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Published: Wednesday, 8/3/2005

USGA officials pay visit to Inverness

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Two senior United States Golf Association officials - deputy director Mike Butz and senior director of rules and competition Mike Davis - paid a site visit to Inverness Club last week.

The Toledo course, which has hosted eight major championships including six USGA events, is hoping to land a future U.S. Open.

The message to Inverness officials, according to Davis, was to "hang in there.

"It's a wonderful club with such a great history, much of it with the USGA," Davis said yesterday. "Inverness has had its name in the hat for an Open for some time and we just wanted to stop in, touch base with their tournament committee people, and take a good look at the course.

"There are so many viable Open sites, including some new ones [Pinehurst and Bethpage Black, for example] that have come into the mix in recent years. That's a big dilemma for us in working places like Inverness into the schedule. Plus, there are some concerns, although every single U.S. Open site we go to has pros and cons."

The pros?

Davis said Inverness was a tried and true test of golf with "a wonderful set of greens," that its peripheral space was logistically perfect, and that the USGA would very much like to schedule more Opens in the Midwest.

The cons? Davis said there are two major concerns.

"How many grandstands can we get on the course and how well can we move spectators around? There are areas where that is a problem, especially on the back nine, because of all the trees on the site. The other concern is length. There were certain cases where we used the back teeing grounds during the [2003] Senior Open and golfers still were not using drivers.

"We would never mandate changes. But in the mutual interest of staging an Open there, I think Inverness would be very willing to work with us. A little bit of tree work and a few extended teeing grounds would be the answer. And the nice thing is that all of our concerns can be solved."

Inverness officials remain upbeat about their future Open chances, but a club contingent will travel next week to Baltusrol, site of the PGA Championship in New Jersey, to wave the colors before the PGA of America in the hopes of landing a third PGA Championship.

SHARK SAYS: Greg Norman has always been candid, sometimes to a fault. It's unlikely he made many friends among his fellow competitors in last week's U.S. Senior Open at NCR Country Club near Dayton. Here's a sampling of his unfiltered comments regarding senior golf and the Champions Tour:

"I think it's great the opportunity [that] is given all of us really to come out and play major championships after the real major championships have gone beyond us."

"If I play more golf and I feel competitive it's going to be on the regular tour. I don't see myself playing or adjusting my schedule for senior tournament golf. I'm more of a four-round type of individual . I'm only playing the [senior] major championships this year, and next year I don't even have any senior events on my schedule."

"[Winning the Senior Open] would be a very fitting start to my old-man career."

"[USGA officials could] get these greens quick and it would be very, very tough to play. But I don't think they should. The older guys don't have the [putting] strokes of the younger guys. They're not as smooth and fluid."

Those comments did not go unnoticed by other players. In fact, champion Allen Doyle had this to say about being paired with Norman during Saturday's third round:

"I didn't play very well [73], and I may have been trying a little too hard to show him what some of us guys out here have, that it's a pretty competitive bunch of guys that can play some pretty good golf."

Doyle did 10 strokes better on Sunday and, afterwards, they handed him the trophy and a $470,000 check. Maybe Norman noticed.

TWDGA MAJOR: It's one down and one to go for Cathy Netter. She finished runner-up to Sally Robinson in both of the women's district majors last year, but already has avenged one of those by beating Robinson 3 and 2 in the finals of the TWDGA match play championship.

Today, the three-day, 54-hole women's stroke play championship begins at Stone Oak CC and Netter will go for a sweep.

Other top challengers in a field of 43 players include Robinson, three-time champion Sue Stout, Holly Bennett, Cathi Greebe, Nan Reno, Joyce Walters and Kathy Williams.

CHIP SHOTS: Phil Mickelson recently signed on for the 84 Lumber Classic, meaning the Sept. 15-18 event at Nemacolin Woodlands in Pennsylvania will have at least three big names. The lefty joins defending champ Vijay Singh and John Daly, both of whom have endorsement contracts with 84 Lumber, in the field. ... The next Ryder Cup is still more than a year away, but it will be interesting if U.S. captain Tom Lehman continues to play well. He's currently 11th on the points list and the top 10 will earn automatic berths. The U.S. has not had a playing captain since Arnold Palmer in 1963. ... Former Inverness assistant Jason Carbone, now working at Muirfield Village, was named Ohio's top instructor by Golf Digest.

Contact Dave Hackenberg at:

dhack@theblade.com

or 419-724-6398.



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