By STEVE HANF
The planning has been in the works for some four years.
The event will last six days.
The relationship between Bryan Park Golf & Conference Center, the city of Greensboro and the United States Golf Association?
That could last a lifetime if all goes well from July 12-17 at the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship.
“We’re very excited about that, very cognizant of it, and not just for Bryan Park but for Greensboro in general,” said Kyle Kolls, the general manager and director of golf at Bryan Park. “This is not just a Bryan Park event, but a Greensboro event. We’re excited about the future. The Amateur Public Links is a great place to begin your relationship with the USGA. We would hope we’d continue to nurture and grow this relationship, and if there are bigger and better things to come from this we would be all excited to welcome those activities.”
Some of the best amateur golfers in the world will descend on the Champions course for two rounds of stroke play July 12-13. The top 64 then advance to match play over four days, with a 36-hole final set for Saturday.
Spectators are admitted free to the event, and there are plenty of reasons for folks to come out and watch. Besides the drama unfolding on each hole in the match play rounds, the field includes golfers who are on the cusp of becoming household names. Past winners include last year’s Wyndham Championship victor Ryan Moore (2002, 2004), former Wyndham winner Brandt Snedeker (2003) along with former Masters champion Trevor Immelman (1998), this year’s The Players Championship winner Tim Clark (1997) and D.J. Trahan (2000).
“This is the top amateur golfers in the world – the very best of the best, the future of the PGA Tour,” Kolls said. “One of the signs we have that we thought would be interesting for people to look at is a ‘past champions’ chart outside on the parking lot. Most people on that sign, people would know. Some of them will be lifelong amateurs, and that’s fine. But who knows? The next big name on the PGA Tour could be playing at Bryan Park this year.”
The folks at Bryan Park are making sure the course is a proper test. To begin with, the normal par-72 layout will be a par-71 covering 7,195 yards for the Public Links. The 487-yard third hole is being converted from a par-5 to a par-4 for the event.
“It’s a pretty easy par-5,” Kolls said, “but a good par-4.”
Kolls has spent nearly six years at Bryan Park, whose Champions course designed by Rees Jones opened in 1990 along scenic Lake Townsend. Much of the past four years have involved getting ready for this big week in July.
Following the announcement in 2006 about the Public Links coming to Greensboro, Kolls has been part of a group to visit last year’s site at Oklahoma University, the 2008 event in Aurora, Colo., and the 2007 Publinx contested in the Chicago suburb of Wheaton.
Each host club actually holds a kind of “passing of the torch” meeting filled with notes, charts, good ideas and bad – the works – for those in charge of the next Public Links, and Kolls and his staff will do that for the group from Bandon Dunes, Ore. A first for the 2011 Public Links will be having the men’s and women’s events contested at the same time and same site. This year’s women’s championship was held in late June at Notre Dame’s new course.
“We’ve been able to gain a lot of insight and a lot of the great ideas those tournaments had to this event and hopefully add some of our own ideas to make it even bigger and better,” Kolls said.
Lessons learned include seemingly trivial bits of information about having two different dining areas to alleviate congestion in the clubhouse or where best to place signage around the course. Kolls and his staff also learned how to recruit volunteers and train them, which is a big job in and of itself. In mid-June, Kolls had some 300 people registered online to help with the event, and the target was 350. Anyone interested in providing last-minute help, should it be needed, can check the course Web site at http://bryanpark.com/apl.
As for the course itself, plenty of other changes have been in the works other than resetting the front nine from a par-36 to par-35. Several new championship tee complexes were built and all bunkers redone, new irrigation was added in some areas and landscaping was improved throughout the course and clubhouse area. A bulkhead project was finished along the lake at the sixth green, and curbing was added to a lot of the cart paths to keep traffic away from strategic areas of the course.
Kolls lauded the efforts of the course’s entire staff, especially director of maintenance Kevin Smith and Champions superintendent Wes Crompton.
“These guys have put in tireless hours over the past few months and will be working even more and harder. The golf course is in tremendous shape and they deserve a tremendous amount of praise for making sure we all shine,” Kolls said. “One thing about Bryan Park, there’s a continual improvement here, always trying something to make the course better, more aesthetically pleasing. Our patrons, guests, players – they appreciate that and comment on it.”
Bryan Park was named after Joseph and Kathleen Bryan following their longtime support of the city of Greensboro. The 1,550-acre site is supported by the Bryan Foundation and City of Greensboro, while Pinnacle Golf Properties manages the Champions and Players courses. Kolls praised the support of Foundation general chairman Jim Melvin and honorary general chairman Michael Haley.
“There have been significant improvements made, obviously through the generosity of the Bryan Foundation,” Kolls said. “They have given us the resources and the guidance and the leadership to make sure we have the very best facility we can have, not just for the USGA and this tournament, but for the future long-term success of Bryan Park in general.”
The short-term picture certainly looks rosy. Long-term results may follow for the course, city and USGA. One even bigger bonus for the 2010 U.S. Amateur Public Links would be if a few locals made it into the field after the final upcoming qualifiers. Last year saw three North Carolina golfers – Corey Nagy of Charlotte, Robert Hoadley of Southern Pines and Robert Riesen of Pinehurst – make the cut from stroke play.
“It would obviously be very special to have some of our local talent play their way in,” Kolls said. “Last year we were a qualifying site and four players who made it from here to Oklahoma all made match play.”
N.C. Qualifiers held at Mill Creek Golf Club in Mebane June 22-23 and Hyland Golf Course in Southern Pines June 21-22. Qualifiers at Mill Creek were Josh Brock of Wilmington (68-68), Ryan Sullivan of Winston-Salem (69-71), Dusty Roberts of Reidsville (66-75) and Hogan Nance of Elon (72-71). Qualifiers at Hyland were Rob Simmons of Beaufort, S.C. (69-69), David Watkins of Hamlet (71-68) and Jonathan McCurry of Sanford (71-69).