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Golf: Sunnehanna grows with the changes

Sunday, June 02, 2002

The people at Oakmont Country Club think the changes they made in preparing for the 2007 U.S. Open will be put to the test next year when the course hosts the U.S. Amateur championship.

Oakmont has built a number of new tees to lengthen the course by more than 250 yards, bringing the total yardage to 7,250.

"A lot of those guys, if not most of them, hit it farther than the PGA Tour players," Oakmont pro Bob Ford.

That's part of the same reason Sunnehanna Country Club in Johnstown built three new tees and added 110 yards to the back nine of its private layout -- to get it ready for next week's Sunnehanna Amateur, one of the top amateur events in the country.

"These kids can just kill it," said Jim Hargraves, co-chairman of the event. "Like a lot of courses, we're in a fairly tight area and we don't have a lot of room to go back."

The three-day, 72-hole Sunnehanna Amateur begins Friday, but it lacks a defending champion. Former Clemson All-American Lucas Glover, who won in 2001, turned pro and is playing on the Buy.com Tour.

That, though, is the nature of the tournament. Eight of the top 10 finishers from last year have turned professional, including Ty Tryon, 17, who became the youngest person to qualify for the PGA Tour.

However, the field of 69 players does include the country's top-ranked amateur, D.J. Trahan, and five of the top eight players in the Golfweek/Titleist Men's Amateur Rankings. One of those is St. Jude amateur Sean Knapp, the defending four-time West Penn Amateur champion. Knapp is ranked seventh in the country.

Trivia question

Only two players have won at least one tournament for 17 consecutive years. Who are they? Answer at end.

Fighting fires

On the course, Sean Farren likes to catch fire and start making birdies.

Off the course, Farren helps put out fires.

Farren, head pro at Totteridge Golf Club in Greensburg, is a volunteer fireman in Oakmont, where he lives. He reports for duty one night a week, and is on call the other nights.

Last week, Farren had to go out on a call at 1 a.m., then be at the course that morning for Totteridge's ceremonial shootout with course designer Rees Jones.

"I do it because I like doing that kind of stuff," said Farren, who used to serve on a ski patrol when he lived in Colorado.

So far, it hasn't seemed to harm his game.

Farren is in the championship of the Tri-State PGA Masters Match Play event at Lakeview Resort. He will play Allegheny's John Aber June 11 in Morgantown, W.Va.

Drive for wedge business

The market for drivers and balls isn't the only one burgeoning.

Wedges have become a popular item on the retail market. And no longer is that market cornered by the two most popular wedge-makers, Cleveland and Titleist.

Nike Golf has introduced a line of forged wedges. TaylorMade had debuted its Tour Preferred wedges and Callaway and Ping are developing products that are expected to appear in stores later this year.

The wedge business, which generates approximately $70 million in annual sales, has become very competitive.

"There is definitely something happening with that segment," said Bob Vokey, who designs the popular Titleist line of wedges.

Be nice to Monty

In anticipation of the raucous New York fans expected to attend the U.S. Open, Golf Digest has launched a campaign to help bring some civility to the galleries. And the object is America's favorite punching bag, Scotland's Colin Montgomerie.

The magazine will distribute 25,000 "Be Nice to Monty" buttons to spectators at the Open, which begins June 13 at Bethpage Black in Farmingdale, N.Y. It coincides with an essay in this month's issue that golf has no place for loudmouths who heckle Montgomerie.

Montgomerie likes the idea.

"I think those at the magazine were obviously embarrassed by what happened in the Ryder Cup at Brookline three years ago," he said. "I think the whole golfing world was. They're trying to bring etiquette back, and using me to that end is fine -- anything positive on my behalf is nice."

Turf tip

Rich Puskavich, superintendent at Nemacolin Country Club and a member of the Greater Pittsburgh Golf Course Superintendents Association, says white grubs are the most destructive insect pests of turfgrass in this area.

"Most of the ones we see are the larvae of certain beetle species that feed on grass roots. Those include Japanese beetle, Aetenius beetle, masked chafer and Green June beetle. The peak season for these insects vary, but damage is easily discernible: You'll see brown patches in the turf and the sod easily pulls up. You will find the grubs underneath the sod.

"The best way to minimize grub damage is to maintain healthy turf with an extensive root system through proper fertilization, especially in the fall."

Quotable

Former PGA Tour player John Schlee on the late Sam Snead: "Watching Sam Snead practice hitting golf balls is like watching a fish practice swimming."

Dissa and data

Instructor and best-selling author Harvey Penick has been selected posthumously for induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame in the lifetime achievement category.

Is the sluggish golf market about to end? Golf Datatech LLC, which tracks retail sales of golf equipment, said a new survey indicates the nation's serious golfers are getting ready to spend more money on equipment this year. "All measures from our recent study indicate these golfers, the ones who buy equipment, are interested in buying new irons, drivers and fairway woods over the next 12 months," Golf Datatech co-founder John Krzynowek told Golfweek's Business Bulletin.

Trivia answer

Arnold Palmer (1955-1971) and Jack Nicklaus (1962-1978) are the only players to win at least one event for 17 consecutive years.

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