Presidents Cup site is perfect golf layout

September 14, 1994|By JOHN STEADMAN

LAKE MANASSAS, Va. -- Provide a distinctive name, such as the Presidents Cup, line it with a cast of celebrated foreign and domestic players, create an intriguing format, utilize a pristine parcel of real estate and you have, excuse the presumptuousness, the potential for excellence.

The venue is the Robert Trent Jones Golf Club, located in the Civil War country of Old Virginia, amidst a setting that might be considered an "up north" version of Augusta National. When Jones, a venerable architect whose hands have built more than 600 facilities worldwide, viewed the land, he called it "the greatest golf course terrain I've ever seen."

So he went about shaping what is 7,238 yards of extraordinary fairways, greens and tee boxes that will host the first Presidents Cup this weekend. It's a perfect fit, a luxurious layout, as rich as it looks, within close proximity to the nation's capital, where Presidents Ford, Bush and Clinton already have visited to experience the frustration that comes with being unable to play golf in a way commensurate with the beauty of the surroundings.

Upon reflection, the most astonishing development is the Robert Trent Jones Club (exclusively for golf; sorry, no tennis or swimming) is only 3 years old and already hosts a new major team-concept tournament that matches the United States against the rest of the universe.

It's a good reason for other clubs, keen about showcasing themselves, to engage in self-admonishment for not coming up with similar ingenuity.

Such golfers as Nick Price, Phil Mickelson, David Frost, Vijay Singh and Fred Couples are a part of the lineup. There's some similarity between the Presidents Cup and the Ryder Cup, which is America vs. Europe, but they won't be bumping into each other. The plan is for them to be held in alternate years so they'll stand alone without conflict.

When a parallel was drawn between what has been going on in Augusta since 1934 and the initial Presidents Cup, from the standpoint of elegance, John Morris, vice president of PGA communications, said, "I know that's what the leadership aspires to achieve. An event called the Presidents Cup is such a natural and so appropriate for the Washington area."

The tournament was conceived last December, plans announced in March and now on Friday they'll be teeing off. Outside an opulent clubhouse reminiscent of colonial Williamsburg that includes 60,000 square feet of space, a quick greeting transpired with B.P. "Bobby" Russell, president of the club. He was told a visitor had the feeling the event, which hasn't even been played, had been here for 100 years.

Russell laughed and said, "Thanks for the compliment, but it wasn't even here last week."

He's right. The projection of a golf course of such magnitude is a tribute to Russell's leadership and acumen, plus having Jones ,, treat the abundant gift of nature that he inherited and developed with careful detail.

The PGA and the club have an option to hold another Presidents Cup in 1996, stepping aside for the historic Ryder Cup next year. Barring unforeseen difficulties, such an agreement will indeed be exercised.

New PGA commissioner Jim Finchem put things in perspective when he remarked, "It's a little hard to build enthusiasm at the start so it may take a little while to establish tradition. But the venue, the caliber of players and the competition could bring it all together."

Everyone included on the two 12-man teams will play for nothing other than individual pride and national honor, forgoing prize money they normally would earn. Instead, it'll go to any charity they want to name. It's called "giving something back."

The players' financial end will amount to between $20,000 and $30,000 per man. They get to pick their own beneficiary. Some are golf-related but others assist such humane causes as helping the widows and children of South African policemen killed in the line of duty.

The all-green scenery of the Robert Trent Jones Course would enchant an artist. Jim Meuthing, the club's head professional, points out that even though Lake Manassas covers 850 acres, the water enters into the shot-making on only the par-3 11th hole.

"Mr. Jones said he felt the lake was so beautiful he didn't want people to leave feeling they'd been beaten up by it," Meuthing explained. "He could have brought it into play on more holes but wanted it to be visible and not a hazard people would feel they were competing against."

For the Presidents Cup, the advance sale of tickets is estimated to approach 15,000. This is more than sufficient to assure the bottom-line figure will be in the black . . . and the first tee ball hasn't been hit.

It's a presentation that, apart from the outcome, is going to bring instant attention to the only golf course Robert Trent Jones ever built on which he permitted his name to be used as a signature endorsement.

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