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Len Ziehm On Golf

Trio of Palm City, FL., courses are poised to bring in more golfers

Strategically-placed hedges are a striking feature at the Fox Club.


PALM CITY, Florida – With many restrictions lifted on Florida’s golf courses this week, some encouraging developments in one south Florida community came into focus.

Palm City, a town of about 25,000 located off Interstate 95 between the PGA Golf Club – the “winter home of the PGA of America’’ – to the north and PGA National Resort – home of the PGA Tour’s Honda Classic — to the south.

Those are golf meccas, but it’s been in Palm City where new things have been happening since the last days of 2019. Public golfers should take note now, just as Corey Hamlin and business partner Jon Whittemore did no less than two years ago. Both are members of Advanced Golf Partners and worked at PGA National during its 2007-10 rebirth period.

Now they own a Palm City course, Hammock Creek, in addition to two courses on Florida’s west coach – Legacy at Lakewood Ranch and Serenoa. On Feb. 21 they took ownership at Hammock Creek, one of three Palm City public courses that have taken dramatic changes in the last few months despite the restrictions caused by pandemic concerns.

Those restrictions were reduce on May 4, which meant more attention for the good things going on in Palm City – especially at Hammock Creek.

“We were looking at courses for two years — on the Treasure Coast as well as the Carolinas, Georgia and the west coast of Florida,’’ said Hamlin. “We liked the growth in Martin County and Palm City. We’re poised for that growth.’’

Others liked the possibilities at Palm City courses as well, and each facility has a story to tell.

The movement all began when The Fox Club opened up for public play last fall. That was a big deal. The Fox Club opened in 1989 as Cobblestone, the first creation of architect Roy Case. It became The Fox Club after a 2004 ownership change and Darren Clarke, a former British Open champion, and Eoghan O’Connell concocted a re-design in 2017.

As a private club Fox Club regulars included PGA Tour Champions members Gene Sauers, Fred Funk and Jesper Parnevik, and Larry Laoretti, the 1975 U.S. Senior Open champion, has been a long-time member. The decision to go public opened the way for a new wave of players, among them LPGA veteran Christina Kim.

The Fox Club has remained a championship layout (distance is 7,115 yards and slope is 148 from the tips) despite a series of changes over the years. Its 18th hole is the most memorable – a par-5 that hooks around a lake and seems to go on and on. (It’s 586 yards from the back tees).

Well-conditioned greens, interesting bunkering, lots of forced carries and lengthy drives from greens to tees are trademarks of The Fox Club layout, and its clubhouse is very much that of an established club.

Meanwhile, The Evergreen Club — another one-time private club — is the best revival story of these Palm City courses. It had been closed for eight months until a group of investors from Pennsylvania took over the ownership in early December.

In two months the course was re-opened and had a new name – Crane Watch Club – and that’s not all.

Reviving the course required new agronomic practices under the leadership of course superintendent Chris Thatcher. The greens were revived, new sand was put in the bunkers and the irrigation system was repaired and upgraded. Though in hardly ideal condition the course was playable when players returned on Feb. 3.

Most eye-catching change at the club is the construction of a short-game area in the front of the clubhouse. The putting green was resurfaced and a new Club Car fleet of carts was brought in. General manager Dave Salerno put out progress reports several times a week throughout the pandemic, when play was limited almost entirely to Martin County residents. The report reached a new high in the May 4 reduction in restrictions when dining in the clubhouse – including evening dinners – was granted approval.

At Hammock Creek it’s been a different situation since the ownership change. There weren’t any alterations to the course, designed by the father-son team of Jack and Jack Nicklaus II. It opened in 1995.

“We love the golf course,’’ said Hamlin. “It’s very customer-friendly and has no pace of play issues. We had no intention of changing anything with the golf course.’’

The new ownership quickly signed a licensing agreement with Nicklaus Design and there was no changing of the staff, either. Rod Curl Jr. remained as director of golf with Hamlin becoming the on-site managing partner. Like Hamlin, Curl is a 20-year member of the PGA of America.

“We loved the staff,’’ said Hamlin. “We’ve kept 100 percent in the transition. Then we started to renovate and improve the restaurant.’’

