New greens give twist to Hall of Fame tournament
he 30th edition of the National Senior Amateur Hall of Fame tournament will pose a new challenge when 112 golfers tee it up for the first round today at High Point Country Club’s Willow Creek course.
The difference this time is it will be the tournament’s first go since the club switched its greens from bent grass to more heat-resistant Bermuda grass late last summer. The changeover began shortly after Paul Simson won last year.
The Bermuda grass greens are viewed as an improvement because they can survive without the watering that the bent grass required.
“I talked to a couple of players who got in practice rounds over the weekend and they seemed to like the Bermuda more,” said David Millis, a tournament co-chairman who will also play. “A lot of the guys who have played here never had a warm and fuzzy feeling about the bent grass.”
Millis was unsure what effect the new greens will have on scores. Simson, who will be trying to win for the fourth time in six years, holds the 54-hole event’s scoring record of at 10-under 206 but was tied at the end of regulation at 2-under 214 last year.
“One of the guys I talked to thought 2 or 3-under-par might win it and another said he thought 2 or 3-over might win,” Millis said. “But it’s hard to say. The breaks are totally different than on the bent grass. This is all new territory.”
Simson is one of four past champions enter. The others are 2011 winner Stan Lee, 2007 winner Ron Carter and 2001 winner Spencer Sappington, who will be inducted into the Senior Amateur Hall of Fame tonight and will compete in the Super Senior division for those 65 and over who elect to play a shorter course.
Raleigh resident Simson, a member of the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame, is the most accomplished player in the field, having won the U.S. Senior Open and the British Senior Open twice each. He will be paired today with Lee and former PGA player Vinny Giles, who has won the U.S. Amateur and British Amateur.
A number of area players are entered. Among them, in addition to Millis, are Mike Bivins, Matt Weis, Kim Mansfield, Brad Burris, Ernie Newton, Jim Carmichael, Steve Lambert, Steve Sharpe, Larry Boswell of Jamestown, Garland Yates of Asheboro, Logan Jackson of Winston-Salem and Arlis Pike of Kernersville.
Play will begin at 8 a.m., with afternoon tee times starting at noon. Those who play in the morning today will play in the afternoon on Thursday. The field will be cut to 45 seniors and 30 super seniors for Friday’s final round.