Caves Valley gets 2002 Sr. Open Owings Mills golf club steps up in stature

November 05, 1997|By John W. Stewart | John W. Stewart,SUN STAFF

When Caves Valley Golf Club was still a gleam in Les Disharoon's eyes, its founder and chairman was intent on building a golf course that would be of the caliber to hold national championships.

Since Caves Valley opened in July 1991, there has been a succession of successful tournaments, including the annual Chesapeake Cup that attracts two-man teams from across the country and the U.S. Mid-Amateur championship in 1995.

The Owings Mills club took a step up in tournament stature yesterday with the official announcement that it would be the site of the 2002 U.S. Senior Open.

"This is the most important recognition we could have that Caves Valley and Baltimore are important in the world of golf," Disharoon said in making the announcement. The formal decision was made during the weekend at a meeting of the United States Golf Association's championship committee in Colorado Springs, Colo.

"We know that among the factors in this decision, in addition to the quality of the course, was the outstanding success of the 1988 U.S. Women's Open at Baltimore CC, the fact the Baltimore market is the largest in the country without a regular professional tour event, and that it has had Caves Valley high on its list since the 1995 Mid-Am," Disharoon said.

One positive for all the Senior Open venues in the early years of the next decade will be the players who will have turned 50 by that time. The class of 2000 includes Tom Kite, Lanny Wadkins and Tom Watson; by 2002, Ben Crenshaw, Bruce Litsky, Mark McCumber and Fuzzy Zoeller will have helped swell the crowd of potential participants.

"From our standpoint, 1995 was a wonderful experience, with nothing but raves for the golf course and the hospitality," Mike Butz, deputy executive director of the USGA, said from his office in Far Hills, N.J.

"They ran with it, and came back to us saying they would like to host something else, something that was more spectator-oriented. We looked at it from that viewpoint and the more we looked, the more we liked it.

"There were some exceptions, though; a couple of places we had some concerns. The club already had some plans along those lines, and said, 'Let's see what we can do.' We had a meeting some six-nine months ago, they said they were willing to make the changes, and for us, that made it a slam-dunk."

The 1988 Senior Open will be held at Riviera CC in Pacific Palisades, Calif., to be followed by the Des Moines (Iowa) CC in 1999, Saucon Valley CC, Bethlehem, Pa., in 2000, and Salem (Mass.) CC in 2001.

Olympia Fields (Ill.) CC, which held the 1997 Senior Open, has been chosen for the 2003 U.S. Open. Of the 20 assigned sites (through 1999) since the Senior Open was inaugurated at Winged Foot GC in 1980, eight of them have gone on to be host of a U.S. Open.

"More and more [new] clubs have shown they want an Open, and some of the old familiar sites have indicated they don't want it," Disharoon said. "For us, daily attendance for the Senior Open will be limited to approximately 25,000 people. We can park 20,000 cars on the property, and that is a big plus. We won't have to bus in spectators."

Then there is a smile at just the thought of such a leap into the future.

Pub Date: 11/05/97

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