A Showcase at the Gallery
The 43rd Pacific Coast Amateur Championship will reach back in its glorious past by honoring one its former champions on one of his newest design creations. Architect John Fought was simplygolfer John Fought when he captured the 1975 PCAC at the historic Olympic Club outside San Francisco.
After a steady, but unspectacular professional playing career, Fought turned to golf architecture, where he has become an accomplished leader in the field.The 2009 Pacific Coast Amateur, to be played near Tucson July 28-31, will be on the South Course of the Gallery Golf Club, which he designed.
“I love that tournament,” Fought said. “I have so many good memories. It will be good to see how the young guys match up on the course.” The 5-year-old, par-72 South Course has already earned plenty of acclaim as the site of the World Golf Championship/World Match Play Championship.
Now the Fought desert design about 20 miles outside Tucson will test the same type of top amateur player he was nearly 35 years ago. “The players this summer won’t have the experience and short-game skills as the top 64 players in the world each February, but it will still be fun to see how they compare,” said Gallery head professional Paul Nolen, who has been at the course since it opened.
“I expect to see plenty of low scores, but probably some high ones as well,” Nolen added.
The Pacific Coast Amateur annually draws some of the top college and amateur players in the country, with an invitation-only field of 90 amateurs competing in the 72-hole stroke play event. Amateurs can apply for an invitation or members of the Pacific Coast Golf Association can invite top players. The champion receives a gold medal from the Pacific Coast Golf Association, along with a trophy, which has been renamed in honor of Tucson’s own Ed Updegraff, who in 1967 was the firstPacific Coast Amateur winner. While The Gallery had been the site of the WGC/World Match Play since 2007, this will be the first major amateur competition held on the South Course. “We’re interested in having the top events out here and this was certainly a good one to get, especially with John’s connections to the event,” Nolen said.
“We are all respectful of the amateur game and we figured this would be a quality event for a quality course,” added Gallery general manager Phil Satterfield. Last year, former University of Houston player Jordan Irwin became the second Canadian in a row to capture the PCAC title in his native British Columbia. He used the win to cap a stellar college career and help his transition to the professional level; he now is playing on mini-tours in Arizona and Canada.
This will be the Pacific Coast’s fourth visit to Arizona, with the last two being played at Forest Highlands in Flagstaff, most recently in 2001.
“We want to play on the top courses in the West Coast area.We have a loose rotation system. If the course proves itself, we’ll want to come back,” said Bob Thomas, longtime media relations with the PCGA.”
The list of players who have won the Pacific Coast Amateur title includes some well-known players, among them Ben Crane, Jason Gore, Billy Mayfair and Mike Reid. But the 2009 event will mark the first time the event has been held at a course designed by a past champion. Nolen said when players arrive to tackle Fought’s design, some may wish he had remained a player instead of turning his considerable talents to designing courses.
“Certainly the conditions will be a bit different in July than they are for the pros in February, but the strength of this course will always be the green complexes,” Nolen said.
In the wintertime, the fairways are mainly a rye mixture, but in the summer for the amateurs, they will be a dominant bermuda. The greens are a bentgrass hybrid, which can get very fast depending on how low they are cut.
The professionals played the South Course at just over 7,400 yards, sometimes shortening a few of the par 4s in order to encourage players to attempt to drive the green. Nolen said the Pacific Coast Golf Association is likely to try something similar, which should make for some exciting golf.
But for Fought, it’s personal. It’s a chance to relive some of his best competitive memories and showcase the promising direction his other career has taken him.