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Golf Notebook: Proposed tour meeting major resistance

Sunday, April 21, 2002

By Gerry Dulac, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

Is there room on television and in the world of corporate dollars for another tour, something to fill that void for players who cannot keep up with the gunslingers on the PGA Tour but aren't old enough to qualify for the Senior PGA Tour?

Do people want to see a tour consisting of past major champions such as Greg Norman, Fred Couples, Ben Crenshaw, Curtis Strange, Seve Ballesteros and Sandy Lyle, players who fit into that tweener category?

"Right now, golf is losing valuable commodity," said John Cook, 44. "They're laid to rest -- guys who have been off tour six or seven years before they reach 50. Something needs to be done."

That's why the concept of a Majors Tour, a limited-schedule circuit for players 37 and older, has been proposed as an alternative. Couples, a former Masters champion, is perceived as the ringleader of the new tour because he's the guy who first proposed the idea.

The concept has met resistance from PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem, who said any player from the PGA Tour or Senior PGA Tour who signed up with the proposed new tour would have to relinquish their PGA Tour privileges.

"I'm 42 right now, but when I'm 45 I'd certainly like to have somewhere to play," Couples said in an interview in the Augusta Chronicle. "When you're 44 to 49 and not, quote-unquote, one of the all-time greatest players to ever play, you've got nowhere to go. The goal is not to come out on the PGA Tour and struggle until you're 50."

However, there are exceptions: Scott Hoch, 46, Bernhard Langer, 44, and Nick Price, 44, continue to play well on the PGA Tour despite creeping closer in age to the Senior PGA Tour. Hoch, a two-time winner in 2001, is a member of the U.S. Ryder Cup team.

Also, several players such as Strange, a former two-time U.S. Open champion; and Tom Kite, 52, are against the idea of a Majors Tour.

"I think it's fine that somebody struggles out here," said Strange, who hasn't won since the 1989 U.S. Open. "We live in a world where everybody thinks they're entitled to stuff. They're not. I don't think you ought to be given anything. If you can't play anymore, go get a job or go practice more."

Trivia question

Tiger Woods won his seventh major championship last week at the age of 26. Of the five players with more major titles, none won their eighth major before the age of 30. Who was the youngest to get to No. 8? Answer at end.

South Park's signature

For a course that does nearly 90,000 rounds per year, South Park has always tried to maintain upscale playing conditions. That includes striped fairways and smooth-rolling greens.

Perhaps the person most responsible for the appearance was Chuck McDevitt, a longtime Allegheny County employee but also a certified member of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America.

McDevitt started contouring the fairways back when most public-course players didn't know the difference between the first cut of rough and a cropped fairway. He took a municipal course that catered to seniors and turned it into a challenging layout where even the South Hills' best players didn't mind playing on a weekend morning.

McDevitt retired in 1996, after 36 years with the county. Shortly thereafter, because of manpower cutbacks, South Park's course conditioning began to deteriorate. Slowly, it has returned to the level once presented by McDevitt, and maybe that is fitting.

McDevitt died last week from cancer. He was 71.

The fairways that were his signature will miss him.

Busy time

Perry Golf, the leader in international golf travel packages, saw a decline in business in 2001, from the foot-and-mouth epidemic in Europe and the terrorist events of Sept. 11, said president Gordon Dalgleish.

The reason: People were afraid to fly, Dalgleish said.

That skepticism, though, proved to be beneficial to a lot of golf resorts on the Eastern seaboard, among them Nemacolin Woodlands resort in Farmington, Pa.

People who did not want to fly instead drove to resorts that were easily accessible. Nemacolin Woodlands, which features two 18-hole courses among a host of amenities, attracts vacationers not just from here, but also Washington, D.C., Baltimore and Philadelphia.

Instead of a decline in play because of wary travelers, Nemacolin Woodlands was busier than normal in the fall.

"Since Sept. 11, we've been very busy," said public relations manager Susan McCarthy.

The resort's two courses -- Mystic Rock and the Links -- reopened Friday. Greens fees are $130 for hotel guests, $150 for day guests at Mystic Rock; $84 at the Links (or $45 for nine holes). Twilight rates -- $80 for Mystic Rock, $55 on the Links -- are offered weekdays after 3:30 p.m. and Sundays.

Changing fairways

John Ferruchie spent most of his time making Wildwood Country Club one of the best conditioned courses in Western Pennsylvania. For 12 years, he was the club's course superintendent.

Now he will try to do the same -- and more -- at Deer Run Golf Club in Gibsonia.

Ferruchie left Wildwood to become superintendent/director of business operations at Deer Run, a dual job that will require him to maintain the 18-hole layout but also help develop the club's business for owner Fran Magister.

Deer Run is beginning to develop into a real-estate community, with home sites being built in the area adjacent to the 12th and 13th holes.

"Essentially, I've given him an opportunity to support my absence," said Magister, a former Wildwood member. "This is getting to be a highly competitive business. You must be cost efficient in every area."

Fast play

Memo to Bernhard Langer, Bob Estes, Lee Janzen and all the other interminably slow players on the PGA Tour:

Chris Cain, head golf pro at Penn State, broke the Guinness World Record for most holes played in 12 hours -- 505. He did it Wednesday at the Penn State White Course, breaking the old record of 476 holes in 11 hours, 14 minutes and 39 seconds.

That's just about time for those guys to finish 36 holes.

He said it

Retief Goosen, after finishing runner-up to Tiger Woods at the Masters: "I was just asking one of the officials, do I get green pants for finishing second?"

Dissa and data

A Rules of Golf workshop, conducted by Tom Meeks of the United States Golf Association, will be Wednesday, 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Churchill CC. Meeks is the USGA's senior director of rules and competitions. The workshop is open to the public. Fee is $40 and includes snacks, refreshments and materials. Contact Jeff Rivard of the West Penn Golf Association, 412-826-2180.

Reynolds Plantation has added another jewel to its lineup of star-studded courses -- The Oconee Course, a Rees Jones design that is just out the back door of the resort's newest centerpiece, the Ritz Carlton Lodge. Reynolds Plantation is located in Greensboro, Ga., approximately 75 minutes from Atlanta, and features three other designer courses -- Great Waters (Jack Nicklaus), Reynolds National (Tom Fazio) and the Plantation (Fuzzy Zoeller/Hubert Green). The Oconee's signature hole: No. 18, a 465-yard, dogleg-left par 4 that wraps around the banks of Lake Oconee.

The Raven Golf Club, the Gary Player design at Snowshoe (W.Va.) Mountain Resort, was voted the No. 1 public-access course in West Virginia and among the Top 100 Modern Courses in America (post-1970) by Golfweek magazine. The course, which opened in 1993 as Hawthorne Valley, features dramatic elevation changes and spectacular vistas ... not to mention a number of terrific holes.

Penn State senior Josh Dawes was named the Big Ten Conference Men's Golfer of the Week for his performance at the Princeton Invitational. Dawes, of Jacksonville, Fla., won the individual title, set a new course record (63) and broke or tied two Penn State records.

Trivia answer

Jack Nicklaus was 30 years, 5 months and 21 days when he won the 1970 British Open, his eighth major championship.

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