GSW hosts first-ever “Hail Storm” event

Published 1:15 am Tuesday, May 14, 2019

ANDERSONVILLE, GA – It was an evening of fun, fellowship, food and for some, a night they will never, ever forget. The Georgia Southwestern State University Athletic Department hosted their first-ever “Hail Storm” event at Providence Springs Plantation in Andersonville on Friday, May 10.

At approximately 7:30 p.m., a helicopter took to the sky and dropped approximately 2,000 golf balls over a drop zone on the plantation grounds. A golf pin had already been placed at a certain spot on the ground and the person whose golf ball landed closest to that pin would win the grand prize of $25,000.

To be eligible to win, people had to purchase at least one golf ball for $100. Some purchased more than that in hopes of improving their chances of winning money. Some purchased their golf ball or balls in advance, while others made their purchase at the event.

The festivities began at 6:30 p.m. with GSW alums and other supporters from the community enjoying food, fun and fellowship inside the main hall. That went on throughout the evening until about 10:30 p.m. People danced to music from The Answer Band and they enjoyed food provided by Cousins Catering.

Later on that evening, it was time to announce the winners. GSW Athletic Director Mike Leeder came to the microphone to make the announcements.

L-R: former GSW student-athletes Ryan Young, Rick Roderick and Steven Snell enjoying themselves at the Hail Storm event. Rick Roderick, a former basketball player, won $1,000 due to his golf ball being farthest from the pin.
Young and Snell were former GSW baseball players.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

There were a total of 10 monetary prizes given out, ranging from the ball that landed farthest from the pin to the ball that landed closest to the pin. The third through 10th place winners won $1,000 and the person whose ball was second closest to the pin won $10,000. That person was Ricky Arnold, the President of the GSW Alumni Association. Now, everybody was waiting in suspense to see who would win the grand prize of $25,000. That prize went to Jennifer Smith. Smith was not able to be at the event because she was attending a funeral, but Jenny Lee Johnson accepted the award on Smith’s behalf. Johnson told the Americus Times-Recorder that Smith simply “deserves it.”

The fun, food, fellowship and frivolity continued on after the announcement of the winners. It was an evening to celebrate GSW intercollegiate athletics. According to Leeder, the proceeds from the event raised $150,000. “It’s great to be able to showcase all of the positive momentum that we have in the athletic department and the university itself,” Leeder said. “We are thrilled with the turnout for a first-year event and this is something that we certainly want to build upon.” There were approximately 500-550 people who came out for this event.

There were several former GSW student-athletes at the event. One of them was Steven Snell, a former pitcher on the Hurricane baseball team from 2000-2005. “This is a great event. The community support for GSW athletics has been great. It’s a very exciting time to be a part of Georgia Southwestern State and I’m looking forward to a bright future.”

GSW alum Jake Griffith was extremely excited to be at the Hail Storm event and is excited about the improvement made by some of the sports teams. “The softball team had an amazing run in the Peach Belt Conference Tournament. It was exciting,” Griffith said. “The baseball team just beat the No. 1 seed in the PBC Tournament. I feel like the trajectory is going up. I’m excited about sports at GSW. Anytime I get a chance to contribute and support GSW athletics, I’ll be here. I think that the turnout has been amazing. I don’t think it could have gone any better. “ Griffith graduated from GSW in 2015 with a degree in Psychology. Earlier that day, the GSW baseball team won their first game in the Peach Belt Conference Tournament by the score of 4-2 over the University of North Georgia, the No. 1 team in the conference.

In spite of the rain that came later in the evening, they were able to drop the golf balls and it didn’t dampen the spirits of those who were present. Plans are in the works to keep the tradition rolling by having an annual “Hail Storm” event.