PGA Professional National Championship: Club pros get off easy at Turning Stone Resort
If you’re not following the Booz Allen Classic this week, tune in to PGA.Com for the PGA Professional National Championship. Sure, a few of these guys get to play in the USGA each year, and one or two actually make the cut. For the other 99%, the CPNC is their national championship. This year it arrives in upstate New York at Turning Stone Resort, near Utica (huh?)
Turning Stone boasts courses by Rick Smith (the guy who taught Phil how to play safe), RTJ Junior, and Tom Fazio. Rumors abound that at least two more courses will be built on reservation land. I’ve been there and played all three courses, and have to let one bit of info slip: These guys are getting off easy.
How come, you ask? Well, the first two rounds are split between Shenandoah (Smith) and Atunyote (Fazio). These two tracks are terrific 18s, but they don’t hold a candle in terms of difficulty to the RTJ course. Heck, I was two under after five on Atunyote last year from the tips! I pitched in for eagle on five, although I can’t say as I did it on purpose. I then proceeded to chunk a six-iron into the pond on six to reclaim even status…and on and on.
The Fazio course is an immaculate track that traverses meadow and valley lands and creeks with artistic aplomb. As you approach the fifteenth green, hundreds of tall, dead swamp trees stand sentinel behind the green like soldiers…it is a haunting site, and the coolest I’ve seen in golf. What I’ve seen includes Bandon, Kohler, St. Andrews and many other sites, so I don’t offer this lightly.
The Smith course is a bit swampier and a bit more peligroso than the Fazio one, but not quite as glamorous. It sits hard by Interstate 90, and almost caused me to drive into a drainage ditch one sunny afternoon six years ago. Who expects golfing greatness along the thruway in New York? Crazy!
The RTJ course, called Kaluhyat, translates erroneously to “tough SOB that traverses swamps, prehistoric woodlands, and unpotable water.” I have played it twice from the tips, and fear it like I fear my wife. It is not a question of if, only of when. It will grab you, choke you to within an inch of your life, then release its grip and give you a kiss on the simple 18th. You will want to return for another fling, and again will you suffer.
This course is in immaculate shape, and offers gorgeous vistas and thought-provoking shot selections. It is simply the most demanding course I’ve played, which includes anything by Roger Rulewich and The Monster at Concord, although not The International nor The Reserve At Thunderhill. One thing is for sure: Alan Schulte would not be leading at -8 if he had to play Kaluhyat.
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Ron Mon, Ron Mon, Ron Mon! I'm going to have to take back what I said about you here
As PGA Professionals, I assure you they don't consider the U.S. Open the highlight of their year. The low 20 scorers this weekend qualify to play in another annual tourney you might have heard of, the PGA Championship!
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