Nationwide Tour is on Pittsburgh's side

Friday December 18th, 2009

CANONSBURG, Pa.—A good-sized group of folks piled into the Southpointe Golf Club clubhouse here Thursday morning on a beautifully sunny day. Not to play golf, though—it was 18 degrees outside. This was for a press conference to announce the Mylan Classic, a new Nationwide Tour event planned for the greater Pittsburgh area next summer.
“Those of us who came here from Florida appreciate the nice, balmy weather,” joked Tim Benton, the tour’s vice president of business affairs.
It was a cold day at Southpointe but a good one. Good for Southpointe, a business
park that fulfilled its once risky potential and now will get worldwide attention by hosting a Nationwide event. (Golf Channel coverage will be seen in more than 70 countries.)
Good for the Nationwide Tour, which has to work just as hard to find sponsors as the PGA Tour does in a down economy but has made good progress, including a new tournament in Bogota, Colombia.
Good for greater Pittsburgh, which will now host a pair of notable golf events in 2010—the other is the U.S. Women’s Open at Oakmont.
“Today
is only the beginning,” promised Wendy Cameron, a member Mylan’s board of directors. She said the company's growth in the last two years has made it the third largest generic and specialty pharmaceutical company in the world.
The
Pittsburgh area has been host to professional golf before. A Hogan tour event (the early Nationwide years) and a Champions tour event were played west of the city at Quicksilver. Oakmont has hosted assorted U.S. Opens and U.S. Amateurs. Laurel Valley has held a Senior PGA Championship, a Ryder Cup and the now-defunct Marconi Classic.
The Mylan Classic will be the first big tour event since the 2007 U.S. Open, won by Angel Cabrera at Oakmont. The new event is seen as something of a coup for Washington County, the area just south of Pittsburgh. Nemacolin Woodlands, well southeast of the city, had a short run as the site for the 84 Lumber Classic.
Rod Piatt, Southpointe’s president, said he needed all of “two or three seconds” to say yes when he first heard about the proposed tournament for his course. The club was built in 1993; the course was designed by Arthur Hills and is known for several of its unusual holes. The most notable is the par-4 fourth, 448 yards, a dogleg left that drops 100 feet in elevation at the corner of the dogleg, making it a blind tee shot and a drivable hole, depending on the tee placement. I know it's drivable because I played with a buddy who got a favorable bounce down the steep hillside and ended up on the elongated green's front edge. He played from the white tees, about 430 yards. (I promised I wouldn't mention his four-putt from about 100 feet.) Southpointe plays at just over 6,900 yards, and Piatt said the plan is to add four or five new tee boxes for length, and to re-do some bunkers and possibly make over the 18th green complex. “The guys on tour hit it so far that unless you’ve got 8,000 yards, the length isn’t going to put any pressure
on them,” Piatt said.
Tour player Jason Gore is looking forward to a return to Southpointe. He has family ties to the area—his mother is from Monroeville on the northeast side, and he still tells the story about how he was inspired to pursue golf after watching Arnold Palmer perform a clinic at Latrobe Country Club. Gore, a former 84 Lumber champion, spoke at the press conference through a telephone hookup a few minutes before he was scheduled to play in a two-man event on the Golden State Tour at PGA West in California.
Though he’d prefer to be on the PGA Tour, Gore says the Nationwide is a tremendous proving ground.
“I’ve been back and forth a bunch between the PGA and Nationwide tours, but it’ll be mostly Nationwide this year for me,” he said. “Obviously, the upper echelon on the PGA Tour is better, but otherwise you’ve got the same quality on the Nationwide. These guys are your Ernie Els and David Toms of the future. The guys out here have so much talent. It ’s a great place to play golf, I love it. I don’t think the Nationwide tour is a B-class field. There just isn’t enough room on the PGA Tour for all the great players who are out there.”
He also considers it a great spectator opportunity. “There are no sidelines, no
out of bounds markers—golf is pretty personal,” Gore said. “You can see it, you
can feel it, you can hear what’s going on.”
As for his up-and-down career, Gore said, “The best way I’ve heard it described is, golf is a hard way to make an easy living.”
The Mylan Classic will be played Aug. 30-Sept. 5 with a $600,000 purse, $108,000
going to the winner.

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