Championships at Stake: Local Courses Host Senior Am Tour
One of the chief reasons for the success of the popular Senior Amateur Tour has always been that its organizers listen to the members and keep their wishes in mind when making decisions.
And that’s why, Tour President Dennis McCormac points out, that the tour’s season-ending championship is being held in the Pinehurst area for the third consecutive year.
The 36-hole championship will be held Tuesday and Wednesday with approximately 300 golfers from eight states competing at National Golf Club, Seven Lakes Country Club, and Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club.
National, a renowned Jack Nicklaus design, is once again serving as the primary venue and will host an optional skins game on Monday for all players wishing to participate. The scoreboard will be located at National, and the championship awards luncheon will be there following play on Wednesday.
“These courses are the best — by far — that we’ve ever had for a Senior Amateur Tour Championship,” McCormac said in a release from his Charlotte office. “Our players requested that we return to the Pinehurst area and are excited to play courses of such high caliber.”
National has twice hosted PGA Tour Qualifying School stages and U.S. Open qualifying events. Pine Needles, a Donald Ross classic, hosted U.S. Women’s Open Championships in 1996, 2001 and 2007. Seven Lakes, the only 18-hole layout designed by the late Peter Tufts, was recently chosen Course of the Year for the third straight time by the Sandhills Golf Association.
All three courses are ranked highly by the North Carolina Golf Panel.
Bruce Hallenbeck, the personable director of the Raleigh-Pinehurst area tours, marvels at the success the Senior Tour has attained.
“I can’t believe this is our 13th year,” Hallenbeck said. “This is a dream come true, the way it’s grown. We have great guys on great golf courses. That’s what has really made it a success.”
The Senior Amateur Tour gives golfers age 50 and older the opportunity to compete in events that are operated under PGA Tour rules with competition broken into four flights by handicaps so that all players are competing against players of like abilities.
Tournament officials closely monitor the results and are quick to “promote” a player to a lower flight if he shows a tendency to score lower than his handicap indicates.
This policing policy, often administered immediately following an event, is called a “battlefield” promotion by the genial Hallenbeck, who handles what could be a sensitive situation with such diplomacy that players usually accept it without complaint.
The Senior Amateur Tour consists of separate organizations in 12 regions representing nine states. More than 200 tournaments were held for players to qualify to play here this week.
The best players from each flight compete for two days with the winners crowned as tour champions.
Winners last year were Tom Cone of Charlotte in the Championship Flight, Brent Massey of Raleigh in Flight A, Denny Miller of Charleston, S.C., in Flight B, and Randy Woodward of Augusta, Ga., in Flight C.
Players will be competing for a total purse of at least $10,000 in gift certificates, and the skins game on Monday will offer a purse of $2,500.
Tom Parsons, the director of golf at National, enjoys hosting the tour and meeting the players.
“What I like most about the tour is that it brings us good quality golfers who enjoy traditional golf,” Parsons said in a release. “They’ll appreciate all three venues and each course should be in very good shape this time of year.
“This tournament is important because it brings golfers who are competitive and enjoy a good golf course that will test you. A lot of Carolinians who have not played here before will see National Golf Club. It’s a nice marketing opportunity for us.”
The Sandhills has hosted most of the Senior Tour championships. The first eight were held in the area before the tour moved to Hilton Head for two years. It now appears that the event has found a home for the foreseeable future.
“We experimented with Hilton Head,” Hallenbeck said, “but the guys want to stay close to home. We have such a plethora of great courses in this area that it’s easy to run a world-class event close to home.”
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