Explore the wonders of local wine country – and leave the driving to us

As the world opens up and a little wanderlust kicks in, the region’s wineries beckon.

The area around Big Canoe has its share of vineyards and wine-making operations worth visiting, so the POA Programs and Events Committee is hosting a North Georgia Wine Tour available on two different days: Thursday, Aug. 5 and Friday, Aug. 6.

Whether you are a wine connoisseur who tosses around high-fallutin’ words like “oenophile” or you just want a crisp glass of white or a bold red to tickle your palate, this trip is for you.

A luxury tour bus leaves the Wildcat Recreational Area at 9:45 a.m. and returns at 5:30 p.m. on Aug. 5 and 6.

Guests will tour the facilities of three exceptional North Georgia wineries where they will visit the vineyards where the grapes are grown; explore the production facilities; meet with the wine makers and vineyard owners; and have a gourmet picnic lunch. Come sample 15 different wines – and let someone else do the driving.

For those people who would like to take in the tour but not sample the wine, a reduced rate is available that includes transportation, lunch, and water or soft drink options. The tour includes:

Kaya Vineyard and Winery: This winery has been a favorite on the excursions. At Kaya, you will have a full tour of the facilities including the barrel room followed by a tasting where you can select five wines from the tasting menu. Later, you will enjoy a gourmet picnic lunch overlooking the vineyards with either a wine, craft beer or soft drink.

Three Sisters Vineyards: Sip as you tour the vineyards with Hezzie, the winemaker who will explain the various grapes they grow and how the harvesting process works. Then taste some wine with winery owner Sharon Paul, who will provide the history of Dahlonega’s first family winery. Finally, Hezzie will show us his production facility and tell us how he crafts the various Three Sisters wines.
Ott Farms and Vineyard: The final winery is Ott Farms and Vineyards, which sits on more than seven acres that offer beautiful mountain views. Owners Lee and Mike Ott will host the tour of this fairly new winery, which also will include the sampling of five of their wines.

Tickets, which are non-refundable: $99 per person for the full tour, $58 for non-wine drinkers. Reservations or additional info: contact Phil Yeakel at plyeakel@gmail.com or (404) 226-9694.

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How you make your online payment to the POA is changing

By Justin Bowers
IT Director

To give property owners a better way to pay off their statements with a credit card, the Big Canoe POA has changed the merchant-processing service connected to our website.

The update is designed to make the payment process easier. Among the improvements is the ability to pay your member statements via credit card and to schedule your credit card payments. Note that you will also no longer have to visit a third-party website to submit a credit card payment. Everything will be fully enclosed within the existing ClubPay system that property owners have already been using.

Effective immediately, please discontinue using the manual Plastiq payment method. This payment option will remain available only until Aug. 15.

There have been several challenges with Plastiq since the core elements of the platform were changed earlier this year. These updates caused integration issues with our website. Plastiq provided a workaround by sending a payment link that allowed for a manual way to pay your credit card payment. However, because Plastiq has failed to resolve the issues, the POA decided to change payment methods.

All property owners who pay their statement via ACH bank draft will be affected. In order for the system to accept their payments, property owners must re-enter their bank information to reschedule monthly payments. The reason: the bank account and credit card information is never stored with the Big Canoe POA. Your information is stored in an encrypted format with our merchant processors. Because this information is encrypted, there’s unfortunately no way to migrate it from our previous processor. Unfortunately, that means your information has to be re-entered to use the new system.

To see a video demonstration of how to set this up, go to https://vimeo.com/575978537

All existing scheduled ACH payments for your July statement have been processed as of July 15, 2021, so there is plenty of time before your next bill to re-enter your bank account or credit card information and reschedule your monthly payments. If anyone experiences an issue with submitting your payment information after this change, please contact the Accounting Department at (706) 268-1114 or via email at ar@bigcanoepoa.org.


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Getting to know Shiraz Alikhan, the 2021 the President’s Award recipient

Shiraz Alikhan performing with his musical co-conspirators at an Acoustic Showcase concert

Shiraz Alikhan is probably known more around Big Canoe as a golf-course regular who moonlights as a performer with the Acoustic Showcase – not some guy who’s logged 40 odd years as an information technology executive.