The new owners want to name the restaurant, and are welcoming suggestions. Negotiations are also underway to bring in a golf academy from the immediate area.

Cheers to Caddyshack on the movie’s 40th anniversary

If ever a movie – especially a sports-themed one – merited an anniversary celebration it’d be “Caddyshack.’’ This movie didn’t really have a plot. It was just a series of memorable scenes with actors Bill Murray, Chevy Chase and Rodney Dangerfield the lead characters. Still, over the years its fan base grew and the movie became a classic.

Now Caddyshack is getting an anniversary celebration – and a beer to go with it.

Production on the movie started in 1979 and it was released in 1980 – 40 years ago. To commemorate the 40th anniversary the Flying Dog Brewery of Frederick, Md., introduced a beer called Night Putting.

Flying Dog is billing itself as “America’s most disobedient brewery,’’ and that’s in keeping with the raucous nature of the film. The beer, a reinvented pale ale, is being sold in 16-ounce cans and is available in four-packs.

“When conceptualizing this beer we knew we wanted to pay homage to the classic comedy, so we created a beer designed specifically for golfers,’’ said James Maravetz, Flying Dog’s marketing director.

You have to be a Caddyshack devotee to appreciate all the humor, but the colorful beer can matches the shirt that the Judge Elihu Smails character (played by Ted Knight) wore when he met Al Czervik (the character played by Dangerfield). Their meeting started all the fun.

The Night Putting reference was coined by Chase’s Ty Webb character, and Murray played the nutty golf course superintendent Carl Spackler. The “plot’’ for Caddyshack was created by co-writers Brian Doyle-Murray (Bill’s brother) and Harold Ramis. The general story was based on the Murray brothers’ caddie days at Indian Hill Club in Winnetka during their teen-age years.

A book has already been written about the wild life involving the cast and crew that was going on behind the scenes as the movie was being made. A sequel to Caddyshack was also made, but it wasn’t nearly as well received as the original version.

The original was made primarily at an upscale public course called Rolling Hills, in Davie, FL., near Ft. Lauderdale. A lot has changed there over the last 40 years. Wayne Huizenga, who at one time owned football’s Miami Dolphins, baseball’s Miami Marlins and hockey’s Florida Panthers, bought the golf club in 1999 and converted it into a private venue called Grande Oaks. The course was re-designed by PGA Hall of Famer Ray Floyd shortly after Huizenga bought it.

A first? Chicago area has three players in the Honda Classic field

Kevin Streelman (right) posted a 69 and Luke Donald (left) a 70 in the first round of the Honda Classic.


PALM BEACH GARDENS, FL. – It’s been quite a while – at least five years — since the Chicago area had three card-carrying members of the PGA Tour and even longer since three played in the same PGA Tour stop.

That made Thursday’s first round of the Honda Classic a milestone event. Kevin Streelman, Luke Donald and Doug Ghim were all in the field at PGA National in the first stop on the four-tournament Florida Swing.

Streelman did the best, posting a 1-under-par 69 to move into a tie for 11th place behind co-leaders Tom Lewis and Harris English. Lewis and English both posted 4-under-par 66s. Donald had a 70 and is tied for 23rd and Ghim shot 74 and is tied for 103rd. The tournament runs through Sunday.

Wheaton’s Streelman came into the Honda off a spectacular showing in the Pebble Beach Pro-Am in California two weeks ago. He finished second as an individual and paired with football-playing partner Larry Fitzgerald to win the team title for the second time in three years.

Streelman is off to a solid start, standing No. 31 in the FedEx Cup standings with winnings already over $1 million for the 2019-20 season. In addition to challenging for the title at Pebble Beach he also had a tie for fourth in the Sanderson Farms Classic in Mississippi in September, in the second tournament of the PGA’s split season.

Donald, the former Northwestern star and Conway Farms member, is still working to regain the form that made him the world’s No. 1-ranked player. The Honda was a home game for him. Donald has maintained a residence in the Palm Beach area for several years. Though he had made three cuts in four starts in the PGA’s 2019-20 season his best finish has been a tie for 43rd at the RSM Classic in November.

Ghim, in his rookie season on golf’s premier circuit, got into the Honda field as the fifth alternate after a series of withdrawals by qualified players. Like Streelman, he arrived here off his best showing of the season – a tie for 20th at last week’s Puerto Rico Open.

