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Charlie Stewart
Champions Tee Off
Summer 2012




By: Charlie Stewart

When the PGA Tour made a presentation to the Fox Chapel Golf Club board this past December asking if it would consider hosting the Constellation Senior Players Championship in June, board members had to think quickly. It would be the club’s first time hosting a PGA event, but they would have less than half the normal time to prepare.

On the other hand, the board felt compressing the schedule could be an advantage by reducing the number of meetings and phone calls that would inevitably occur throughout a year’s worth of groundwork.

“We knew we would be jamming 12 to 14 months of work into what has become essentially four months,” says Skip Avery, the club’s general manager. “However, the PGA Tour actually runs this tournament themselves, so it’s less labor intensive from a management standpoint than the Curtis Cup, which we hosted in 2002. But it did mean we would have to be very focused.”

The board unanimously accepted the offer, and so the Constellation Senior Players Championship comes to Pittsburgh this summer from June 26 to July 1. “We are honored to host many of golf ’s greatest champions,” says club president and Fox Chapel resident Arthur Scully.

The event—one of the five majors on the PGA Tour’s Champions Tour—will include the world’s best 78 players who are at least 50 years old and who qualify. It is hoped that 10,000 spectators will attend each day to follow their favorite players like Fred Couples, a former world No. 1 and this year’s defending champion.

Above: On the historic course at the Fox Chapel Golf Club, the approach to the 18th green takes players over a stone bridge, creating a scene reminiscent of the classic holes in the British Isles.

Below: With up to 10,000 spectators expected for the PGA event, the Fox Chapel Golf Club is recruiting nearly
1000 volunteers to help handle all of the logistics.

CSThe prestigious field includes other past winners of some of golf ’s most coveted major championships during their younger days on the regular tour, such as Tom Watson (8 majors), Hale Irwin (3), Bernhard Langer (2), Tom Lehman (1), and Mark Calcavecchia (1). A practice round will be held Tuesday, June 26, with a Pro-Am tournament the following day. And since there is no cut, all 78 players will be on the course for the entire 72- hole (four rounds) medal-play event— Thursday through Sunday—the only four-day event on the Champions Tour.

“We brag that this is the strongest field that you will get on the Champions Tour,” says Chelsea Stewart, tournament services manager. “At $2.7 million in prize money, this is the highest purse on the continental U.S. on the Champions Tour, and the players get a crack at winning a major.”

Stewart and a small team from the PGA Tour have been camped out in temporary quarters in Fox Chapel since February to help make sure everything goes smoothly. Part of Fox Chapel Golf Club’s responsibility is to coordinate the recruitment of the 800 to 1,000 volunteers required for duties ranging from picking up players at the airport to checking press credentials
in the media center.

Stewart has been advising longtime club members and co-general chairpersons Courtney Myhrum and Tom Reading as they delegate responsibilities to their volunteers. The PGA Tour staff has found it refreshing to see how excited the volunteers are about the tournament. “The commitment by Fox Chapel’s members to do it right has been so impressive,” says Brian Goin, COO of the event and vice president of championship management for the PGA Tour. Goin grew up in Pennsylvania and refers to Fox Chapel’s historic course as a “gem.”

Other area golf clubs are contributing their time and talent. Longue Vue Club, Oakmont Country Club, Pittsburgh Field Club, and The Pittsburgh Golf Club have all recruited members to marshal holes throughout the four-day event, as well as the Pro-Am tournament.

CSThe goal of every PGA Tour event is for the net proceeds to support local charities within the community where the event is being held. Since 1992, the Constellation Senior Players Championship has raised more than $8 million, and a major beneficiary this year will be The First Tee of Pittsburgh, headquartered at the Bob O’Connor Golf Course
at Schenley Park. The nonprofit organization aims to help build character, instill strong values, and promote healthy choices in young people through the game of golf.

As for the course itself, which opened in 1925, the club has kept as faithfully as possible to the layout conceived by its architect, Seth Raynor. His specialty was taking the natural landforms of the surrounding farmland to recreate the classic hole templates of the British Isles. Most of the tour competitors have never played Fox Chapel, but soon they will be alltoo- familiar with the Redans at holes one and six, Punchbowl at two, Alps at seven, and the spectacular approach over the meandering creek and up to the 18th green in the shadow of the clubhouse.

“Players prefer to come to a course like this instead of a cookie-cutter course with island greens because this is the type of course they grew up on,” says Myhrum, a Shadyside resident who serves on the USGA Women’s Committee.

Not very long by tour standards, the course currently measures 6,696 yards from the blue tees. “The PGA Tour felt that our course sets up well for seniors,” Avery says. “So they will play it as long as we can make it, but we are not going to make any wholesale changes to the course.”

The PGA Tour’s agronomist has been consulting with course superintendent Jason Hurwitz as to the required specifications for green speeds and height of the rough. With such a high caliber of golf, the members course record of 63, set in 2005 by nine-time club champion and Aspinwall resident Mike Foster, might be challenged.

“I’m looking forward to seeing how the players execute the shots I’m familiar with and where they leave themselves for the approach to the green, depending on pin placement and how fast or slow the greens are,” says Fox Chapel’s assistant golf professional Eric Suvak.

“When you go through the list of the field, there will be a bunch of great names who will be strolling down those fairways,” Goin adds. “It’s going to be fun.”

For more information, including how to buy tickets and volunteer opportunities, visit www.cspgolf.com. The tournament will be broadcast live on the Golf Channel all four days.

With many thanks to SHADY AVE magazine for granting me permission to reprint on my website.


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