At the July 17 Town Hall meeting, this longtime Big Canoe resident became known as something else: the 2021 recipient of the President’s Award. POA Board President Candace Robertson presented him with the recognition given annually to an individual volunteer making a significant impact or contribution to the community.

Volunteering has remained a focal part of Shiraz’s life since he and his wife Kat moved to Big Canoe in 2004. He’s board president of the Wellness Collaborative, a non-profit organization that provides non-emergency and non-medical services including meals, rides, visits and referrals to the residents of Big Canoe. Before that, he was board president for Literacy Volunteers of Atlanta, which provides one-on-one literacy tutoring to adults. Shiraz also hosts a show featuring the music of the late ’60s/early ’70s San Francisco for Inside the Gates Radio 4:30-6:30 p.m. Sundays.

We got Shiraz to sit down long enough to fill us in on his volunteering, his secret life as a model, and how he survived the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake that struck the San Francisco Bay Area.

Q: How did you get so involved in the Wellness Collaborative?
A: In 2013, several folks created a committee and asked, “How do we keep people in their homes longer in Big Canoe?” The Wellness Collaborative came out of that. They recruited people for the operational part to get programs up and running and I was part of that – the first chair of what we called the steering committee. We came up with the processes and procedures, recruited volunteers, did the training, started the publicity and communications.

Q: What other activities are you involved with here in Big Canoe?
A: I really try to take advantage of the amenities. I am a golfer – I play three times a week. I am a tennis player – I play once a week in a doubles group. And I support things that my wife Kat is involved in, like the Artists Club and the Photo Club. We go to events and exhibits. All of these different activities have been a great way to have different circles of friends. That’s one of the things you can find here in Big Canoe.

Q: What music do you play at the Acoustic Showcases?
A: I learned how to read music when I took accordion lessons when I was 12 to 14 years old.
But I got bit by the bug like a lot of people and I got a Beatles songbook and a cheap guitar. when I was 14. I haven’t looked back. So I do Beatles stuff, Eagles, Byrds, Joni Mitchell. Cat Stevens, John Denver. But I also have done stuff like Pete Townshend’s “Let My Love Open the Door” acoustically, so it’s a broad range.

Q: Speaking of the music, how did you get involved with Inside the Gates Radio?
A: I was a fan and when Craig Looney, one of the founders, was gone one weekend in July 2019, I asked him if I could sit in. I did the program and they said, “Hey, you should do this on a regular basis.” The radio for me has been another way to continue to foster this sense of community here.

Q: How would you sum up your professional background?
A: The major part of my career was in informational technology management, so that included data center management, information technology strategies and disaster recovery for data centers. Really started my IT career at Bank of America. Then I went to Charles Schwab in ’88, and I was managing the computer operations department in San Francisco when the 1989 earthquake hit (the San Francisco Bay Area).

Q: Where were you physically when it struck?
A: We were at (the) 101 Montgomery Street (office building) on the seventh floor. When it happened, I was still in the office . . .

Q: Wait! You were not watching the World Series between the two home teams: the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland A’s?
A: I was working! Anyhow, the floor was rolling. We were there throughout that night making sure we were up and running the next morning. Back home, half of the water in our swimming pool had sloshed out.

Q: Based on the music you play on your radio show, you must have seen a lot of concerts when you grew up in the Bay Area. What comes to mind?
A: The Rolling Stones with Stevie Wonder opening in ’72 at Winterland. Another show that was memorable in a different way: The Who played the San Francisco Civic Auditorium when “Who’s Next” came out. Halfway through the show, people started going to the back of the room, away from the stage, because it was so loud.

Shiraz Alikhan has been known to bust out a Beatles tune at the Acoustic Showcase concerts

Q: Is there something about you that people don’t know that would surprise them?
A: I’ve done a little bit of modeling. And the fact that I was born in the Fiji Islands.

Q: Modeling?
A: When I was at Schwab, they picked employees to represent certain occupations in the marketing materials. You have to guess what occupation you think I was portraying.