Like Donald, Ghim has some work to do as the meat of the golf season closes in. He has made only three of 10 cuts since earning his PGA Tour card at last fall’s qualifying school.

Iconic Harbour Town is just one reason for golfers to hit Hilton Head

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, South Carolina – The Harbour Town Links, with its iconic lighthouse behind the No. 18 green, may give Hilton Head Island most of its international exposure, but this golf destination is more than just Harbour Town.

A lot more, in fact.

While Harbour Town — home of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage tournament — celebrated its 50th anniversary this year, the rest of the island also enhances the area’s reputation of being a golf mecca.

Harbour Town, along with Atlantic Dunes and Heron’s Point, are all part of the Sea Pines Resort. Atlantic Dunes was the National Golf Course Owners Association 2018 Course of the Year.

“We’re the drivers of why people come here,’’ said Cary Corbitt, president of the South Carolina Lowcountry Golf Course Owners Association and vice president of Sea Pines, “but not everybody wants to just play Harbour Town and Atlantic Dunes – and we’re fine with that.’’

Fee to play Harbour Town generally tops $300 and at Atlantic Dune’s it’s upwards of $150. Both are extremely well-conditioned courses that draw about 30,000 rounds annually, but there’s also perfectly fine public courses nearby that charge less than $100.

Those numbers are just fine with Corbitt, who came to Hilton Head when he was in college to work as a volunteer at the first Heritage tournament (won by Arnold Palmer), returned when he was done with college in 1974 and started at Sea Pines in 1978.

“Sea Pines is a family destination resort. We’re not bashful about what we charge, but we don’t feel we’re uppity or better than anyone else,’’ said Corbitt. “The other courses help round everything out.’’

Hilton Head has 40,000 full-time residents. They benefit from the island’s beautiful beaches as well as the golf, as both attract tourists. So does the nearly 300 restaurants – many of them solidly upscale – on the property.

Lodging is more than ample with more than 6,000 villas, condos and homes on the rental market and more than 20 hotels and inns also available. Custom-built golf packages are no problem.

The non-golf attractions are also plentiful. They’re highlighted by the tennis academy at Sea Pines that is run by the legendary Stan Smith who won titles at both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.

Hilton Head got its name because a ship owned by William Hilton first spotted the island over 300 years ago. Charles Fraser, son of one of the families that owned most of the island, started it on its way as a tourist destination when he drew up a master plan for a resort community in 1956. Hilton Head was incorporated as a town in 1983 but golf had arrived in 1962 when the Ocean Course opened.

Golf grew rapidly after that, but not without some major developments along the way. The Ocean Course was totally renovated by Davis Love III is now called Atlantic Dunes. Famed architect Pete Dye, who designed Harbour Town with consulting help from Jack Nicklaus, also is responsible for Sea Pines’ other course, Heron’s Point. That course started under the name of Sea Marsh.

Now the golf landscape is spread around. Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort has three courses on its 2,000 acres that are bounded by three miles of Atlantic Ocean coastline on one side and a sheltered Intracoastal Waterway on the other. This resort’s featured course is Palmetto Dunes, which has one hole on the ocean and was designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. in 1967. The others at the resort were creations of George Fazio (the island’s only par-70) in 1974 and Arthur Hills in 1986.

There’s also the Heritage Collection, seven courses and 81 holes spread over three clubs. Oyster Reef, a Rees Jones design with – at least arguably – the best putting surfaces on the island, is not to be missed. Sixteen courses are on the island and there’s also 13 off-island layouts close at hand.

All the courses are beneficiaries of the recently-expanded Hilton Head Island Airport. Last year it started twice weekly (Saturdays and Sundays) flights directly from O’Hare, so Chicago golfers could step right off the airplane and be on the first tee at many of the courses in a matter of a few minutes.

Even without that luxury transportation getting from Chicago to Hilton Head isn’t a problem. Many more flights are available to the Savannah Hilton International Airport, which is just 45 minutes from the island.

And then there’s the hurricanes. No doubt, they can be a problem but not even one of the strongest – Hurricane Matthew in 2016 – kept golfers off the Hilton Head courses for long.

