The American Junior Golf Association mourns the death of Donald Panoz, who passed away September 11, at age 83, after a short battle with pancreatic cancer.
Panoz and his wife Nancy founded Château Élan with the same “impossible is nothing spirit” that defined their marriage and business ventures. The pair married after their service in the U.S. Army, had five children, and went on to open the Resort as a part of contributions across many industries including motorsports, pharmaceutical research, technology, and hospitality.
As the AJGA searched for a new home, the Panoz family provided a sizable gift to help Château Élan become the site of its new National Headquarters.
“In 1997, I approached Don Panoz with the idea of hosting an international junior match,” said Executive Director Stephen Hamblin. “He was so enthusiastic about the concept and so generous with his thoughts of how he could help the tournament that I thought the moment was right to make an additional request.
“I asked him if he would support the idea of us building our new national headquarters at Château Élan and he emphatically said yes. Don was always a huge supporter of junior golf and the AJGA and appreciated our partnership over the years.”
Panoz hosted an unofficial PGA TOUR stop with friend Gene Sarazen from 1994 to 1998 before turning his attention toward junior golf. In 1998, the IZZO Cup was one of the first international mixed team match play junior golf events held in the United States.
Since that first tee shot, more than 30 AJGA events have been hosted in Braselton, including the 2003 Rolex Tournament of Champions and a nearly annual Easter weekend tournament since 2001.
In an obituary in the Gainesville Times, Braselton Mayor Bill Orr commented on Panoz’s leadership in the development of the city.
“He never shied away from a challenge,” Orr said. “Château Élan is a good example of that. It was developed initially on a napkin. … He was [always] throwing ideas out there.”