Q: I don’t know. IT guy?
A: A lot of people ask me if I am a doctor. I played one in marketing material for Schwab.

Q: How did you come to the states from Fiji?
A: My dad came here in ’55, got a job with Pan-American Airlines as a machinist, brought my mom, my brothers and myself. I was 4 ½. We were naturalized in ’62.

Q: Do you have a specific travel experience that was particularly memorable?
A: We’ve had so many great trips. I was able to retire early at 58. We went to Africa on safari. One of the trips that comes to mind – we spent a month in New Zealand. We explored the whole country.

Q: What’s your favorite meal
A: It’s my mom’s shrimp curry. I had my 18th birthday dinner and my mother made me roti (flatbread) and curry and my friends couldn’t believe I didn’t weigh 300 pounds. They thought the food was great too because my mom was a great cook.

Q: You recently hosted a radio show where you got reflective about turning 69. What life advice do you have for others as you approach your 70th?
A: The main thing is to not put things off. One of the things I would like to do is get some songs down for posterity in a recording. As I turn 69, I am thinking it’s something I should do.

Q: Speaking of music, do you ever play some of your original songs at the showcases?
A: I have a couple of times. In fact, there is a song I wrote for my neighborhood, Blackwell Creek, that I have performed. It’s kind of a rolling pop-country kind of thing.

Q: You have a favorite movie?
A: It affected me so much when I first saw it , but the original “The Day the Earth Stood Still.” The whole idea of it was that the people needed to come together to be at peace with each other. It was a message that resonated with me at the time.

Q: Why live in Big Canoe?
A: We’ve been here for 17 years and that says a lot because we could choose somewhere else. It has the community we’ve been looking for, it has the amenities, the proximity to a larger city. That’s why we’ve been here.

Q: Describe your perfect day for me.
A: One of the things that has been great is that I feel like I married well. Kat is not only a wonderful wife, but she is my partner and my best friend and to be able to get up every day with her is a great start. And then walking our dog, Smarty Jones. And to be able to play a round of golf, to play some music and spend some time with friends. All of that would be part of a pretty good day.

Q: It kind of sounds like what you do every day.
A: It’s not bad!


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POA promptly responds to Georgia Safe Dams request

On May 20, 2021, the Big Canoe POA received an inspection report from Georgia Safe Dams detailing what needed to be addressed regarding Lake Petit Dam.

The POA and the staff of Geosyntec, the engineering firm enlisted to inspect and help maintain our dams, today sent our response which outlines the short and long-term plans for improving the Lake Petit Dam. This response followed several meetings with Georgia Safe Dams (GSD) where Geosyntec presented our four-year master plan detailed in our Town Hall meeting last February.

Near-term projects to be completed in the next six to eight months include: 1) installing a seepage filter in one area of the dam’s slope 2) inspecting and repairing the current spillway and 3) replenishing the upstream slope with riprap, a loose mix of stone used to protect a shoreline from erosion. The POA and Geosyntec will submit design plans to GSD next spring for the replacement of the existing spillway and lower-level outlet structure.

On Saturday, July 17, POA General Manager Scott Auer summarized the work in the biannual Big Canoe Town Hall meeting. To hear Auer discuss the subject in more detail, go to the 49:20 mark of the Town Hall recording on the Big Canoe POA media channel on YouTube.

To ensure everyone is updated on all developments, here is a link to the letter sent by the POA and Geosyntec to Georgia Safe Dams.

If you still have questions after viewing the video or reading the letter, write to askthepoa@bigcanoepoa.org.

As always, we will continue to update the community as work on Lake Petit Dam continues.

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Getting to Know Ray Prescott

By Steve Panetta

Ray Prescott and his wife Louise have been married for 40 years and have lived in Big Canoe for 20. Ray grew up in Anniston, Alabama; attended Auburn University; and was a proud member of the Marine Corps. His occupation for 40 years was an accountant. Ray now works in the Wellness Center and Golf Shop. He and Louise have two children and three grandchildren, all living close by
in Dunwoody and Woodstock.

Q: What is your favorite breakfast?
A: Definitely a Duffer’s sausage and egg biscuit.

