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Published: Wednesday, 6/15/2005

Inverness' Open prospects not promising

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

PINEHURST, N.C. - Inverness Club officials were hopeful that the 2003 U.S. Senior Open would crack the door to another U.S. Open for Toledo, but it appears it could be years before such an opportunity might exist.

With the 105th Open set to begin here tomorrow at Pinehurst No. 2, which is hosting the event for the second time since 1999, Inverness actually may be closer to enticing another PGA Championship to Toledo than it is to capturing the United States Golf Association's top event.

"I think what we're seeing is that the USGA has something of a rotation of courses it is taking the Open to with regular frequency," said Steve Kline, an Inverness member and chairman of the club's future-tournaments committee.

"I think you'll see the Open going to some of those same courses again before it would return to Inverness.

"I would say there is nothing for us in the immediate future. The next announcements will be for the years 2012 and 2013, but I think our best opportunity will come in the 2015-to-2020 range."

The USGA will hold its annual "state of the association" press conference here today, but officials would not comment yesterday on whether any future site announcements would be made.

Kline and other Inverness officials won't express their disappointment with the USGA publicly, but it's safe to say it exists. The club has hosted four U.S. Opens, the most recent in 1979, staged a very successful Senior Open, and has spent millions of dollars to renovate and expand the Donald Ross-designed course to make it responsive to today's golf club and ball technology.

Inverness has been concentrating on its relationship with the USGA for a number of years, but Kline admitted the club is now seriously pursuing another PGA Championship and is in talks with the sponsoring PGA of America.

"I think they have some interest in us and we'd definitely be interested in another PGA," Kline said. "We've certainly had success with that event in the past."

Inverness hosted two of the most dramatic PGA Championships in history. Bob Tway won the 1986 major by holing a bunker shot on the final hole. In 1993, Paul Azinger won the PGA in a playoff over Greg Norman.

The Open, however, remains golf's No. 1 plum and Kline said that conversations are ongoing and that USGA officials would be visiting the course again this summer to do further evaluations.

He also said Inverness might be responsive to hosting another USGA event.

AN ARTIST: Mike Strantz's business card said "golf course architect," but the word artist may have been more appropriate. He was a visionary, an outside-the-box type who used land as powerfully as a painter uses canvas or a sculptor transforms a nondescript block of marble.

Strantz, a Toledo native and Lake High graduate, died late last week of cancer just days after his 50th birthday. His greatest legacy, perhaps, is just 35 miles from Pinehurst, where the game's greatest players meet this week. Strantz designed Tobacco Road near Sanford, N.C., and more than lived up to the name of his company - Maverick Design - with dramatic and almost endless mounding, oddly-shaped greens and bunkers, striking waste areas, and a risky routing that is hard to describe other than to say it's unlike almost anything else you've played.

Strantz cut his teeth on a pair of courses in the golf mecca of Myrtle Beach - the wonderful Caledonia Fish and Golf Club as well as True Blue - but the Tobacco Road project put him over the top. Within a year of its opening in 1998, Strantz was named architect of the year by one publication and as the most in-demand course designer by another. In 2000, he was named one of the top 10 architects of all time by GolfWeek.

Not bad for a guy who started on the grounds crew at Chippewa and later worked on the crew at Inverness during the '79 U.S. Open before coming under the spell of course designer/mentor Tom Fazio.

OHIO AM: Chris Leake, a Bowling Green State University golfer, shot a 71 recently at Sylvania CC to win medal honors in the Ohio Amateur qualifier. He was one of 15 in the field to advance to the Ohio Am at Zanesville CC on July 12-15.

Other qualifiers included Steven Drake (72), Blake Tucker (73), Alex Timmons (74), Jeff Godzak (75), the group of Joe Wright, Justin Schroeder, Thomas Yeager, Dan McIntyre, Jonathan Mandel and Derik Bores at 76, and the foursome of Joe Glass, Patrick Ducey, Andy Connell, and Ben Treece at 77.

CHIP SHOTS: Stone Ridge in Bowling Green will host about 80 golfers on Saturday in the 36-hole sectional qualifier for the U.S. Amateur Public Links. The national tournament will be held July 11-16 at Shaker Run in Lebanon, Ohio. . . Curtis Strange's streak of 193 holes without a three-putt is the longest such streak on the Champions Tour. . . Former Toledoan Steve Stone, now an assistant pro at Canterbury near Cleveland, has been elected into full membership by the PGA of America. . . Pinehurst No. 2 will play at 7,214 yards for this week's U.S. Open. When the Donald Ross-designed course opened in 1907, it measured 5,870 yards from the tips.



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