Hobbit's Glen all set to welcome Seniors Busy organizers predict 100,000 could come to course in Columbia

June 25, 1998|By Eduardo A. Encina | Eduardo A. Encina,SUN STAFF

When fans come to the State Farm PGA Senior Classic next week, they will see not only the first official PGA event in the Baltimore area in 15 years, but also the product of years of planning and months of organizing.

Officials of the Senior Classic estimate a total of 80,000-120,000 fans will gather at Hobbit's Glen Golf Club in Columbia for two days of practice rounds and clinic, a two-day pro-am celebrity event and the three-day championship.

Nine of the top 10 money leaders and many of the big names on the Senior tour, including Hale Irwin, Lee Trevino, Chi Chi Rodriguez and Larry Nelson, are scheduled among the 78 competitors for a $1.25 million purse. The majority of the proceeds of the event will go to the Special Olympics.

Now, the week before the tournament, organizers are putting final touches on four months of planning. This week, trucks have unloaded 150 extra golf carts, 60 portable toilets, 40 tents, several scoreboards, 12 air conditioning units and 15 generators with the ability to produce more than 1 million watts of power to the course, said Boo Corrigan, course director of operations.

Also, 100,000 feet of cable will be laid and 25,000 feet of fencing put up to protect nearby homes and secure the course by the time the preliminary events start Monday.

It was four years ago that executive director John Matthews and tournament director Lee Corrigan met with PGA Senior officials in Florida in an attempt to bring an event to the Baltimore area.

"The PGA has always been interested in bringing an event to Baltimore, the largest metropolitan area without an event," said Corrigan. "It was just a situation where the biggest obstacles were finding a title sponsor and a date that fit into the PGA's schedule that didn't conflict with the weather over here."

"When we got the title sponsor, it set things into motion," Mathews said. "We had to put everything together in four or five months, where a lot of events have a year or two to plan everything."

What seemed even more overwhelming for organizers was assembling 1,000 volunteers to set up the course and work while the tournament is in progress.

An unofficial pro event, the Toyota Invitational, held the past two years at Cattail Creek Country Club in western Howard County, helped instill interest. About 500 volunteers were needed for that event, and many of them elected to help at next week's tournament.

"A lot of people just want to be a part of this event, and volunteering was a way for them to be a very important part of it," said Klete Squires, volunteer coordinator.

Volunteers also are allowed access to the course when not working, Squires said.

Helping Squires were 35 committee heads, who designated responsibilities -- player registration, admission and parking among them -- for setting up and working during the event.

As for the course itself, superintendent Bill Neus and his 18-man grounds crew have been making sure that it meets PGA specifications. Neus said PGA officials have come to the course three times in the past six months to see conditions.

"They really just come and give you general guidelines, to help you to achieve your goals, like getting the sand softer and making sure the greens are the right height," Neus said. "They are certainly not unreasonable. They give you lots of time in advance and make themselves available to you."

Event officials said everything should be ready by Sunday, but that something may have to be moved around at the last minute to suit PGA guidelines.

"This will change this place from a sleepy little golf club to a host of a PGA Senior Tour event," Lee Corrigan said. "So many more people will want to come and play here. The effect will be residual."

Senior Classic

What: State Farm PGA Senior Classic

Where: Hobbit's Glen Golf Club, 1130 Willow Bottom Road, Columbia

When: July 3-5

Tickets: $25 per day

Information: 410-964-0900

Pub Date: 6/25/98

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