Q: What is the last book you read?
A: “Never Look Back,” by Lee Child. One of my favorite characters is Jack Reacher.

Q: If there was a movie about your life who would you suggest play you in the movie?
A: Probably Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson.

Q: What’s your favorite vacation?
A: We took a group vacation/tour of Ireland and Scotland about four years ago. It was incredible.

Q: When you think back. can you remember your favorite childhood birthday present?
A: Yes, it was getting a bicycle. It was big surprise.

Q: Do you have a favorite meal?
A: I enjoy pasta and seafood but my favorite is still meatloaf.

Q: How about a least favorite food?
A: Yup, I hate Brussel sprouts.

Q: Is there a talent or skill you wished you had?
A: Yes, I always wished I could play the piano. Or the drums.

Q: What is the oldest thing you own?
A: We have furniture my grandmother passed down to my mother.

Q: If you take a road trip, are there any must-have items?
A: Well, I know I’ll need my sunglasses and probably some trail mix.

Q: Any advice you’d like to give to your 20-year-old self?
A: I think I would advise him to work hard—no slacking—and if something seems to come easy, it still deserves the attention and effort to make sure it’s done right.

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Not all vines are alike: How to identify kudzu

By Mathew Parks

Landscaping Manager

The next time you see some massive green vine overtaking a grove of trees, don’t assume it’s kudzu.

Yes, kudzu (Pueraria montana) is found in Big Canoe. When one thinks of this invasive vine, they envision roadside structures and trees draped in green slowly disappearing beneath the growth. As a matter of fact, in the South, you can’t go very far without seeing it. It is a plant that originated in Southeast Asia and was introduced in 1876 to the United States at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition with the intent of using it for erosion control. Well, it works. Too well, in fact. Since its introduction, kudzu has left its original areas and has become a noxious and invasive weed in areas along roadsides, right-of-ways and wood lines.

(L to R: Standard Muscadine, Kudzu, big-leaf Muscadine)

But not every vine in our mountain community that is seen draped over trees and shrubs has ill intent. The landscape department receives many phone calls every summer from homeowners stating they have kudzu on their property. Sometimes they do, but the majority of times they have mistaken other plants for our nemesis. The most common pseudo-kudzu is grapevine.

There are two different species of grape that share the same growing habits and overall similar looks: standard Muscadine and big-leaf Muscadine. Both are native, dark green, grape-bearing vines that offer wildlife and passers-by a sweet treat during the summer.

What will differentiate the grapevine from kudzu is coloration. Muscadine is a glossy dark green while kudzu is a lighter green. The shape of the leaves (muscadine have irregular, coarse, zig-zagging leaf edges while kudzu leaves are smooth) and, of course, the presence of fruit.

So if you have kudzu in your yard or notice it while traveling through Big Canoe, what do you do? Please call the Grounds and Landscape department at (706) 268 – 3319 or email mparks@bigcanoepoa.org and we will take care of it.

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Get Your Bocce On: Sign Up for Big Canoe Bocce Orientation

Come out and learn the Big Canoe version of bocce. All communities play bocce with slightly different rules and in Big Canoe, we have our own specific regulations for playing in a league. To keep things consistent, we ask that all league players and substitutes attend one two-hour session of bocce orientation if the are new to Big Canoe’s bocce ways.

We are offering two-hour bocce orientation sessions — full schedule below.

Call the Racquet Club (706) 268-3367 to register for orientation. There is no charge for orientation, but you need to register.

Fall Bocce Orientation Dates & Times
Thursday, August 5 – 9:00 a.m to 11:00 a.m.
Friday, August 6 – 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Saturday, August 7 – 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Sunday, August 8 – 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
Monday, August 9 – 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Tuesday, August 10 – 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Wednesday, August 11 – 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Don’t want to play in a league? No worries. We are happy to teach you regardless of whether you play in a league. We welcome all Big Canoe residents to come out and enjoy the game.

Contact Linda Powell at lpowell@bigcanoepoa.org with any further questions. 

