Preparing for Western Amateur


ROLAND — Intimidated by the hole location on No. 16 from the member tees as The Alotian Club, I can only imagine the view from the back tees that will be in play at the Western Amateur this week.

The day the media played, the flag was in a bowl in the back left portion of a green that is hard by a creek front and left. A play-safe hybrid to the right was pin high, leaving a chip beyond my skill level.

When that particular hole location is in play this week, the best amateurs in the world will go at it from 185 yards. In charge of laying out the course, Mark Scully of Houston will use more accessible areas of the green when the players are on the back tees at 225 yards.

Scully, who played college golf at Rice and who has been a member at The Alotian for five years, will take a similar approach on other holes. For example, on No. 6, there is a pin placement barely over a bunker that will be difficult to get at from the member tees at 175 yards and almost impossible from the back tees at 205 yards.

Scully’s week-long task — one he volunteered to do — is to mix and match tees, hole locations, speed of the greens, and the velocity and direction of the wind.

“We can’t determine the exact course set up until the tournament, when we know what circumstances Mother Nature has provided us,” he said. “But we definitely have a plan for different conditions — fast greens, slow greens, windy, etc. All I can say is that we will match the course set up to the course conditions that we are presented with.”

It is one thing to move tees way up and stick pins in the middle of the greens to facilitate fast play and low scores in a four-person scramble for a Monday fund-raiser and another to present a fair challenge for the best amateurs in the world. Scully will use eight hole locations per green once stroke play begins on Tuesday and an additional set of pin placements for Monday’s practice round, but the greens are large enough and have the necessary contour to accommodate.

During the tournament, Scully will blend left, right, and center pins each day, mingling front, center, and back portions of the greens.

From the tips on every hole, the course is more than 7,400 yards. During the tournament, it will play 7,200-7,300. Fairways on about a half-dozen holes were narrowed early in 2012. The first cut of rough will measure more than two inches and there will be a “savior” cut of four inches close to some, but not all, hazards.

Because of concern about the pace of play with 156 players who have minimal experience at The Alotian, the course set-up might be more generous on Tuesday and Wednesday. Beginning Thursday, only the low 44 scores and ties will be involved. By the time the field is narrowed to 16 for the match play portion on Saturday and Sunday, the survivors will have a good grasp of the dos and don’ts.

Scully says course conditions have been different each summer that he has been a member at The Alotian, but his familiarity with the course is a plus. “Certain hole locations may be incredible if the greens are slow and the course is wet,” he said. “Those same hole locations may be unfair if the greens are fast and the greens are hard.”

Asked if he was anxious to see how the players would approach a particular hole or a specific pin location, Scully responded: “To me, part of what makes The Alotian great is that there are 18 great golf holes. I am anxious to see how they manage their whole round.”

Me, too.

Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. His e-mail address is hking@arkansasnews.com.