A few final thoughts from the ASGCA meeting at Pinehurst:
... From the you-won't-read-it-here department, my only disappointment at the architects' gathering (other than my golf game at CCNC) was what I didn't get to report on. Monday's agenda was highlighted by a panel discussion on course setup for tournament play, a well-worn subject these days but always interesting nevertheless. What made this one attractive was the all-star lineup on the panel -- the likes of Tom Marzolf of the ASGCA, Jon Scott and Steve Wenzloff from the PGA Tour, the PGA's Kerry Haigh, the USGA's Tim Moraghan and Paul Jett, CGCS, the superintendent at Pinehurst No. 2.
But, when I arrived reeling from my humbling at CCNC, I learned that the discussion would be closed to the media, at the request of the panelists, I was told. My main reaction then was this particular issue has become larger than life to the point that the principal people are now afraid someone might hear what they're saying. My reaction now is let's hope this doesn't become commonplace, especially concerning an issue that many superintendents find interesting.
That said, I managed to glean something good from the experience. I met up with another scribe banned from the event, Ron Whitten, Golf Digest's senior editor of architecture and an old acquaintenance from my newspaper sportswriting days back in Kansas. Ron complicated his hectic life a while back when he became an owner of a small golf course near Abilene, Kan. We at GCM have been thinking for some time that would make a good story. Ron and I made preliminary plans to do just that, hopefully this summer -- and you will read it here.
... Pinehurst's golf course management braintrust -- director of maintenance Brad Kocher, CGCS, and key superintendents Bob Farren, CGCS, and Jett -- are looking forward to a downturn in their activities for a while after the tumult from the 1999 and 2005 U.S. Opens. Other than pump-station renovations and miscellaneous projects, all three say this is expected to be a "quiet" year or so. I suspect that quiet for them at one of the world's busiest golf resorts has a different meaning than for the rest of us.
... Jim Awtrey was a gracious recipient of the ASGCA's highest honor, the Donald Ross Award, and offered up one of the better acceptance speeches than is usually heard at these sort of functions. Saying "the muzzle is off" after retiring from more than three decades with the PGA of America, Awtrey indeed let his hair down on a number of subjects, including a run at what the aforementioned panelists the next day didn't want to talk about in public.
While his comments will be covered more fully in the Front Nine section of the May GCM, here's a couple of small nuggets from Awtrey, whose positions with the PGA over the years included Championship tournament manager, executive director and CEO:
"Through the agronomic changes that have been made in golf we've moved to an era of perfect. Well, perfect in today's tournament golf is up, down and back -- the rough is up, the greens are down and the tees are back."
"Par is the enemy of the modern majors, and it might be the albatross of modern architecture."
"If you want less red (on the scoreboard), it would be simpler to adjust par than it would to do some of the things we've been doing."
Awtrey's lifetime commitment to the game began as a youngster on a Elks Lodge golf course in Oklahoma where he used to drive an old convertible loaded with beer around the course to quench the thirst of the members participating in a crabgrass-picking party. Don't you just love the myriad roots of common sense?