Sahalee Country Club welcomes home Seattle native Fred Couples for 2010 U.S. Senior Open
Every guest has their “Sahalee” moment.
You can’t play the Sahalee Country Club in Sammamish near Seattle without having a nightmarish encounter with some tall tree. It’s like playing the Old Course at St. Andrews without hitting into a bunker. It’s just not possible.
Playing the course for the first time last summer, I hit what I thought was a solid iron shot that appeared to be turning nicely toward the green through a narrow corridor of trees. Suddenly, as if it were alive, a branch reached out to swat my ball like Shaq in this prime. My playing partners let out a collective gasp as my ball landed directly behind an impenetrable evergreen. I was destined for triple bogey.
“Welcome to Sahalee,” one of them said, almost with a snicker in his voice.
The player who has the fewest “Sahalee moments” will likely tame the 6,866-yard course well enough to win the 2010 U.S. Senior Open July 29-Aug. 1. Sahalee last enjoyed the spotlight by hosting the 1998 PGA Championship, won by Vijay Singh. (It also hosted the 2002 NEC World Golf Championship won by Craig Parry).
Unfortunately, the modern golf ball has rendered this venerable historic layout designed by Ted Robinson in 1969 unlikely to host another major like the PGA. Don’t feel sorry for the club. Its membership is thriving and they’re ecstatic to be hosting a Champions Tour major. Seattle’s favorite son, Fred Couples, will tee it up in front of the home fans, hoping to win his first senior major.
Couples has cooled somewhat since winning three tournaments and earning a second-place finish in his first six starts on The Champions Tour since turning 50, but he still has to be considered the favorite.
“I take pride in being from Seattle,” Couples told the Seattle Times in April. At O’Dea High, he won the Class 3A high-school state championship in 1977, and the Washington Open and Washington Amateur in 1978. “I pay attention to the Huskies. I pay attention to the Seahawks. I love to see what’s going on up there. To have my first Senior Open at Sahalee will be a great, great week. It’s kind of funny to me (being asked to be the honorary chairman), but I’m loving doing it. I hope to help the tournament and make sure that it goes well and we can come back sooner (rather) than later.”
While Couples skipped the overseas trip to the British Senior Open last week to play in the PGA Tour’s Canadian Open, the rest of the field faces a monumental challenge adjusting from the conditions at Carnoustie to a tight layout that demands the utmost precision. Traveling halfway around the world in just a couple days won’t help, either.
Sahalee, set up as a par-70, will be ready to attack any golfer suffering from jet lag. The course has slippery greens running 12 on the stimpmeter and four-inch-high rough in spots. The fairways will average a mere 26 yards wide.
ESPN2 will televise the event live 5-9 p.m. on July 29 and 30 with NBC jumping in on the weekend from 4-7 p.m. July 31 and Aug. 1.
Like many of the hometown fans, I’ll be rooting for Freddie.
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