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The roadmap to our future: What to know about Big Canoe’s Strategic Planning Committee

By Rich McLeod
Strategic Planning Committee Chairman

As Big Canoe readies to celebrate its 50th anniversary, we are in the midst of a professional strategic planning initiative to chart our community’s next half-century. You may have heard that there is a committee of property owners on this and have wondered what and why they are involved?

With that in mind, below are some essential details about how we are developing and drafting this roadmap to Big Canoe’s future:

Q: What is strategic planning?
A: The purpose of strategic planning is to set and achieve the strategic objectives of an organization. While it has a mid to long-term view of where we are going, it’s used as a context for decision-making in driving short-term goals and annual operating/business plans. The plan acts as a roadmap for where we are going and provides guide rails to ensure we stay on course.

Q: What’s included in a Strategic Plan?
A: A good strategic plan includes:

Mission and vision statements that answer why we are here, what we want to be, and where we are going.
High-level strategic objectives examining what we need to do at a high level to achieve our mission and vision.
Situational analysis, which examines where are we now vs. where we want to be.
Action plans to guide short-term operation plans, mid to long-term plans, and the master plan.

While the strategic plan does not include annual operating plans and action plans, it is used by operations as a guide in decision-making and prioritization of annual operating plans.

Q: Doesn’t Big Canoe already have a strategic plan?
A: A strategic plan was developed in 2015. While this plan was distributed through the POA website, it was not widely communicated and now needs to be updated. In the 2021 property owner satisfaction survey, awareness of the strategic plan had among the lowest ratings in the survey.

As a result, the POA Board chartered a Strategic Planning Committee to update key parts of the strategic plan and to develop a process to ensure the plan is used for decision making by the POA Board, Long Range Planning Committee and Big Canoe operations.

Q: What is the purpose and role of the Strategic Planning Committee?
A: The temporary committee is tasked with:

Updating the Vision Statement for Big Canoe to reflect the needs and aspirations of property owners.
Develop high-level strategic objectives to guide the POA Board, Long Term Planning Committee and POA operations in decision making, prioritization, detailed goals and action plans.
Develop a process for ongoing development, communication and use of strategic planning principles throughout Big Canoe that is consistent with our overall vision and strategic objectives.

Q: Who’s on the Strategic Planning Committee and how was it formed?
A: A range of Big Canoe property owners with an expertise or strong interest in strategic planning. The 10-member committee was designed to include a cross-section of the community represented by new and long-term property owners; rental property owners; part and full-time residents who own; retired and still-working owners; and owners from a mix of age groups. Current members include Scott Auer, Bob Bachman, Bob Baird, Regis Falinski, Rich McLeod, Deneen Morgia, David Sharp, Joe Thompson, Michael Trinkle and Greg Whitaker

Q: What has the Strategic Planning Committee done and what is it doing?
A: The first mission is to develop the vision of what we want Big Canoe to become over the next 50 years. To succeed, this requires community-wide input reflecting the needs, wants and vision of all property owners. For this, we have enlisted T4 Associates, a Chicago-based consulting company specializing only in surveys and data analysis around the voice of the customer (VOC). This business and information technology term was coined to identify a very specific in-depth process of capturing customer’s expectations, preferences and aversions. T4 is applying the same kind of analysis to accurately determine the voice of the Big Canoe community.

Q: Didn’t we just do this in 2019 with the Chambers Planning Survey?
A: The 2021 satisfaction survey and 2019 Chambers study both focused on our current status and tactical issues. The purpose of the strategic plan is to look at strategic questions. For example, are we primarily a community or a resort? Do we want to be a high-end luxury community, a mid-level quality community, or a low-level economy community? Do we want to be a private, semi-private or public-access community? And how fast are we willing to move to realize our ultimate vision?

Neither the satisfaction survey nor the Chambers study was strategic. Both failed to provide the data on major strategic issues needed in a strategic plan.

Q: Why do we need to hire another consultant? Can’t POA staff manage this?
A: To get the very best results, we need professional specialists with expertise in consulting and analyzing the voice of the community. There is a precision to properly conducting a survey, to what and how a question is posed, that directly affects its accuracy. T4 has a proven track record having delivered powerful results for Fortune 500 companies. Hiring an outside firm also ensures the kind of objectivity not possible if it were left solely up to Strategic Planning Committee members.

