Caves Valley's first round is of nothing but applause

John Steadman

July 15, 1991|By John Steadman

What God created, the good earth, combining rolling hills and verdant valleys, framed with towering hardwoods, has been enhanced with a glorious human touch that exceeds in toto all that can be conveyed via mere words and pictures. Yes, the Caves Valley Golf Club is indeed a genuine masterpiece on a sprawling "canvas" of green.

A treasure and prideful creation that will hold its head high in any challenging point of reference. The grand opening and first official examination of what it represents was held on a picture-card Sunday afternoon in mid-July with members, special guests and a foursome of the finest amateur participants on the continent testing its playability.

Caves Valley, dressed in natural beauty and with the radiance of a new bride, was showered with praise for what it is -- an unforgettable golfing experience amid enthralling surroundings and an ambience that is lavish but not garish. The two men who made the dream come true, Les Disharoon and Andre Brewster, were extolled by those judging their accomplishments for first finding the land and then bringing their desire to fruition.

Charley Yates, secretary of the Augusta National Golf Club, a former British Amateur champion and member of two U.S. Walker Cup teams, extended the ultimate compliment when he said, "I think this is the kind of place that Bob Jones [the highly revered founder of Augusta National] would salute with pride and joy."

A more partisan but enthusiastic voice was that of Bob Warfield, an Ocean City real estate official, who said, "I don't want to be sacrilegious but if God played golf I imagine he would want to be at Pebble Beach, Pine Valley, Augusta National and here. If you had all the money in the world this course could not possibly have been built any better."

The architect, Tom Fazio, acknowledged by a vote of his contemporaries to be the best in the business, described the 18 holes at Caves Valley while four of the nation's foremost &L amateurs, Vinny Giles, Jay Sigel, Fred Ridley and Danny Yates, played a two-man team medal match that ended in spectacular style on the final green. They walked away all-even in what henceforth will be an annual event for what is appropriately called the Chesapeake Cup.

Fazio's tour was akin to a travel talk. He offered explanations for the subtleties of design and then stepped aside to see what the golfers would do with it. "Because of the environment and the contours of the land, you let it be whatever it should be," he said. "You never force construction of a golf hole. To the contrary. You allow it to fit the terrain."

Disharoon said membership in Caves Valley is "almost filled from the Baltimore area, both on a corporate and individual basis. Now we are turning to regional participation, which is the overall purpose of our club. We want a mix, from the city, the region and all parts of the country with an eventual total going to from 400 to 450."

A cross-section of representation was on hand for the festivities. Such as Mort Creech of Arnold, Md., who believes Caves Valley is destined to go down as one of the finest in the nation. And Charley Bowyer of Sherwood Forest, Md., measures the back nine as nothing short of incredible but says there's a fairness built into the course, "meaning there are holes that give you a break following those which offer severe difficulty."

Sig Shapiro, a veteran member at Suburban Club, also at Caves Valley, pointed out there are "so many outstanding holes it's difficult to determine what would be a so-called "signature hole." The golfers, men and women, come from divergent backgrounds, which means the club elevates the sport to what it was intended to be -- a truly cordial experience where rules of decorum and propriety will not interfere with the enjoyment that's intended for all.

The distinction of being the first woman member goes to Patricia Purcell, who has a 15-handicap, and, with a laugh, says she permits her husband to play Caves Valley as a guest. Caves Valley wants to identify with the amateur classics, particularly attaining a future Walker Cup and others of similar distinction.

It also has the facility, including spacious parking across Park Heights Avenue, to accommodate a National Open. Reg Murphy, USGA vice president, is a director of Caves Valley and was prominent in the opening ceremonies. He also wrote its mission charter, a profound description that emphasized how the new course will honor the grand traditions of the game.

The four playing guests were asked their reactions. Giles called it "one of the best in the East . . . the finest and prettiest back nine I ever played, like a walk in the park." Ridley said, "You've started a heritage here and I am honored to be apart of it."

Yates, a nephew of Charley, insisted "you can't say enough about it." Sigel followed up by adding, "It's an exciting course. Fazio is the best architect and you have the best."

Helen Sigel Wilson, who has done so much for golf, as a player of immense talent and a great benefactor, prophesied that Caves Valley "will go down as one of the all-time finest."

So the reviews are extraordinary, even considering the price of the $40 million it took to build it. But Caves Valley can't be measured from a fiscal standpoint. That only tends to commercialize the unsurpassed scenic splendor and the epitome of the golfing challenge.

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