From the left, Pete Dye, Steve Ferguson, Ted Bishop, Todd Smith, Mike Small and
Jack Barber. (Cook Group/Rick Phillips)
Dye 'tickled to death' to host '10 PPNC
Pete Dye, the 84-year-old World Golf Hall of Fame course designer, joined defending champion Mike Small of Illinois to sing the praises of French Lick Resort during the annual Media Day held April 26 to help promote the 43rd PGA Professional National Championship.
FRENCH LICK, Ind. -- The wind kicked up Monday morning at The Pete Dye Course at French Lick Resort. The temperature dipped into the low 50s and a mist spread over the course to leave a chill to the bone.
If it's April in Indiana, the locals tell you, anything's possible. Forget that the previous two weeks offered balmy Chamber of Commerce weather.
"It's pretty rough out there now, but it's an easy course when it's dry and fast," said Dye, the 84-year-old World Golf Hall of Fame designer who was a late arrival to Media Day promoting the 43rd PGA Professional National Championship.
The showcase event for PGA Professionals will make its first appearance in Indiana, June 27-30, at French Lick Resort's Donald Ross and Pete Dye Courses. The final two rounds will be contested over Dye's stunning and demanding layout that will test 312 PGA Professionals representing 43 states.
Though the back tees on the par-72 Pete Dye Course extend to 8,102 yards, the National Championship will be contested at 7,174 yards. The par-70 Donald Ross Course will play to 6,885 yards.
Dye had a twinkle in his eye, while joined at the head table by his pet dog "Sixty," a white German shepherd that refused to be anywhere but at the foot of his master.
"It's an honor to have a national championship come to a course that is barely over a year old," Dye said. "It's an honor to have it in Indiana. It's great to build a course that is in your backyard. I don't know how it will all go over, but right now I'm tickled to death."
Dye, who later joined media guests to play his namesake course, was joined at the head table by PGA of America Secretary Ted Bishop, defending national champion Mike Small of Champaign, Ill.; reigning Indiana PGA Champion Todd M. Smith of Peru, Ind.; Indiana PGA President Jack Barber of Indianapolis; and Steve Ferguson, chairman of the board, the Cook Group, that owns and operates the resort.
Nearly a year ago, Small was forced to skip the Champions' Dinner at the PGA Professional National Championship in Santa Ana Pueblo, N.M. Riddled with back pain from a compressed disk, Small didn't know if he could make it to the first tee the next day
Four days later, the University of Illinois men's golf coach found relief long enough to rally to win a second National Championship in five years.
"It's an honor and a privilege to be a PGA Professional and to have been able to win this Championship," said Small, who eerily could not enjoy a practice round Monday due to the recurring back pain compounded by the cold weather. "We all know what this Association means and represents for many of us. It is the fabric of our family. It's a big part of our lives.
"The PGA promotes the game of golf and for us to be able to do the same and also go out and compete in a Championship like this is very special. I think winning last year validated the one I won in 2005. There are a lot of great players in this Championship, many of them here today, and it's all a matter of being in the right spot at the right time.
"I was pleased to have won in 2005 on a course [The Ocean Course in Kiawah Island, S.C.] that Pete had built. I remember telling Pete awhile back when I met him at Crooked Stick that I had played golf with him in a U.S. Amateur qualifier when I was a 19-year-old amateur. It was a great pleasure then to be with him, and it is again today."
Todd Smith, who won the 2009 Indiana PGA Championship at The Pete Dye Course at 9-over-par 223 for 54 holes, said that he would not choose to play anywhere else.
"This place is really special," said Smith, a 47-year-old PGA head professional at Rock Hollow Golf Club and a nine-time Indiana PGA Player of the Year. "Mr. Dye gives you a chance to play a hole with ample room in a fairway, but when it comes to making a score on a hole, you have to be precision. I love to play his courses, and I can't think of playing anyone else's courses."
Bishop, the general manager and PGA head professional at the Legends of Indiana Golf Club in Franklin, Ind., said the National Championship has one special theme.
"It is a unique opportunity for the general public to see the experts in the business of golf competing on the highest level," said Bishop. "It is so special to see this Championship come to Indiana, and I know that when everyone leaves after the final round they will have sampled the best of Indiana hospitality."
Indiana is the 14th state to host the PGA Professional National Championship, and it is the first PGA of America-sanctioned championship to be conducted in French Lick since 1924 when PGA co-founder Walter Hagen won the PGA Championship.
"It is great to add to the history of this Championship by hosting this Championship where Walter Hagen set history," said Ferguson. "We are very proud to serve as hosts and realize the importance of this Championship to the PGA Professional."
Media Day attracted an unprecedented turnout of former National Champions, along with several members of the 2009 PGA Cup Team that defeated Great Britain & Ireland in Loch Lomond, Scotland.
Those getting in practice rounds at The Pete Dye Course included 1984 National Champion Bill Schumaker of Columbia City, Ind.; 2000 and 2003 National Champion Tim Thelen of College Station, Texas; 2002 National Champion Barry Evans of Charleston, W.Va.; 2006 National Champion Ron Philo Jr. of Amelia Island, Fla.; 2007 National Champion Chip Sullivan of Troutville, Va.; and 2008 National Champion Scott Hebert of Traverse City, Mich.
The 2009 PGA Cup Team alumni assembled at the Pete Dye Course included: Small, Hebert, Philo; Ryan Benzel of Bothell, Wash.; Kyle Flinton of Edmond, Okla.; Eric Lippert of Pebble Beach, Calif.; Mark Sheftic of Ardmore, Pa.; and Craig Thomas of White Plains, N.Y.
Begun in 1968, the PGA Professional National Championship brings together the finest playing PGA Professionals representing The PGA of America's 41 nationwide Sections.
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