A major coup for Five Farms

Baltimore Country Club course lands Senior Players Championship beginning in 2007

Golf

February 01, 2006|By DON MARKUS | DON MARKUS,SUN REPORTER

More than 100 years after hosting its first major golf championship and 19 years after its last, Baltimore Country Club will become the site of the 2007 Senior Players Championship, with Baltimore-based Constellation Energy taking over from the Ford Motor Co. as the tournament's title sponsor.

The tournament will begin a five-year run in the Baltimore area next year, taking over from Dearborn, Mich., which had hosted the Senior Players for the past 16 years, with Ford the sponsor for most of that time.

One of five majors on the Champions Tour, the Senior Players Championship will be played Oct. 4-7 of that year, and will mark the fourth major professional event held at a place widely known as Five Farms. The 1899 U.S. Open was the first played at the club's original location two years after it opened in Roland Park. The current course, designed by the legendary AJ Tillinghast, was host to the 1928 PGA Championship and the 1988 U.S. Women's Open.

FOR THE RECORD - In Wednesday's Sports section, an article about the Senior Players Championship coming to Baltimore Country Club misidentified the golf course architect. The Five Farms course was designed by AW Tillinghast.

PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said during an afternoon news conference at Baltimore Country Club that the history of the tournament's champions and the club's professional championships make it a perfect union.

"Seven World Golf Hall of Fame members have won this championship," said Finchem. "It's a testament to the quality of the tournament. We're so excited about coming here with the reputation of Baltimore Country Club. In terms of the field, it's a major championship. Everybody plays."

Finchem credited Constellation Energy president and CEO Mayo Shattuck III, whose company took over a financially strapped regular Senior Tour event three years ago at Hayfields Country Club in Hunt Valley, as the key player in putting together what became a five-year sponsorship deal.

With Constellation Energy as its sponsor, the tournament has raised $1.5 million for charity. The tournament will be played for the final time in September.

"If you're going to get anything done with multiple entities, the individual who can do that is somebody who has Mayo's people skills," Finchem said. "He's a determined guy, but he does the right thing and generates respect. He was wanting to do something like this, but the rest of the pieces need to be pulled together.

The most integral piece was finding a course suitable for a major championship. Hayfields was not deemed difficult enough to host a major championship or have ample space to accommodate larger crowds.

"The anxiety I had was the issue of whether we could get a world-class venue," Shattuck said. "We really, really wanted BCC, but felt that it was going to be a big hurdle to get over the membership. It turns out that the status of the tournament, their understanding of how much time it would be [for the course to be closed to membership] and damage to the course, all those things seem to come together and they were very enthused about it."

At least one future participant seemed ecstatic about the move of the Senior Players Championship. Fred Funk, who last year at age 48 became the oldest winner of The Players Championship and will become eligible for the Champions Tour when he turns 50 in June, hopes to have a happy homecoming there next year.

"I can't wait to one day win my true home players championship," said Funk, who grew up in College Park before graduating from and coaching at the University of Maryland. "I won my adopted one [near his home in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.] and now I want to win my home one. All the members at Five Farms need to be thanked for giving up their golf course at a great time of year. The playing conditions will be perfect."

don.markus@baltsun.com

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