By MICHAEL BURWELL
Most of the golfers in this week’s Ohio Amateur Championship at Findlay Country Club have the ability to overpower shorter and older golf courses.
Jim Popa, executive director of the Ohio Golf Association, is hoping a couple changes to Findlay Country Club and tough playing conditions will present a stern challenge.
Findlay Country Club, which normally plays as a par-72 course with four par 5s, will be played as a par-70 course with two par 5s for the Ohio Amateur, which begins this morning and continues through Saturday.
“Unfortunately in Ohio, we’ve got so many great golf courses, old golf courses like Findlay, that are really becoming sort of obsolete,” Popa said. “Still great golf courses, but the technology and these kids are in such good condition. They hit the ball so far.
“(It’s) an effort to sort of give them a little more challenge. No. 4 proved to be a great par 4 when we were here last (in 2008 when Findlay Country Club played as a par 71). No. 15, we wrestled with it last time we were here to make it a four … but now, five, six, seven years later, it’s within reach for two shots: a driver and a medium-range iron. Let’s go with it (making it a par 4).”
Instead of being reachable par 5s, the 490-yard No. 4 and 500-yard No. 15 will play as long par 4s. The 520-yard No. 1 and 550 yard No. 18 will be the only par-5 holes for the tournament.
Overall, the course will be playing between 6,584 and 6,700 yards for each round.
But what Findlay Country Club lacks in distance will be made up by fast greens and long rough.
Popa said he expects the green speeds to be around 11 to 111/2 feet on the Stimpmeter, a device that measures the speed of greens, and if the course stays dry throughout the week, it could reach up to 12. With a reading of 101/2 on the Stimpmeter, the greens are considered fast; a 12 is around the speed of professional tournaments.
“When we come to Findlay, we always expect the green speeds to be championship caliber,” Popa said.
Due to dry conditions, the rough may not be as thick as it was when Findlay Country Club hosted the Ohio Amateur Championship in both 1973 and 2008. But Popa said he still expects the rough and trees to cause problems.
“It’s still a premium to hit the fairway. The rough is the rough and you don’t want to be there,” Popa said. “Don’t ever forget all the trees that are here, too. The trees tell a story on a lot of the holes here. You get the ball a little bit offline and you pretty much have to play back into the fairway sideways sometimes just to have a shot at the green.”
The par-4 10th hole will also play differently. A new tee was added this year, so the hole will play just over 300 yards each day, compared to around 370-380 in 2008.
It will be the ultimate risk-reward tee shot with a driver for the competitors, with out of bounds looming around the green. The hole locations will be tougher as well.
“Instead of using our normal hole locations for a 380-yard hole, now at 305 yards, we put the hole locations in the corners,” Popa said. “It’s going to be a real skill shot, so if you’re going to take a swing at it, you better miss it in the right spot to be able to get up and down.”
MOVE TO FCC: Findlay Country Club wasn’t expected to host this year’s Ohio Amateur. Sylvania Country Club was scheduled to host the event, but with the LPGA Marathon Classic taking place this week at Highland Meadows Golf Club in Sylvania, Popa said there could be potential financial losses for both events taking place at the same time.
He said there was discussion to possibly move the Ohio Amateur back a week, but he didn’t want to change the schedule in case Ohio Amateur qualifiers had commitments to other tournaments.
“It just doesn’t work for our field,” Popa said. “There are so many tournaments in the summer for all of these guys. If we had moved ours a week later, it throws off all their schedules, it would have hurt our entries, it would have hurt our money financially for the income we realize from this tournament.”
Popa didn’t have to look far to find a course to host the tournament. He said he wanted to keep the Ohio Amateur in northwestern Ohio.
After a meeting with OGA board members and a phone call to Chadwick Bain, the Director of Golf, Membership and Marketing for the Findlay Country Club, the two sides were able to reach an agreement.
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