Aug 02, 2010 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Barely 10 months after Matt Kuchar beat Vaughn Taylor in their two-day, six-hole playoff to win the Turning Stone Resort Championship, the show is on again.
A host of changes mark the fourth edition of this PGA Tour event at the Turning Stone resort’s Atunyote Golf Club in Verona, and the biggest of them is the new date — summer, instead of autumn.
Each of the last three years, the tournament was played in late September-early October as part of the PGA Tour’s Fall Series. It intended to spotlight the fall colors that start to emerge in Central New York at that time of the year.
But after a warm and dry inaugural event in 2007, harsh weather hit in the early rounds both in 2008 and 2009, including high winds, cold temperatures and various forms of precipitation, from rain to sleet. It knocked down attendance and nearly jeopardized the tournament’s future.
From the time this event was started, Oneida Nation CEO Ray Halbritter had pushed for a better date on the Tour schedule, which could draw more star players to complement those that had shown up and had raved about the course and the whole tournament experience.
In the end, Halbritter got half of his wish.
An opening in the Tour’s schedule arose for the first full weekend of August, and Turning Stone grabbed it, which was the good part.
“The players can leave their snow caps at home,” said Notah Begay III, official Turning Stone ambassador, who is playing on a sponsor’s exemption.
However, most of the big names in golf will be in Akron, Ohio, competing in the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational, preparing for next week’s PGA Championship at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin.
Still, a field of 132 players will tackle Atunyote, which stretches out to 7,482 yards and a par of 72 and should play much firmer and faster than it did the previous two years.
Halbritter said the course’s top condition partially stems from the fact that it sees fewer rounds per year than the average PGA Tour venue — approximately 3,700, as opposed to 19,000 on some courses — so the fairways and greens take far less abuse.
To fill out the field, Turning Stone handed out four sponsor’s exemptions — including one to Halbritter himself, a source of some controversy. Sensing that, on Sunday Halbritter withdrew himself from the tournament, saying he did not want his presence to distract from the event itself.
Another sponsor’s exemption has gone to Gavin Hall, a 15-year-old from Pittsford, a suburb of Rochester, who has become one of the nation’s top junior golfers. He has won two straight New York State Boys Amateur championships and reached the quarterfinals of this year’s U.S. Junior Amateur.
Most of the attention, though, will be on the full-time pros in the field. It won’t include Kuchar, who will be in Akron at the WGC-Bridgestone, but it will include Taylor, whose holed-out wedge on the par-5 12th for an eagle in last year’s final round led to his playoff opportunity.
Other noted players in the field:
– Steve Flesch, the Kentucky left-hander who won the inaugural Turning Stone event in 2007.
– David Toms, the 2001 PGA Champion.
– David Duval, the 2001 British Open champion, once ranked no. 1 in the world.
– Shaun Micheel, the 2003 PGA Champion (won at Oak Hill near Rochester).
– Rocco Mediate, who pushed Tiger Woods to a 19-hole playoff in the 2008 United States Open.
– Stephen Ames, winner of the 2006 Players Championship.
– Chris DiMarco, a runner-up in three different major championships from 2004-2006.
Part of the tournament’s new look is a partnership with the NFL’s Buffalo Bills, who are holding training camp less than two hours away from Atunyote at St. John Fisher College in Pittsford.
On Wednesday, the day before the tournament starts, Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly, along with Bills greats Steve Tasker and Ruben Brown, will take part in the Buffalo Bills Pro-Am, with the team’s cheerleaders, the Buffalo Jills, also making an appearance.
Tickets for any day of the tournament, Wednesday through Sunday, are $25 pre-sale at many venues around the area, and are $35 at the gate the day of competition.
Any child under the age of 12 is admitted free when accompanied by a ticketed adult. Active and inactive military personnel, along with veterans, will be admitted free with a valid military ID. Parking is also free at the Turning Stone Resort, with shuttles available to take spectators to the course.
More information can be found at turningstonechampionship.com.