Fox Chapel area gears up for Constellation Senior Players Championship
Cold wet weather isn't typically a golfer's dream.
But Fox Chapel Golf Club Superintendent Jason Hurwitz couldn't be happier heading into next week's Constellation Senior Players Championship.
“It's great for the health of the turf,” said Hurwitz, of the recent heavy rainfall. “It's growing nicely and the rough is thick and lush now.”
With a grounds crew of nearly three dozen, Hurwitz is in the final days of preparing the famously meticulous course for the likes of 2012 winner Joe Daley, Tom Watson, Tom Kite, Colin Montgomerie and Greensburg native Rocco Mediate, all competing for part of a $2.7 million purse.
The Constellation Senior Players Championship is one of five championships on the PGA schedule for professionals older than 50.
It hits town June 25 to 30 with crowds of up to 10,000 a day eager to see some of the game's best names. In all, 81 players will hit the legendary 1923 Seth Raynor-designed course uniquely contoured into the rolling landscape.
The elevated, multi-tiered greens were built into the existing farmlands, as was Raynor's signature style. It is consistently ranked among the Top 100 classic courses in the nation.
Hurwitz said the course is so distinctive that even the touring pros don't play one like it very often. Senior Players Championship Executive Director Joe Rotellini said many who competed last year wanted to return here.
“A lot of them had never played the course and they liked it,” he said, from a makeshift PGA office near the first hole.
It was a coup for Fox Chapel Golf Club when it was announced it would host the mid-summer event in 2012, after being played elsewhere five straight years in the fall. Broadcast in 141 countries, it puts Fox Chapel on a national stage.
It also impacts the local economy. Last year, more than 53,000 fans turned out over the six-day event, despite soaring temperatures.
“It was 104 degrees last year,” Hurwitz said.
Tickets start at $20 and are on sale now. Children younger than 18 are free with a paying adult. Military personnel also are free with a valid ID, courtesy of Heinz.
It was easy to see this week that preparation for the championship is in full swing. At almost every turn on the course, crews are working to erect grandstands, post signs and repair turf. More than 1,000 volunteer packages were distributed. A few diseased pine trees were removed. Bleachers were repositioned for better viewing, Rotellini said.
“One week out and we're on schedule,” he said.
New this year is the Dick's Sporting Goods Spectator Village near the 17th Hole. The tent will include interactive fun with golf simulators and putting greens.
“The excitement is palatable,” said retired teacher Joe Carmen, who works three days a week at the course, zipping in a cart across the landscape to collect practice balls. He said spectators are in for a treat.
“It's a beautiful course, with the best players coming in.”
And it's not just local golf enthusiasts who are eager to revel in the high-profile event.
More than $500,000 was raised in last year's inaugural PGA stop to distribute to area non-profits like the Cooper-Siegel Community Library, Aspinwall Marina and First Tee of Pittsburgh, a group that blends athletics with life skills instruction.
“It was exciting to have the PGA senior players just down the street from us last summer, and we look forward to their return,” said library Executive Director Stephanie Flom. The library in Fox Chapel received a $20,000 donation.
“To generate more than $500,000 in our first year in Pittsburgh and to positively impact 17 well-deserving charitable organizations in this community is a truly remarkable achievement that speaks to the commitment of this community, Constellation as a title sponsor, the members of Fox Chapel Golf Club and everyone who played a role in making it a success,” Rotellini said. “The (event) has a home in Fox Chapel Golf Club for the next two years and I know everyone involved with the event will work tirelessly to continue to allow this tournament to positively impact worthy charities throughout Pittsburgh.”
Since 1992, the event has raised more than $8 million.
Having hosted the Senior Players Tour last year relieves some of the pressure, Hurwitz said. Still, it's hard to escape the countdown to the international spotlight.
“We like to think we set the bar pretty high,” he said. “But we still want to bump it up a notch.”
Tawnya Panizzi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-782-2121, ext. 2 or at email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.