Much has changed at Panama Country Club since Alton Colvin began working there as a caddy in the 1940s.
The club was segrated and still had a creosote log cabin as its clubhouse. And in those days, there weren't any golf carts, so Colvin had to walk the shole course while carrying heavy golf bags in order to get his day's pay of $1.75.
"I got about 14 holes in and I would have blisters on both shoulders," he said.
In the 1950s, caddies would get to play for free on Monday's when the club was closed, and that's where Colvin mastered his golf skills. He would go on to become the winner of the 1984 W.C. Sherman Invitational Amateur Tournament.
That annual tournament is the one thing that hasn't changed in the Panama Country Club's 93 years of existence. First played in 1927, it is considered the longest running amateur invitational tournament in the southeast.
"I was elated to in because the biggest thing aorund northwest Florida was the Sherman, and to win it was a feather in my cap," Colvin said.
The tournament was named for W.C. Sherman, who established the course in 1926 under the name St. Andrews Bay Golf Course. According to Bay County historian Glenda Walters, the first tournament was expected to be an exciting opening to an era of tourism for the area. The entry fee was $5, and play was scheduled to begin with a qualification round at 9:00 am May 12 on the new 18 hole championship golf course designed by famous golf architect Donald Ross.
The event attracted
amateur golfers from across the region. and at the conclusion of the three day tournament, Sherman presented the first winner, Major D.A. Vann of Pensacola, the engraved silver Sherman Trophy, personally selected and presented by Sherman himself.
Altough the original silver Sherman cup is no longer awarded to the winner, it remains on display at Signal Hill Golf Course, which is owner by descendansts of Sherman.
The tournament has been continuously played since 1927 except for three years during world war II, and there have benn 20 multiple winners in the event's 92 year run.
"The thing most people don't really appreciate, when you look down at the list of winners, is just how good these players were," Panama Country Club member Powell Innis said. "There are some really fine golfers who have gone through this tournament."
Four time winner Downing Gray, for example, played 19 U.S. Amateur tournaments and seven Masters tournaments, and is in the Florida Golf Association Hall of Fame and the Southern Golf Association Hall of Fame. Three time Sherman winner Gardner Dickinson, Jr. became a professional golfer after his final Sherman win and would go on to have seven PGA Tour wins.
The last two years have been the most trying years in the long history of the club and the tournament. Hurrican Michael (2018) decimated the course, downing over 5000 of the course's trees, threatening the 2019 event. The course was damaged so severely, the course could not be repaired in time to host the tournament, during the tournament's traditional first weekend of May time slot. But thanks to the tireless work of newly hired course Superintendant PAt O'Brien, and his crew, the course was repaired in time to host the 92nd Sherman in Novemember of 2019. The 93rd Sherman, originally scheduled for its traditional first full weekend of May,was postponed due to a global pandemic. The 93rd Sherman in now scheduled for September 25-27, 2020.
-Thanks to the Panama City News Herald and reporter Carey Brauer for the content of this page-