Atlantic Dunes head professional Bobby Downs has worked in the golf industry on the island for 36 years. After 22 seasons at Palmetto Dunes he was eagerly awaiting the opening of Atlantic Dunes when Matthew struck at a most inopportune time.

“The Ryder Cup had just finished, and we (the U.S. team) had won,’’ recalled Downs. “We had a great Grand Opening and Davis (designer and U.S. captain Davis Love III) was to be here on Sunday with the trophy, but three days prior we got hit by the hurricane and were shut down for three weeks.’’

Tree damage was extensive, but Atlantic Dunes bounced back quickly, just like the Hilton Head courses have done for decades.

“In the end we were better off because a lot of trees that weren’t meant to be there after 50 years were weeded out,’’ said Corbitt.

Porvasnik answers Jeray charge to win Illinois Women’s Open

Jessice Porvasnik accepts the Illinois Women’s Open trophy from Greg Kosin, brother of the tourney’s late founder Phil Kosin, after her one-shot victory at Mistwood.


It took just one swing for the 25th Phil Kosin Illinois Women’s Open to turn into a real battle Wednesday at Mistwood, in Romeoville.

Nicole Jeray, for two decades Chicago’s only LPGA Tour player, picked the perfect spot to deliver the dramatic shot. Now 48, Jeray has shifted her focus to teaching at Mistwood and has grown to love it. But, no doubt about it, she can still play.

Playing against much younger players – many of them college stars, Jeray covered the Mistwood layout in 4-under-par 212 for 54 holes but it wasn’t quite good enough. Jessica Porvasnik, of Hinckley, Ohio, was one shot better.

Jeray, though, put excitement into what had been a quiet final round. She used a 4-hybrid from 177 to get within two feet of the cup at Mistwood’s dramatic par-3 fourteenth hole. After that is was Game On!

At that point Jeray and Porvasnik, her playing partner, weren’t sure where they stood on the leaderboard. The only threesome behind them was dropping two holes behind and scores provided on the course were suspect.

Porvasnik just knew that she was in a battle with Jeray, and Jeray was aware of the same thing. Not only did Jeray make her spectacular birdie at No. 14, she also birdied the 15th, a par-5, from 10 feet and rolled in a birdie putt of the same length at the par-4 seventeenth.

That birdie binge put Jeray in position to achieve a lifetime dream. She wanted to win the IWO in three decades, having previously won in 1998 and 2003.

“I wanted to. It would have been fun,’’ said Jeray, “but she (Porvasnik) birdied 18.’’

In addition to her two IWO wins Jeray lost the title in playoffs in 2010 and 2013. Her birdie run got Porvasnik’s attention.

“After she stuffed a couple in there I knew that last hole really meant something,’’ she said. Porvasnik rolled in a 15-footer to assure a win over Jeray, then had to wait for the last threesome to finish.

Two players in the final group, Kasey Miller, a professional from Findlay, Ohio, and amateur Kaho Monica Matsubara, finished at 4-under and tied with Jeray. None could beat Porvasnik’s score. Matsubara, who attends Northwestern, was the tourney’s low amateur.

.Porvasnik played collegiately at Ohio State and became the second consecutive IWO winner from a Big Ten school. Northwestern’s Hana Kim won in 2018, then captured the Tennessee Open the next week. Porvasnik hopes to do the same thing and she’ll go into that tournament on a roll. Previously she had top-10 finishes in the state opens in Colorado and Michigan.

Immediately prior to coming to Mistwood Porvasnik survived the Monday qualifying for an LPGA tournament in Toledo, Ohio, and made the 36-hole cut there to earn her first check on the circuit — $4,083. She added $5,000 for her win at Mistwood.

Though she’s primarily a teacher now Jeray isn’t done competing. She is first alternate to play in a Legends Tour event in Janesville, Wis., and has spots in both the LPGA Teaching Division national championship and Senior LPGA Championship before the season is out.

“I have just enough tournaments for me to keep me on my game,’’ said Jeray. “I like being a teacher, It’s rewarding, and I’m getting really good at it.’’

Local players won’t be among first 30 women to compete at Augusta National

Jennifer Kupcho has been at the top of the leaderboard throughout the first 36 holes.

