Bulle Rock happy for call to a major

Havre de Grace course new five-year home for LPGA Championship

Golf

July 13, 2004|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

Bulle Rock, an upscale public golf course that sits alongside Route 40 in Havre de Grace, was opened in 1998 with little fanfare, but very big dreams.

"We did very little advertising. We basically just opened the gates and said, `We're open,' " said Rick Rounsaville, the general manager and director of golf at Bulle Rock. "It was a vision of our former owner, Ed Abel, and from Day One, it was his plan to build a world-class golf course that anyone could play and, of course, that would someday host a major championship."

That vision was realized yesterday, when Bulle Rock was announced as the new home for the LPGA Championship, one of the four major tournaments in women's golf.

Bulle Rock will host the next five LPGA Championships, starting with next year's tournament, from June 9 to 12.

"It's a terrific venue," said Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., who attended yesterday's news conference at Bulle Rock. "I've played Bulle Rock, and it has cut me up more than a few times. I cannot think of a more wonderful venue for this championship."

The tournament had been at the DuPont Country Club in Wilmington, Del., since 1994, but was moved to the Harford County course because organizers are hoping for better financial support.

"The only reason why we moved away, it's time to change the venue and we feel we can make a lot more money for kids who aren't as fortunate as others," said Herb Lotman, co-founder of a tournament that since 1981 has raised more than $41.6 million for the Ronald McDonald House and other children's charities. It became the title sponsor of the LPGA Championship in 1994.

However, Frank Quinn, the other co-founder, said: "If you look at what we've raised, you can see it has been diminishing."

Quinn said the move wasn't discussed until "very recently." In the past year, Bulle Rock was purchased by a group headed by John Paterakis, the president of Baltimore's H&S Bakery and a business partner of McDonald's.

Bulle Rock, designed by renowned course architect Pete Dye, was named one of only 16 "Five Star Golf Courses" in North America in the May 2004 issue of Golf Digest. A year earlier, the same publication ranked the course the third best in Maryland, behind Congressional and Baltimore country clubs.

"The reports that we received back were that [Bulle Rock] clearly would stand the test of a major championship," LPGA commissioner Ty Votaw said via conference call. "The quality of the golf course was not in question whatsoever."

By the time the tournament starts, Rounsaville said Bulle Rock will have added an extension onto its clubhouse and some short-game facilities.

Even more work lies ahead for Havre de Grace, a quiet city of about 12,000.

"We've done some events on a small scale, but obviously this is a huge deal for us," said Mayor David R. Craig. "I mean, our tourism department is one person. She'll be working her tail off, but this will be great. It will really impact the area."

Tournament officials are hoping for record crowds for the event, although the championships will be contested opposite the men's Booz Allen Classic, which will take place at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda.

Because the Booz Allen is the week before the U.S. Open, it is expected to have one of its best fields ever.

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