How would you like to get paid to be a golf spectator?
Don't laugh. It could happen thanks to an innovative — some might say
crazy or desperate — idea for this week's inaugural Greenbrier Classic.
The tournament is being played at the famed Greenbrier Resort, which
is in a remote location 90 minutes from Roanoke, Va., and two
hours from Charleston, W.Va.
Here's the deal: The 18th hole is a par 3 and if any player
during the tournament makes an ace there, Greenbrier owner Jim Justice
will pay $1 million to the pro and his favorite charities ($250,000 to
the player, $750,000 to charity) and give everyone sitting in the
stands at the 18th $100. A second ace the same day will generate
another $1 million bonus and fans will get $500. A third ace will pay
$1,000 to the fans.
"I hope we have a lot of fun with it," Justice told the media.
Golfweek.com explained how the bonus will work:
Fans seated in the 18th hole grandstand will receive a card. If
they leave, even to go to the bathroom, they have to relinquish their
"What I'm worried about is giving everybody in the stands a
thousand bucks," Justice said. "You give everybody in the stands a
thousand bucks three times for four days, that's $6.8 million to go
into the stands. You know, you would have to have an armed guard out
Justice agreed to pay for as many as three aces per day. The 162-yard
closing hole with its horseshoe contoured green is where Sam Snead
recorded his 35th and final hole-in-one in 1995.
CEO: "Count Me In!"We have a winner for the Bad Idea of the Year. The honoree is Ray Halbritter CEO of the Oneida Nation Enterprises and the man responsible for landing the Turning Stone Resort Championship on the PGA Tour schedule. It was a second-tier Fall Series event last year, and now it's a second-tier regular tour event because it will be played opposite the World Golf Championship Bridgestone Invitational next week.
Halbritter's bad idea? He decided to give himself one of the tournament's four sponsor exemptions. Never mind that he's 60 and that he claims to be a 2 handicap. Never mind that this idea wasn't approved by some committee. Halbritter is the man who calls the shots. He unapologetically decided to award himself the exemption.
Former NFL star Jerry Rice, who claimed to be a 0 handicap, teed it up in two Nationwide Tour events this year. One was in the Bay Area, where his celebrity legitimately may have sold some tickets. Rice shot 83-76 and missed the cut by a mile. Then Rice used his fame to wrangle an invite for a second Nationwide event, where he shot an embarrassing 92 and then was disqualified for using a range-finder, an even more humiliating gaffe. Rice seemed to be a lock for Bad Idea of the Year. Until now.
Apparently, the media in upstate New York isn't going to call out Halbritter for wasting space in a field where players are battling for position on the money list to keep their jobs for 2011. The Post-Standard's Bud Poliquin columnized on the topic and not only didn't criticize Halbritter, but also showed he just doesn't get it, either:
You know Ray. He's the exalted CEO of Oneida Nation Enterprises and … also the guy who embraces the notion of "I can … and I shall."
That he's likely to shoot in the 80s and miss the cut is not the point. Troy Merritt missed seven cuts in a row earlier this season and he's in the TSR field. And nobody's beefing about that.
No, at issue is Ray's chutzpah, which would fill a fair-sized wheelbarrow. Fact is, because Halbritter, a self-proclaimed 2-handicapper (cough, cough) will be among those 144 in pursuit of a slice of the $4 million purse, some put-upon card-carrying pro won't be.
Let's do the arithmetic here. The Bridgestone Invitational should attract the top 80 players in the world to Akron. The next 140-ish best players will descend upon Verona. So if my ciphering is correct, Halbritter's gift to himself would come at the expense of that poor soul ranked around No. 221 in the world. With all the real problems in golf — like, for instance, John Daly's pants — how is it that people have to worry about this, um, outrage?
Halbritter isn't going to make the cut. A 2-handicapper is about seven shots worse than the worst player in the field, and that's if he's a legit 2 and not a vanity 2 because of the CEO rule –"That one's good, boss, pick it up" — or because of mulligans, breakfast balls and gimmes. The only question is whether this 60-year-old will break 90 and not be such a big distraction that he gets in the way of his playing partners.
Sometimes a celebrity sideshow can spark interest in a tournament. Michelle Wie as a 13-year-old played in the Hawaiian Open. Washington Redskins quarterback Mark Rypien teed it up in a tour event and did every bit as badly as Rice, but generated attention for the old Kemper Open.
Maybe Halbritter will succeed in that. It's his tourney. He's not going to be competitive. And one more thing, sir: Range finders aren't allowed.
Back in the LimelightErin Hills is back in the news again. First, this little-known and still relatively new course in Wisconsin was awarded the 2017 U.S. Open, which was announced during Open week at Pebble Beach.
And after another round of renovations and improvements, the course will reopen Saturday, reports Gary D'Amato in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. D'Amato has frequently chronicled the course's short but troubled history and the good news is that finally, apparently, the owners got it right and the course is good to go:
Erin Hills is barely four years old and already has been closed twice for renovations. It's had more plucking and tucking than an aging Hollywood starlet yet has emerged looking more stunning than ever. Along with Whistling Straits, which hosts the 92nd PGA Championship in two weeks, the "new" Erin Hills gives Wisconsin a one-two punch of championship golf unmatched in the Midwest.
To walk Erin Hills today is to understand why the USGA is so enamored of the inland links… Some 300 trees have been removed; it's the perfect example of less is more. Wide, emerald fairways framed by huge, jagged-edged bunkers create jaw-dropping views from almost every tee. The greens are, in a word, perfect. The best in Wisconsin? With apologies to Milwaukee Country Club, perhaps.
Erin Hills still is a bit rough around the edges. The recent rains washed away some seed and exposed a couple of drainage problems. The practice area, still under construction, will be among the nation's finest, highlighted by an enormous 360-degree range… and a short-game area.
Construction is just starting on a second clubhouse and three cottages
and owner Andy Ziegler is at least contemplating a second 18-hole
course. He's a hands-on owner for whom money is no object and
excellence is the lowest acceptable standard. In my opinion, it won't be long before Erin Hills is a top-20 course in the United States. It's that good.
One interesting thing about Erin Hills is that it will be a walking-only course. No carts. Caddies will be available.