A Philadelphia Story
Dan Forsman prevails at the Pennsylvania Classic, but Philly is
the big loser
This is an article from the Sept. 23, 2002 issue
Last week the PGA Tour stopped in one of the golf capitals of the
world, Philadelphia, but when it's coming back nobody knows. The
field assembled for the SEI Pennsylvania Classic--played at the
Waynesborough Country Club in Paoli, the last of the leafy depots
along suburban Philadelphia's fabled Main Line--was filled with
players known only to dedicated readers of the Tour's media guide
(your Hidemichi Tanakas, Jeff Brehauts and Michael Longs). The
surprise winner, Dan Forsman, earned $594,000, nice coin if you
can get it, but not the kind of first-place money that draws the
attention of most frontline stars (your Ernie Elses, Sergio
Garcias and Phil Mickelsons). Loyal Jim Furyk, born and raised in
the Golf Association of Philadelphia, was the only Ryder Cupper
on hand. The competitors dug the old-style George Fazio course,
but no matter. The Philadelphia event is a goner.
Next year, and for at least three years after that, the
Pennsylvania Classic is going to the boonies, to the Nemacolin
Woodlands resort in Farmington, Pa., a tiny burg hidden in the
western Pennsylvania mountains, not far from the West Virginia
border. "The course is crappy, although they can probably
improve it with a bunch of money," Scott Hoch said last week.
Hoch had planned to play in Philadelphia but pulled out to rest
his sore back for this week's World Golf Championship event in
Ireland, where the winner earns a mil. "The guy is going to add
$1 million to the purse, so he might get some names the first
year. But if he doesn't fix up the course, they won't come back."
The guy Hoch is referring to is Joe Hardy, owner of the 84 Lumber
chain and Nemacolin Woodlands. Hardy reportedly is increasing the
purse from $3.3 million to $4 million, which means a first-place
prize of $720,000, putting the event in the same financial league
as the Western Open in Chicago and the Houston Open, old-line
events that draw big crowds and big names. Who will make the long
trek to Nemacolin Woodlands to watch the tournament is anybody's
guess, but Hardy has a big, fat checkbook in a day when the Tour
is turning over rocks to find sponsors.
The game is the same as it has always been: If you can pay, you
can play. Evidently Philadelphia, despite its rich golfing lore,
cannot pay. That's a shame. According to Jim Finegan, author of
an eight-pound book about golf in Philadelphia, there is no place
in the world with a greater concentration of first-tier courses
than Philadelphia, with the possible exception of metropolitan
New York. Enrolled in the Golf Association of Philadelphia are
Pine Valley, Merion and Aronimink, site of Gary Player's victory
at the 1962 PGA Championship and host to next year's Senior PGA.
Within 35 miles of Philadelphia's City Hall are dozens of
old-school gems, designed by Donald Ross, A.W. Tillinghast,
William Flynn, George Thomas and other architectural
Merion's East course is where Bobby Jones completed his Grand
Slam in 1930; where Ben Hogan, post-car crash, won the 1950 U.S.
Open; and where the Merry Mex beat the Bear at the '71 Open. Brad
Faxon, who finished 24th at Waynesborough, snuck over to Merion
last week for his umpteenth round there and fell in love with the
place all over again. "Maybe the best course in the world," he
said. (It makes most Philadelphia golfers' local top five.) The
Merion membership is aching to see the national championship
return, but the USGA has its sights on greener pastures. (There's
no room for the Open's small city of corporate tents at cozy
Merion.) We believe it was the O'Jays that sang this famous
lyric, although it might have been Scott Hoch: "Money, money,
money. Money." Out with the old, in with the certified check.
Hootie Johnson will outlive the membership controversy at Augusta
National, where he is club chairman. Johnson, 71, had heart
surgery last week, but think of it as a tune-up, not a breakdown.
Johnson is a fighter, and he will not step down until a solution
has been realized.
Dan Forsman's win at last week's Pennsylvania Classic will surely
be career-altering, which is a good thing, becuase until recently
the 20-year vet had trouble simply getting into tournament
fields. He spent the week of the PGA Championship hanging around
the Minneapolis area, hoping to play as an alternate. Forsman
never made it to the 1st tee at Hazeltine but did wind up playing
with Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura at the TPC of the Twin
Cities. "Whether you agree with his politics or not, he's still a
real genuine guy," says Forsman.
How weak was the field in Pennsylvania? The last man in was
George Burns, 53, who finished 83rd on last year's Senior tour
Reclusive Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax was spotted in the
gallery on Saturday at Waynesborough Country Club.
With an 18th-place finish at the Safeway Classic, Beth Bauer,
the 22-year-old former Duke standout, clinched the LPGA's rookie
of the year award, edging her flashier rival, Natalie Gulbis,
19. "It was a great battle and I know it spurred both of us on,"
says Bauer. "But it was tough because of all the hype, and
because of how into it our parents were. I'm looking forward to
becoming better friends with Natalie next year."
Tom Fazio's latest ultra-exclusive private club, Dallas
National, opened last week, with a membership fee of $125,000
and the stated mission of hosting a U.S. Open. Dallas resident
Lee Trevino, former Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach and
Rangers shortstop Alex Rodriguez have already signed up.
Think you've had a busy summer of golf? Check in with the
ageless threesome of retirees Bill McDonald and Johnny and Nancy
Keown at www.50x50x50.com, as they continue a quixotic journey
that has them playing 50 courses in 50 states in 50 days. On
Monday afternoon they were leaving Texas in a 37-foot Discovery
Motor Home on their way to Oklahoma, more than two thirds of the
way through their itinerary, which began on Aug. 11 in Alaska and
will end on Sept. 29 in Maui. "Most of the courses we're playing
you've never heard of," McDonald tells SI. "They're no country
clubs, just Main Street America, which is how we like it."
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