EVANS, Ga. — The 30 women who will be the first to compete on Augusta National’s famed course were decided on Thursday. NCAA champion Jennifer Kopcho, the Wake Forest senior and No. 1 in the Official World Amateur Rankings, headed the list after playing two rounds at Champions Retreat in 5-under-par 139.

Champions Retreat, a private club that has one nine designed by Arnold Palmer and the other by Jack Nicklaus, was the warmup site for the ground-breaking tourney’s grand climax – the final 18 on Augusta National on Saturday.

All the select players in the international field will get in a round on the famed course today. For the three players with Illinois connections among the 72 invited by Augusta National that will be the end of their tournament road. None came close to making the 36-hole cut.

Illinois junior Tristyn Nowlin tied for 52nd after posting a 76 on Thursday. She was 9-over-par for the tournament and six shots shy of the cut line. Northwestern senior Stephanie Lau tied for 69th after shooting an 81 on Thursday and Missouri junior Jessica Yuen, from Bolingbrook, had an 82 and tied for 71st. None were happy about bowing out of the competition without playing the final round.

Jennifer Kupcho, the world’s No. 1-ranked women’s amateur, celebrates with her father and caddie Mike after Thursday’s second round.


“I have to keep in mind that it was special to be part of something historic and play a small part in it,’’ said Lao, who was named the Big 10 Women’s Golfer of the Week on Wednesday off on her performance in last week’s Arizona State tournament. She shared medalist honors in that one and will leave on Saturday for Northwestern’s next tournament – the Silverado Showdown in California. It tees off on Sunday.

Lao will enter the professional ranks after Northwestern’s season is over and she looks on the Augusta experience as only a minor setback.

“I just try to look at it on a micro level and a macro level,’’ she said. “On the macro level I have to remember the big picture. On the micro-level, it’s still golf at the end of the day. I’m just trying to hone my skills and enjoy it as long as I can.’’

Nowlin is also off to a college event, the Clemson tournament, on Saturday after getting in her first competition of 2019 at Champions Retreat. She had been recovering from February wrist surgery until being cleared to play to weeks ago.

“I’m very glad to be back in competition,’’ she said. Her Illini team still has the Big Ten tournament and NCAA eliminations coming up.

Yuen’s Missouri team is doubtful for the NCAAs based on its current ranking but that could improve if the Tigers do well in the Southeastern Conference tournament. Like Nowlin, Yuen has battled a wrist injury and received her ANWA invitation only last week after another player withdrew because of injury.

“I wasn’t fully aware of this tournament until I got here,’’ said Yuen. “It’s huge, bigger than the U.S. Amateur.’’

At first, though, she wasn’t sure she should go because her game was struggling

“I’m glad I got the phone call,’’ she said. “I earned my way in, and my coach said I had to go. Playing here has been great. I’m so honored to be here.’’

Kupcho has either led solo or shared the lead throughout the first 36 holes. Her first bogey didn’t come until the 31st hole and she is still without a three-putt. Her lead, however, is only one shot over Mexico’s Maria Fassi.

Zoe Campos, a 16-year old California phenom, is in seventh place entering the final round.

With Thomas, Koepka and Fowler, this Honda Classic isn’t exactly without star power

With storm clouds forming during Wednesday’s pro-am, the Honda Classic could face weather issues.


PALM BEACH GARDENS, Florida – The field for today’s start of the Honda Classic isn’t very good, no doubt about it. Only three of the top 20 in the Official World Golf Rankings are here.

Clearly this $6.8 million event that has roots on the PGA Tour going back to 1972, when it was known as the Jackie Gleason Inverrary Classic, is a victim of the new scheduling by the circuit. Maybe four straight weeks of tournaments in Florida in March wasn’t such a good idea after all.

Still, all is not lost for the Honda Classic, an event that has been played under its current title since 1984 and been held at the Jack Nicklaus-designed Champions Course at PGA National Resort since 2007.

Those three top-ranked players are all in the world’s top 10 – defending champion Justin Thomas (3), reigning U.S. Open and PGA champion Brooks Koepka (4) and 2017 Honda champion Rickie Fowler (9). Thomas and Fowler will play together in the first two rounds – along with Billy Horschel – and there are few more attractive pairings in golf than that one.

