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Golf: Birdsfoot club matures at lawyer's farm in Freeport

Sunday, July 28, 2002

By Gerry Dulac, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

When he bought some rolling farmland in Freeport in the 1950s, Alexander Lindsay, a Pittsburgh lawyer, discovered a lush green ground covered with yellow flowers. The perennial is known as birdsfoot trefoil.

Now, his family is cultivating something else on the same piece of land -- an 18-hole golf course that has the potential to be the best of the new public-course layouts in the Western Pennsylvania area.

And it wasn't difficult coming up with a name -- Birdsfoot Golf Club.

The course, located approximately 3 miles off Route 28, opened nine holes to the public last week, even though the layout still needs a lot of time to mature. The other nine will not open until next spring, allowing for two more growing seasons.

When it's done, though, Birdsfoot has a chance to become a premier destination for public-course golfers. The course was designed by Ault, Clark & Associates, which also designed Wyncote in Oxford, Pa. The construction was done by Elwood Williard, who also built the Golf Club of Georgia and Loxahatchee Golf Club in Jupiter, Fla., among others.

The superintendent, Tom Bettle, comes from two of the premier daily-fee facilities in the area -- Quicksilver and Deer Run.

One of the holes -- the 355-yard, par-4 sixth, which will eventually be No. 15 -- already has been pictured in Golf Magazine.

Birdsfoot has a mix of links-style and parkland-type holes and a nice combination of sand and grass bunkers around the greens. It also has rolling, mounded fairways with an occasional pot bunker or two for Scottish accent. What's more, fescue will be used to frame many of the links-style holes.

But the course also features several dramatic changes in elevation, like at the 470-yard, par-4 12th, which drops 110 feet from the tee to the green. The next hole, a 535-yard par-5, climbs 110 feet from the tee to the green, and features a narrow, tree-lined fairway.

"The toughest hole on the course," Bettle said.

Right now, Birdsfoot is charging $20 (with cart) during its "Sneak Peek." There is also a Web site -- www.birdsfoot.com -- that offers updated pictures of the course's progress.

In time, the price will change with the course. But, with such a great piece of property, Birdsfoot might soon be harvesting golfers, not trefoils.

Trivia question

Only two players have finished in the top 10 of all three major tournaments this year. Who are they? (Clue: Tiger Woods is not one of them). Answer at end.

Punxsutawney thrill

John Benson was thrilled just to be invited to the Players Amateur at Belfair, S.C., a 54-hole event featuring all the top amateurs in the country.

But Benson, an amateur from Punxsutawney Country Club and Totteridge, never dreamed he would win the senior division. Especially after trailing by seven entering the final round.

"It's the biggest thing I've ever won," Benson said.

Benson won the over-50 division by shooting a course-record 64 in the final round, giving him a 54-hole score of 5-under 211 and a four-shot victory. He opened with 77, shot 70 in the second round and was in 11th place when he began the final round.

"I was 11th but I had to pass a lot of guys," Benson said. "I can't believe the way it worked out."

Ground under repair

John Daly got a helping hand -- literally -- from the medical people at the UPMC Sports Medicine Clinic.

Daly aggravated an old injury playing in the British Open two weeks ago, causing his knuckle to swell severely. Doctors removed a piece of glass that had been imbedded in Daly's skin for years. When Daly got to the TNT Open in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, last week, he almost withdrew after the first round because his hand hurt so bad.

So Daly's agent, Bud Martin of Wexford, had a digital photo taken of the cut, then e-mailed the picture to Dr. Freddie Fu and his associates at the South Side complex.

After studying the photo, the UPMC doctors advised Daly of the proper treatment and wrap and he continued playing.

"Everybody talks about the latest technology in golf," Martin said. "This is just another example."

Duval's decline

It wasn't that long ago David Duval was the No. 1 player in the world. Now, three years later, it's hard to find him near the top of anything.

Duval finished 22nd in the British Open, the tournament he won last year with a stunning weekend performance. That, though, came on the heels of missing three consecutive PGA Tour cuts for the first time in his career. Duval has missed six cuts in 2002, including the Masters and U.S. Open, and has just one top-10 finish (the Memorial).

What has happened?

"I lost a little bit of focus," Duval said in an interview in the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times. "I think I got a little too absorbed in how I swing the golf club. I seem to forget that last year I won not hitting the ball as well as I'm capable of.

"I think I got sidetracked. You're not as enthused about things at times and are thinking about other stuff and it's not a big deal. It's just the ups and downs."

It has been a tough year for Duval. In January, he broke up with his fiancee, Julie McArthur, whom he had been dating for eight years. A month later, three holes into the final round of the Nissan Open, a sudden virus forced him to withdraw and he ended up losing 12 pounds.

Then Duval learned that lingering soreness in his right shoulder was the result of tendinitis. On top of that, back and wrist injuries that had dogged him the previous two years returned. It all adds up to Duval ranking 81st on the PGA Tour money list with $531,958 after not finishing lower than eighth the previous five years.

"It's been one of those years where life's events have been bigger than golf," Duval said. "I've gone through a lot, and golf just hasn't been the most important thing."

Quotable

Scott Hoch, who finished eighth in the British Open, on the possibility of playing in next year's Open at Royal St. George's and the 2005 Open at St. Andrews, a course he doesn't like: "St. George's? That's a long time away. St. Andrews? That's a longer time away, but you can forget it. Even if I had won there, I wouldn't play."

Dissa and data

The Links at Spring Church will be the host of the first Club Champions Better Ball Shootout Sept. 22. The event is open to the club champion and runner-up from any club, private or public, in Western Pennsylvania. The format is 18 holes stroke play and better-ball of partners. Entry is $150 per team. Call, 724-478-5478.

The three-day, 54-hole Pennsylvania Amateur begins tomorrow at Oakmont Country Cub. Five-time West Penn Open champion Sean Knapp and Frank B. Fuhrer Invitational runner-up Nathan Smith are among the favorites.

The Washington Hospital Foundation's 8th annual Ladies Golf Classic is Aug. 19 at St. Clair Country Club. Former LPGA Tour player Missie Berteotti will hit the initial drive for each participating foursome. Call, 724-223-3875.

Trivia answer

Sergio Garcia of Spain and Ireland's Padraig Harrington are the only players to finish in the top 10 in the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open this year.

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