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Opera legend Norman drops in for golf fundraiser at Belle Meade

A few of the golfers quipped they had arrived for their voice lessons as they entered the Belle Meade clubhouse. Instead, they were there to help fund an art school for middle school students.

The inaugural Jessye Norman School of Arts Golf Tournament was held at Belle Meade Country Club on Tuesday and the opera legend herself attended the pre-game luncheon and spoke to the golfers.

When Ms. Norman confessed that she "didn't know a thing about golf," someone in the audience called out "we don't either," which caused Ms. Norman to spread her arms with her palms up as if to say "why are we here?" before she busted out laughing.

"When he heard I was coming, one of my brothers threatened to send me a book like Golf for Dummies," she said. "So I did read on it a little bit, and I now know about birdies and bogeys. But I'll just let y'all play today, and while you are out there, please know that we do need you all the time."

Ms. Norman rode in a golf car and watched her brother play in the tournament.

The JNSA is a free after-school program for middle school students from low-income families in Richmond County. Ms. Norman, a native of Augusta, lent her name, support and expertise to the school when it opened five years ago and has continued to serve on the board of directors. The day before her visit to Thomson, Ms. Norman spent Monday at the school, interacting with the students, autographing their T-shirts, and admiring their art work and performances.

"I wish you could've seen the dancers and heard the singers perform together," Ms. Norman said to the golfers. "They have learned so much in a short period of time. And if we can do that with approximately 50 students, then imagine how much more we could do with 500. That's my dream."

Approximately 60 golfers participated in the tournament, which was possible by support from the Knox Foundation. The Thomson Chrysler Dodge Jeep dealership also donated a Dodge Dakota for the hole-in-one prize.

Although she lives in New York, Ms. Norman serves on the Board of Trustees of Paine College and the Augusta Opera Association.

For more information on the school, visit or call 706-737-4322.

Web posted on Thursday, May 15, 192008

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