Fowler and Thomas are residents of nearby Jupiter. They welcomed the home game tournament, while fellow area residents Dustin Johnson, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy did not. Johnson was even photographed nearby doing a commercial shoot for a watch company on Tuesday night.

The champion of last week’s World Golf Championship event in Mexico, Johnson opted for some time off with bigger events like The Players Championship and Masters closing in. You can’t really criticize Johnson for making that decision either. I’d call it understandable.

Wheaton’s Kevin Streelman is all about Chicago-based Wilson in the Honda Classic pro-am.


Decades ago the PGA Tour made an effort to group tournament in the same geographic areas to simplify travel plans for the players. Remember the days when – in a three-week period — the Western Open, Greater Milwaukee Open and Quad Cities Classic (or whatever the now more established John Deere Classic was called back then) – came on successive weeks?

Such scheduling concerns aren’t a factor any more. Thomas didn’t even accept the suggestion that tournaments scheduled close together might help him “get in a comfortable groove.’’

“I’m probably playing just two (of the four on this Florida Swing),’’ he said. “It’s a shame because this is such a great stretch of golf tournaments. It’s just not possible for us to play all of them.’’

The Honda may suffer the most of them all. Woods and McIlroy have already committed to next week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill. The Players is — in the eyes most every player – a “fifth major’’ and an event not to be missed and the Valspar Championship on a course popular with the players and dates still allowing for a two-week break before the Masters.

“I know it’s unfortunate for this event,’’ said Thomas. “With this time in the schedule it had a lot of people that always play that just can’t play this year.’’

Plus, there are no guarantees for 2020.

“There’s so many great tournaments on the PGA Tour the whole season,’’ said Thomas. “At the end of the day, although we have respect for that tournament director, that tournament, that course, that city, whatever it may be, we have to think about ourselves and our bodies. What is going to produce our best golf? That’s what everyone is doing when they’re thinking of their schedule.’’

Going from the West Coast to the East Coast is not an easy transition, given the time zone changes. It’s hard to imagine that changing a year from now.

“The hardest part is the time,’’ said Thomas. “Not that it’s ever easy to wake up at 5:30 a.m. but it was really hard to wake up this morning at 5:30 (for an early teeoff in a pro-am). You’ve got to get used to that, getting your body clock back to where it should be.’’

Thomas won last year’s Honda thanks to a great wedge shot on the last hole of regulation play. It set up a birdie that preceded a playoff victory over Luke List. Thomas hasn’t won yet in the 2018-19 season but he has four top-10s in five starts in 2019.

His only practice round on this week’s course was in Wednesday’s pro-am, and five inches of rains fell in a two-hour period the night before.

“There’s a lot more positives to take from this year than negatives,’’ he said. “I’m very, very close to going on a little bit of a run. I just need to continue to stay patient and wait for good things to happen.’’

Even after heavy rains PGA National’s Champions course is ready for another Honda Classic.

Thomas Edison, Henry Ford were connected to this Florida course

The walls in the clubhouse at Fort Myers Country Club are filled with historic photos


FORT MYERS, Florida — Every state should have a golf trail like the one Florida has. The Florida Historic Golf Trail represents a most serious attempt to chronicle the state’s rich history in the sport, and the Trail lists 56 courses that have been open to the public for at least 50 years.

They’re all worth visiting if you want a glimpse into what Florida used to be, but there’s one that offers by far the most tantalizing historical perspective. Fort Myers Country Club dates back to 1917 and its early members included three American icons.

Famed inventor Thomas Edison, auto magnate Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone, founder of one of the first companies to manufacture automobile tires, were friends and neighbors who had winter homes a mile from what was then called the Fort Myers Golf & Yacht Club. It’s hard to imagine any golf club in that era having such a high-profile membership.

Edison definitely had a role in the course’s creation of a golf course. Its restaurant/lounge is named after him and his pictures dominate the walls inside. One has him pictured there with Ford.

“But,’’ said director of golf Rich Lamb, who has worked at the club for 43 years, “Thomas Edison was never much of a golfer and neither were Henry Ford or Harvey Firestone.’’