Q: Who is T4 Associates and how were they selected?
A: We evaluated several strategic-planning and voice-of-the-customer consulting firms to bring a high level of professionalism to this project. We received competitive quotes for evaluation based on their proposed cost, expertise and approach. T4 was selected because they specialize in voice of the customer surveys – that’s all they do – and have done so since 2006 with over 400 engagements and having conducted over 24,000 in-depth interviews.

Their approach for this project is a combination of focus groups, in-depth interviews and a community-wide web-based survey.

Q: What is the overall timetable and steps for completing the Strategic Plan?
A: The first step is to complete the voice of the community survey. T4 will have finished VOC research and data analysis by mid-August.

Using the T4 findings as a foundation, the Strategic Planning Committee and ad hoc members will then meet to draft a new vision statement and high-level strategic objectives for review and comment by the POA Board and the larger community at a Town Hall meeting in September. The vision and strategic objectives will be finalized in September.

Development of the process for ongoing strategic planning is independent of the vision and strategic objectives and has already begun. Elements of the strategic plan, planning tools and templates (i.e. situational analysis, SWOT [strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats] analysis, gap analysis, goals and action plans, communication, etc.) will be completed by mid-September.

Training and coaching for POA staff to adopt strategic plans will be conducted in September, with the goal of completing work plans and performance goals by mid-November.

Recommendations for how to ensure strategic planning becomes ongoing in Big Canoe and is communicated to all property owners and stakeholders will be presented to the POA Board by mid-October. At that point, the Strategic Planning Committee will have completed its chartered mission and will disband.

The hard work of the members of the Strategic Planning Committee and the support of both the POA Board and General Manager Scott Auer will position Big Canoe for a very bright future.




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Brunch back at the Clubhouse

Starting Sunday July 18 from 10:30 a.m. -2:30 p.m. Brunch will be back at the Clubhouse.

Reservations recommended: (706) 268-1253 or on the Open Table app on the dining page when you log on at www.bigcanoepoa.org

This is a $29 price point Brunch; $15 for 11 and under. Kids three and younger eat free.

Brunch Menu Summer 2021


Dijon and Garlic Encrusted Pork Tenderloin or Top Round Beef-Rosemary Demi and/or Peach Chutney
Chicken Marsala or Fried Chicken
Trout or Salmon Almandine


Boar’s Head Bacon and Sausage
Truffle Grits and Honey Butter Biscuits and White Sausage Gravy
Belgian Waffles and Macerated Berries
Omelet Station with all the topping Tomatoes, Cheese, Mushrooms, Onions, Ham, Salsa, Peppers, etc.
Fruit and Local Cheese Display
Smoked Salmon Display Bagels, Red Onion, Capers, Parsley Dill Cream Cheese, etc.
Salad Bar- 2 Composed Salad- Macaroni, Potato, Greens or whatever we need to use for that week/day
Dessert Station- Key, Lime, Limoncello Poundcake, Pecan Pie, Chocolate Mousse.


Summer Time Squash with Fresh Herbs and Parmesan
Smoked Gouda and White Cheddar Mac and Cheese
Soup- Chowder or Tomato Bisque

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Attention women golfers: WGA 9-hole charity tournament fast approaching

The Friday, July 16 deadline is fast approaching for the WGA 9-Hole Charity Tournament, which will be held Thursday, July 22.
All women golfers in Big Canoe are invited to this afternoon of fun with a shamble format. Entry fee of $25 goes to support the designated charity CASA, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of children in foster care throughout the state of Georgia.
The fee will cover the cart tip, prizes and post-play refreshments. Each player also pays her own standard golfing fee, such as cart and greens fees.
Register individually or as a four-woman team.

Schedule of Events:

2-2:30 p.m. –  check-in, purchase mulligans (1 for $3, 2 for $5)

Sign up for the putting contest ($5 buy-in), range open

2-2:40 p.m. – putting contest

2:40 p.m. – range closes

2:45 p.m. – announcements at Choctaw putting green

3 p.m. – Shotgun start

Post-play – Refreshments & Prizes

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