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Published: Friday, 5/2/2003

Inverness rated No. 17

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Inverness Club, which will host its eighth major championship when the U.S. Senior Open visits in late June, has been awarded its highest-ever ranking by Golf Digest.

Not only is Inverness rated No. 17, but it is No. 1 in Ohio, ahead of Muirfield Village, for the first time since Jack Nicklaus' course opened near Columbus in 1974.

Inverness has been rated every year since Golf Digest began its listing of Top 100 courses in 1966. For many years, however, the rankings were done by groupings of 10.

When the magazine began assigning ordered numbers to courses in 1985-86, Inverness debuted at No. 55. It improved by 20 spots over the next decade and, now, after renovations by Toledo golf course architect Art Hills since the 1993 PGA Championship, the club has reached its highest point on the annual listing.

Muirfield Village, meanwhile, was rated as the sixth best course in America in 1985, but has been on a subtle downhill spiral that has led to this year's ranking at No. 18, one slot behind Inverness.

HE'S A HOOT: Augusta National chairman Hootie Johnson must have been emboldened by how the women's protest fizzled during Masters week. In comments made during a private meeting after the tournament and reported by Furman Bisher in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Johnson said:

“There will never be a female member, six months after the Masters, a year, 10 years, or ever. There never has been, at any time, any consideration of Augusta National taking in women members.”

Johnson continued to maintain that his stance is fully supported by the club's membership.

“Shortly after that fellow Thomas Wyman withdrew his membership in sympathy with the women, we got out a letter to every member of the club offering them the privilege of withdrawing if the issue bothered them,” he said. “We didn't have one acceptance. Not one.”

SHE DID IT: When Erin Mowrey of St. Ursula Academy decided to attend Wittenberg University several years ago, she e-mailed athletic director Garnett Purcell to inform him that she was interested in helping establish a women's golf team at the school.

Sure enough, Mowrey arrived in Springfield, Ohio, posted fliers in all dorms and classroom buildings, and found five serious golfers willing to join her in starting a club team. By last fall, the roster of players had increased to 13 and, recently, the school announced it will add women's golf as a varsity sport next fall - Mowrey's senior year.

A high energy go-getter, Mowrey was rewarded for her efforts by teammates, who purchased an Energizer bunny head cover for her driver.

BATTLING: Longtime LPGA Tour player Colleen Walker, a regular for many years at the Jamie Farr Kroger Classic, has been diagnosed with breast cancer. She is undergoing chemotherapy and hopes to return to competitive golf in 2004. Fans can send messages of encouragement through a link on www.LPGA.com.

FOR STARTERS: Eagle's Landing Golf Club, one of the nation's leaders in the Link up 2 Golf program for beginners, will hold orientation sessions for this year's program on each of the next two Saturdays.

To register, go to www.playgolfamerica.com to find dates and times of orientations and clinics at Eagle's Landing and elsewhere.

CHIP SHOTS: The USGA has granted special exemptions to past champions Hale Irwin, Tom Kite and Tom Watson for this summer's U.S. Open at Olympia Fields near Chicago. ... Fred Couples will defend his title in the Tylenol Par 3 Shootout against Phil Mickelson, Lee Trevino and Fuzzy Zoeller. The event on June 30-July 1 is at Treetops Resort in Gaylord, Mich. Ticket information is available at www.treetops.com. ... Whiteford Valley will hold Senior Day on May15 with a $6 greens fee for 18 holes. The course also offers a weekly senior scramble on Mondays and a morning league for seniors on Thursdays. Call 734-856-4545 for details.



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