Their concurrent connection to the club, however, invites digging by golf historians. Add to the mix the role of legendary architect Donald Ross and you have an intertwining of the giants of both golf and industry from a century ago.

Friends Henry Ford and Thomas Edison were winter neighbors in Fort Myers.


Edison used Fort Myers as a winter vacation retreat from 1885 until his death in 1931. He was member of the board of directors when the club was known as the Fort Myers Golf & Yacht Club. He likely recommended Ross as the designer when the club decided to add a golf course.

“Tom was a persuader,’’ said Lamb. “He probably said they should get Donald Ross, and the old geezer was probably right.’’

Ross is the original architect of record and newspaper accounts have him meeting with 15-member board members on Dec. 8, 1916, and advising them that they had an ideal site to build a golf course. Ground-breaking came 10 days later and the course opened on Dec. 29, 1917. Ten years later the city of Fort Myers took over the operation of the club and has operated as a golf facility ever since.

Whether Ross ever set foot on the property after it became a golf course is somewhat in doubt. His presence on site couldn’t be confirmed in the most comprehensive book “Discovering Donald Ross’’ by golf architectural expert Bradley S. Klein. Klein, in a detailed listing of Rose designs, reported that Fort Myers Country Club didn’t open in 1928. That opening was also listed in a similar comprehensive work, “Golf, As It Was Meant To Be Played,’’ by Michael J. Fay. How both respected authors came up with the ’28 opening date is uncertain, but Lamb has no doubts about Ross’ on-site involvement with the course.

What likely happened was that Ross did a preliminary drawing of the 100-acre palm tree-filled property and Lamb suggests he made a few other visits during the construction period.

Ross.was in his final days working solo when the Fort Myers course was in the planning stages. James B. McGovern, who had just begun a long-time run as a Ross “associate,’’ was listed in newspaper accounts as having “supervised’’ the project and A.L. White, acting secretary of the Fort Myers Golf & Yacht Club, was also reportedly involved in the six-month construction process.

Lamb likens the creative process 102 years ago to what is common practice today, when major course designers work on several projects at a time and leave daily details to on-site staffers.

“Donald Ross did about 39 courses just in Florida,’’ said Lamb. “He was a big-time architect and I’m sure he had a big old staff.’’

McGovern maintained a low profile throughout his long career with Ross, and both were among the 13 charter members of the America Society of Golf Course Architects when it was created in 1947.

Edison and Ford reportedly enjoyed the course as players in the 1920s and Edison’s second wife, Mina, got her start in golf there. She made her debut with a whiff off the first tee in January of 1930 and shot 99 for her first nine holes. Mina, who was 19 years younger than Edison, got hooked on the game and immediately ordered a new set of clubs. She apparently didn’t use them much playing with her husband, who was then 83 years old and told reporters that golf was “too much work.’’

Edison, whose first wife Mary passed on two years before his marriage to Mina, died the following year and one published report had Mina deeding the property to the city of Fort Myers in her husband’s memory 16 years later. Lamb, though, said that Edison never had ownership in the club.

The course, which had been built for $60,000 with Bahia grass fairways and common Bermuda greens, remains popular with area players and the Edison and Ford estates nearby became museums and are tourist attractions.

In 1914, three years before the course’s centennial, architect Steve Smyers was brought in to oversee a $5.8 million renovation – the only major re-do in the club’s history.

Will the Trish Johnson Era continue at French Lick?

Cold, rainy weather ruled the day when the Honors Division was scheduled to compete at French Lick.


FRENCH LICK, Indiana – As far as tournament play on the Pete Dye Course here is concerned, this is definitely the Trish Johnson Era.

“And I hope it continues,’’ said Johnson on Sunday – the last practice day before Monday’s start of the second Senior LPGA Championship. This is the last major championship of 2018 on any of the American pro golf tours.

Johnson made her debut on the Pete Dye Course in The Legends Championship of 2016, finishing second to Juli Inkster. Inkster was making her Legends debut in that tournament. She returned to defend her title in 2017, but Johnson dethroned her in a six-hole playoff.

