Caves Valley is rounding into shape for seniors

Individual ticket sales are remaining priority

Golf

April 17, 2002|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

Caves Valley Golf Club seemed to be in perfect shape yesterday for the 23rd U.S. Senior Open. The fairways were lush and the greens were fast. The weather was steamy, but dry. Even defending champion Bruce Fleisher was on hand to hit a few balls.

Thankfully, it's only April and it was media day, not the opening round. There's still a matter of several thousand tickets that have to be sold. The event is scheduled to be played June 27-30.

While corporate sales have been strong - 41 marquee tents and 60 tables in the Championship Club have been sold - there's still some work left for the goal of selling 150,000 to 175,000 tickets, with a majority going to the general public.

"It's normal for the regular ticket sales to come last," said Dennis Satyshur, the club's director of golf. "I wouldn't say we're nervous, but we're working hard to build awareness of the tournament. I'm very optimistic."

History tells Satyshur that his confidence is well-founded. The last three venues for the Senior Open have sold out, including some 250,000 fans who found their way to Des Moines, Iowa, three years ago.

Caves Valley, an 11-year-old club that is the newest ever to be awarded the Senior Open, is believed to be the longest course in the event's history, playing at 7,005 yards to a par-71.

"I like the way this sets up," said Fleisher, who played in charity events at the club before he joined the Senior Tour five years ago. "It's tough, it's demanding. I think the players are going to like it because it's a fair test."

Joking about the length, Fleisher said: "Maybe the ERC [driver banned by the USGA] will be legal by then."

Tournament officials are hoping to attract the two biggest names in golf aside from Tiger Woods - who's 24 years away from qualifying - and have received the entry from Jack Nicklaus.

Both Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer said last week at Augusta National that they intend to play in Owings Mills, but Nicklaus' back problems and Palmer's troubles with his game have prevented them from making completely firm commitments.

"We're hopeful that Jack and Arnold will play," Satyshur said. "They will be a tremendous plus for us."

The Senior Open is scheduled to take place the week after another Senior event, the Greater Baltimore Classic, is held at Hayfields Country Club in Hunt Valley.

"I don't think this will help the first week gallery-wise," said Fleisher, who lost in a playoff at Hayfields last year to Allen Doyle and plans to play there again. "Two weeks in a row is asking a lot."

NOTE: Former President George H.W. Bush will serve as the Senior Open's honorary chairman, it was announced yesterday.

At a glance

What: U.S. Senior Open

When: June 24-30

Where: Caves Valley Golf Club, Owings Mills

Defending champion: Bruce Fleisher

Tickets: Apply by going online at 2002senioropen.com or by calling 866-654-2002.

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