Back 9: Inverness Wants Another U.S. OpenWritten by Fred Altvater | | BackNine@toledofreepress.com
The U.S. Senior Open to be held at Inverness Country Club July 28-31 is the second Champions Tour event to be held at the historic course. It also hosted the 2003 U.S. Senior Open won by Bruce Lietzke. Tom Watson finished just two shots back and only three players were able to better par for the week. Inverness members see their facility as much more than Champions Tour venue, however. They are hoping that this year’s tournament is a preview of a return of the U.S. Open to Inverness.
Inverness has been the site of four U.S. Opens. The 1920 Open was the maiden appearance for eighteen year old golf prodigy, Bobby Jones, and the 1931 Open was his last appearance in tournament competition after winning the “Grand Slam of Golf” the year before. The 1957 field included another golfing prodigy, a little known, pudgy, blonde haired, long hitter from Columbus, Jack Nicklaus. Hale Irwin won the 1979 Open which is remembered as the year that the famous “Hinkle Tree” was added to the par five 8th hole to prevent long hitting Lon Hinkle from cutting across the 17th fairway to create an easier approach shot to the green.
Donald Ross is credited as designing Inverness although local legend gives much of the credit for the overall design to S. P. Germain, who had designed and built Ottawa Hills Golf Club in 1899. The course has been lengthened and updated over the years and meets the requirements for today’s long hitting professional golfers. Inverness has an exemplary history and is one of the greatest classic golf courses in the United States. In addition to the four U. S. Opens and two U.S. Senior Opens, Inverness has hosted two PGA Championships, and the U. S. Amateur in 1973.
Some questions persist for the USGA to grant Inverness another shot at a big boy tournament. Can Inverness handle the huge crowds that come to watch the greatest golfers in the world ply their craft? A course rerouting for this year’s Senior Open should answer that question and create wider alleys for the fans to move easily about the grounds and provide sufficient viewing areas.
The course itself is the star in the equation and the rerouting has yielded a surprise to the extent that holes No. 13 to No. 18 will contain four par 4’s in excess of 450 yards and a 228 yard par 3. The “Back 9” will be a severe test for the leaders on Sunday afternoon and should provide tremendous drama for the golf fan watching the event. The course will play to 7,143 yards for the Senior Open and could probably be stretched to nearly 7,500 yards for an Open. The normal date for the tournament is in the middle of June over the Father’s Day weekend. That time of the year would assure that Inverness is firm and fast making the rolling, tight fairways and the small undulating greens be their most challenging. Want total risk/reward? How about shortening No. 18 to a 325 yard driveable par 4.
Another concern is the market size of Toledo. With its proximity to Detroit, Cleveland, and even Columbus the turnstiles should be spinning. Will local corporate support be onboard to the extent it takes to fund a major event such as the U.S. Open? The local business community has proven over the years that its support for the Jamie Farr LPGA event and two U.S. Senior Open tournaments is second to none. Tournament Director, Judd Silverman, and his management team are experienced, provide a solid link with the local business community, and have the talent necessary to successfully run an event of that magnitude.
The Jamie Farr annually requires 1,500 volunteers to assure that the tournament runs smoothly and efficiently. The U.S. Open would require about 2,000 volunteers. Local charities and golf fanatics will gladly fill up the needed slots if the USGA should deign to bless Toledo with another Major.
The USGA is taking a good hard look at this list and checking it twice. So when you attend the U.S. Senior Open at Inverness in July, take a moment to appreciate all of the golf history that surrounds you. Pay homage to “The Father of Toledo Golf”, S. P. Germain, Donald Ross, Bobby Jones, and Byron Nelson, head golf professional at Inverness from 1940 to 1944 and winner of 11 consecutive PGA tournaments in 1945. Also understand the significance for the future of golf in Toledo to attract another U.S. Open to the northwest Ohio area and add another notch to fabled history of Inverness.