Trish Johnson was in a good mood for her .pre-tourney press conference


Last year, when the tournament was transformed into the Senior LPGA — and the first-ever major for the older women players – Johnson was a wire-to-wire winner. Inkster, who had a broadcasting assignment at the U.S. Women’s Open, didn’t play at French Lick last year but she’s back for this week’s tournament. That doesn’t rule out Johnson as the tournament favorite.

“Second-first-first. I love it here,’’ said Johnson. “This course suits my eye.’’

But it looks a little different going into the 54-hole tournament that tees off on Monday. The previous tournaments on the Pete Dye Course were played in July. This one is in October, and the weather hasn’t been pleasant. Temperatures were in the 40-degree range with intermittent rain for the three pre-tournament days and Monday’s forecast is for similar weather.

“Monday will be survival day,’’ said Johnson. “A round of level par would do very nicely. After that it looks like it’ll be a bit nicer.’’

Johnson has played in only nine tournaments this year and describes her play as “very intermittent.’’ She was third behind Dame Laura Davies in the inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open at Chicago Golf Club and had one Legends win, in the Suquamish Clearwater Cup.

Caddies had it as tough as the golfers did in trying to cope with Sunday’s cold weather.


This week’s 81-player field includes four World Golf Hall of Fame members – Inkster Davies, Hollis Stacy and Jan Stephenson, whose selection was announced last week – and eight countries are represented among the starters.

The field also includes the winners of four LPGA major championships and there are four Illinois players in the field headed by Berwyn’s Nicole Jeray, who was seventh in the tournament last year and accepted a teaching position at Mistwood in Romeoville earlier this week.

Jaime Fischer, a teaching pro at Conway Farms in Lake Forest, made the starting field at this week’s qualifying round. Fischer also was a qualifier for the U.S. Senior Women’s Open and survived the 36-hole cut at Chicago Golf Club. There won’t be a cut at French Lick. Other players with Illinois backgrounds in the field are Audra Burks, of Springfield, and Nancy Scranton, who grew up in Centralia.

A bundled up Martha Nause lines up a putt in the Honors Division scramble.

Pinehurst Brewing Company already adds a lot to this golf mecca

Pinehurst Resort has kept up with the times golf-wise since its opening in 1895, and our regular visits over the last 20 years have described the many new things that Pinehurst has contributed to the golf world. It goes far beyond the big tournaments that have been played there.

This time, though, our report on what’s new in Pinehurst golf-wise can wait for a day. Not to take anything away from the golf side, but the resort broadened its reach when the Pinehurst Brewing Company opened a week ago.

While Pinehurst Resort has always been long on amenities for its guests, the Pinehurst Brewing Company is something that is both beneficial and needed. Now the resort has something that attracts locals as well as out-of-towners. That was obvious in our visit; we arrived early on a weekday night, waited briefly in line before being seated and left with the place packed.

From power plant to microbrewery, this place has stood for over 120 years.

Getting a handle on Pinehurst Brewing Company isn’t as easy as it might seem. Yes, it’s a brewery. Eric Mitchell came in from Heist Brewing Company in Charlotte to be Pinehurst’s first brewmaster. While the restaurant has been open a few days, the brewery has not. The debut of Mitchell’s craft beers, though, I’m told is imminent.

This 10-barrel brewery, not surprisingly, includes a restaurant with a unique style of pizza and sandwiches dominating the menu for now. While there are TVs scattered throughout the place, it’s no sports bar. It’s much more than that. There’s both indoor and outdoor bars and dining, and over 200 patrons can be accommodated at a time.

Moving forward, however, Pinehurst Brewing Company is more than just a place to eat and drink beer. Just a few days into its existence, it’s clear that Pinehurst Brewing Company is also am historical landmark.

The building that houses the brewery-restaurant was known as the Village Power House, and the steam it produced allowed the Holly Inn to welcome its first guests in 1895. The Holly Inn, of course, is still going strong.

As for the Village Power House it was in operation into the 1990s, then was shuttered and slated for demotion. The wrecking ball never came, however, and that’s turned out a good thing.

As much of the power plant as possible has been incorporated into the building of the Pinehurst Brewing Company and artifacts from it serve as table decorations. The original brick walls are still there and the historic smokestack will be rebuilt.

The entire place will be a work in progress for a while. Even in its early days, though, the Pinehurst Brewing Company adds a lot to an already special place.