To fully appreciate the inaugural Jackson T. Stephens Cup, which will be played Sunday through Wednesday at the Alotian Club in Roland, Arkansas, it helps to understand where the boutique-quality college event will be held.
The event is named for the former chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, who came to golf when he was 36 years old and developed a deep appreciation of the game with a particular fondness for amateur golf.
Stephens, whose son Warren is the driving force behind the event named for his father, played a lot of golf with the great amateur Charlie Coe and he was a friend of Bobby Jones. In his time as a member and chairman of Augusta National, Stephens saw what golf can create and helped develop a series of amateur events throughout Arkansas.
“My dad always said you can’t have a good professional game if you don’t have a good amateur program,” Warren Stephens said.
After Jack Stephens died in 2005, a charitable event was created in his honor and was held for five years, a nod to Stephens’ legacy of substantial charitable contributions within Arkansas.
About 20 years ago, Stephens brought course architect Tom Fazio to look at a 300-acre patch of hilly property on the edge of Lake Maumelle, northwest of Little Rock. Some course designers weren’t keen on the land because of the amount of that dirt that would need to be moved but Fazio had a vision.
He wound up creating a course that has consistently ranked among the top 50 in the United States.
(Click on images below to enlarge.)
“The terrain is very hilly. You’d think you are in the mountains of North Carolina. There are some big elevation changes,” Warren Stephens said.
The Alotian Club has wide fairways and minimal rough intentionally.
“Years ago, I was with my dad at Augusta and he was doing some work while I went out to play nine holes by myself,” Warren Stephens said. “I was on No. 11; the sun was setting. It was a magnificent day. Dad pulls up in a cart, pats the seat and tells me to sit down. He said, ‘This is pretty nice.’ It was just us down on Amen Corner.
“He said, ‘Do you know the secret to Augusta National?’ I said no. He said, ‘Every member thinks they have a chance to par every hole here.’ ”
Stephens told that to Fazio who, by then, had begun doing architecture work for Augusta National. Fazio told Stephens he understood what he was looking for at Alotian.
“People say you’ve built your own Augusta but I say no way,” Warren Stephens said. “There is only one of those.”
And there’s the name – the Alotian Club. Where did it come from? As with many things in golf, there’s a good story behind it.
The Alotian Club, which has a limited membership and features three eight-bedroom cabins for the use of members and guests, has created its own identity.
And there’s the name – the Alotian Club.
Where did it come from?
As with many things in golf, there’s a good story behind it.
In the 1980s, a couple of Warren Stephens’ friends began an annual trip to great golf destinations such as Pinehurst, Oakmont, Harbour Town and other spots in the United States. They named it the America’s Lights Out Tour.
The initials – ALOT – form the basis for the club name.
While scouting land for the club, Stephens’ friend Dan Snider (now COO of the club) said he’d done some research and the name Golf Club of Arkansas was available.
“I said that’s entirely too serious for what we are trying to do,” Warren Stephens said.
“What would you think if we called it the Alotian Club?”
And so it began.
The Alotian Club hosted the 2013 Western Amateur, the first time that prestigious event had been played outside the Chicago and Michigan area in 40 years, and it hosted the 2019 Palmer Cup.
Now comes the Jackson T. Stephens Cup, which will feature six men’s and six women’s college teams with special invitations extended to select individuals at historically Black colleges and universities as well as military academies.
The women’s field includes South Carolina, Florida State, LSU, Mississippi, Baylor, Virginia and Arkansas. The men’s field includes Arkansas, Arizona, Florida State, San Diego State, Notre Dame and Alabama.
The competitors will play 54 holes of stroke play followed by one day of team match play based on seedings from the stroke-play competition. The tournament will be played at Seminole Golf Club next year and it is set for Trinity National in Dallas in 2023. While the sites will change, the tournament name will remain.
“I wanted to do something to honor him and perpetuate his legacy and love of the game. This a great way to do it,” Warren Stephens said of his father.
“We’re using his legacy as just a guy who loved golf and loved the game.”
Photos: Courtesy of Stephens Cup / Alotian Club
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