cart, for the occasion.

Cambrian Ridge director Bryan Reynolds spoke first on the momentous occasion, calling the event both a big day for the Trail and Cambrian Ridge itself and thanking city officials, the Greenville Area Chamber of Commerce and the Greenville Police Department for their decades-long support.

“The Trail has played 12 million rounds since its opening, and here at Cambrian Ridge we’ve been able to contribute 620,000 rounds to that number,” Reynolds said. “We hope that through all of our renovations, that number grows. And we’re really proud of the renovations we’ve got—the new greens, the redesigned holes, etc.

“It’s an exciting time for us, and we hope that we can continue to be successful and be a vital part of the community.”

Cambrian Ridge, which opened in 1993, is the fifth site to open on the trail, proceeding Hampton Cove of Huntsville, Oxmoor Valley of Birmingham, Grand National in Opelika and Magnolia Grove of Mobile.

A 2014 study conducted by Dr. Mark Fagan, department head emeritus of Jacksonville State University, showed the sizable economic impact that Cambrian Ridge has had on the Camellia City.

Fagan tracked data from the Alabama Tourism Department concerning tourism-related spending—including money spent on eating, drinking, transportation, lodging and related retail—in Butler County from the early 1990s in comparison with 2011, and the results show a consistent upward trend in virtually every area.

Annual spending was $11,686,242 back in 1995, which grew to $42,109,848 in 2011, an increase of 360 percent during a 16-year period.

Growth in local state taxes from tourism spending, state lodging taxes and more were all factors in commercial growth, as well as the increased tourism spending at Exit 130 on I-65.

Greenville mayor Dexter McLendon said that, without the benefit of hindsight, the original plan to develop Cambrian Ridge was met with a fair amount of skepticism.

He recalled one anonymous phone call in particular, received during his first term in office, in which the caller threatened to end McLendon’s political career if he and the council pursued the project.

“I would give you all a large sum of money to find out who that guy was,” McLendon said with a laugh to a crowd at Cambrian Ridge Friday.

“A lot of times in a small town, we don’t think big enough,” McLendon said. “We ended up with a 36-hole golf course that has meant so much to us.   The changes they’ve made the last few years to this golf course are just incredible.

“It was one of the best things that ever happened to Greenville, Ala.  And I hope and pray that in 25 years I get to stand here for a 50th anniversary.”