Bell, Elliott to follow in fathers’ footsteps at golf tournament

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 12, 2005

Years ago, the Demopolis Country Club’s annual Bobby Matthews Four Ball golf tournament was won on several occasions by the tag team of Gary Elliott and Mike Bell. In 2005, the tournament might be won again by pair of golfers named Elliott and Bell–their sons, Justin and Rodney.

Like in an old Hollywood buddy movie, Gary and Mike’s friendship on the golf course led to their sons developing a friendship of their own that grew up around the time spent together out on the links of the Demopolis Country Club. And like fathers, like sons– the rampant success the elder Elliott and elder Bell enjoyed has been repeated by Justin and Rodney. Justin won a state title while playing for Demopolis High and both he and Rodney have gone on to play at the collegiate level; Justin, the younger of the two, will lead the Southern Mississippi golf team as a senior this spring and is now wrapping up a busy summer in which he finished fourth at the prestigious Southern Amateur tournament in Myrtle Beach.

But before he returns to bigger and better things, Justin will take the time to spend the morning of August 20 competing alongside one of his closest friends, a Bell, just as his father did. Rodney says that given each of the friends’ hectic schedules, a chance like this doesn’t come along too often, and he couldn’t be more excited about it.

“It means the world to me. It really is a blessing,” he says. “We’re both just thrilled that with both of our busy lives we get to be playing partners again.”

Rodney says that thanks in large part to their fathers’ love of golf, he and Justin have a long and successful history of playing together. While he’ll be glad to do well together again at the Bobby Matthews tournament, Rodney adds that the experience of playing alongside his friend means a heck of a lot more than whatever he ends up tallying on his scorecard.

“Our fathers won this competition tons of times in their day, and I think we’re up to the task,” Rodney says. “But it doesn’t really matter to me. With Justin as busy as he is with his college career, it’s just time we teamed up again.”

It’s no surprise that as long as they’ve known each other and as good friends as they’ve been, Justin and Rodney have played together in more than their share of tournaments before now.

“Growing up, we were about as best friends as friends could be,” Rodney says. “We saw the world, played junior tournaments everywhere. One of us would win and it didn’t matter who…we just loved the game.”

Because Rodney was the older of the two, he says, initially Justin would come to him for golfing advice. While both won any number of junior events on their way to college, Justin’s remarkable success at Southern Miss has meant that, now, their roles are reversed.

“He always looked up to me, but the roles have really changed now,” Rodney says. “Justin will probably play golf for a living…I can’t put into words how happy I am for him. It feels really, really good to know he used to look up to me and, most importantly, that we’ll always be friends.”

One of the things that has made their friendship and success sweetest of all, Rodney says, is that it’s what their fathers had in mind for them.

“It’s what they wanted,” he says, “and they gave us all the tools necessary for it.”