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Posted: July 08, 2009

PGA won’t protect par at Colorado Golf Club

Senior Championship to test course's mettle

Bart Taylor

Golf’s major championship venues have to meet two primary criteria these days: The course has to be among the toughest tests in golf, and the overall facility must be able to comfortably accommodate the crush of media and spectators and the more involved sponsor requirements that majors demand.

The man responsible for ensuring Colorado Golf Club in Parker, the site of next year’s PGA Senior Championship in late May, will hold up to the world's best senior players was in town last month to get his first look at the golf course. Indications are he liked what he saw.

Kerry Haigh, the PGA’s managing director for championships, seemed comfortable that CGC would provide the stern test tournament organizers want. “The course is very difficult for its membership day-in and day-out,” Haigh said in an interview onsite. “The golf course’s sloping greens and difficult green complexes … will make for a fair test and a challenge.” 

The only adjustments that Haigh was sure tournament organizers would make to the course would be a “re-contouring of fairways and landing areas,” which he described as “extremely generous for a major championship”; and playing one or two of the par 5s on the golf course as 4s – transforming CGC into a 7,500-plus yard par 70 course.

Haigh’s assessment is good news for CGC and PGA Colorado officials. According to many, the course and facility in Parker was conceived and built with major events in mind.  A lot is riding on this inaugural tour-level event.  One measure of the success of the tournament will be the winning score. All could go well next year, including a warm, wet spring along Colorado’s Front Range with beautiful late May weather.  But if scores begin to creep near 10 under par or better by Sunday, the mood at CGC may change.

It’s anyone’s guess, really, as to whether this might happen. The course has held up relatively well as a venue for USGA qualifying events in the past year or two. And according to one member, very few low numbers have been shot in competitive rounds.  Wind, rain, and god forbid, snow, might also toughen conditions.

But next year’s field will be the strongest to ever tee it up in a senior major.  Veteran PGA icons like Fred Couples, Corey Pavin and Paul Azinger will be eligible to play, adding considerable weight to an already terrific lineup.  And despite its imposing length on paper, Haigh anticipates the course will effectively play at around 6,750 yards, or 10 percent less than on the card, given adjustments for altitude, making it the shortest Senior PGA Championship venue in the past five or six years if not more. 

Haigh denied the PGA’s objective is to “protect par” at CGA or any other major championship venue. He was also unapologetic about bloodletting at last year’s Senior PGA Championship at Oak Hill Golf Club in Rochester, N.Y., where Jay Haas’ seven over par won the tournament.  One get’s the sense that a few shots either side of even par is the range the PGA seeks.

The seniors will be the first to test the CGC’s mettle. Here’s hoping they won’t be the last.

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Bart Taylor is the publisher of ColoradoBiz magazine. E-mail him at btaylor@cobizmag.com.

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