Aronimink basks in positive exposure

Aronimink basks in positive exposure 

The players loved the golf course, although they didn't care for a few of the pin placements every day 

July 5th 2010  

When the members of Aronimink Golf Club put their stamp of approval on taking on the AT&T National event 20 months ago, they wished for a week of beautiful weather, big crowds, favorable reactions from the players, and, when it was all over, a worthy, gracious winner. 

They went 4 for 4, and certainly more than a few glasses were raised in a toast Sunday night in the Aronimink clubhouse celebrating a week that was better than their wildest dreams could have imagined. 

"It was a lot of hard work, and everything came together, maybe a little bit better than we expected," longtime member and Champions Tour player Jay Sigel said. "To have a big tournament like this, I thought we did a heck of a job. I heard a lot of very favorable comments." 

The weather turned more July-like Sunday, with temperatures in the mid-90s, but for the most part, it was sunny and beautiful, no worries about summer storms or oppressive humidity. 

The crowds were massive, exceeding 40,000 Friday and Saturday and approaching 36,000 on a busy holiday. The week's total of 192,633 was less than 1,500 short of the tournament record, set at Congressional Country Club outside Washington. 

The players loved the golf course, although they didn't care for a few of the pin placements every day. But that's the purview of the PGA Tour, not Aronimink, and tour pro and club member Sean O'Hair had a suggestion for next year. 

"I'd like to see them speed up the greens the way we normally play them and have a little bit better pins," O'Hair said. 

"The guys loved the condition of the golf course, and they like the layout a lot. The only thing I heard was, some of the pin positions were a little bit Mickey Mouse. But you know the greens were slow enough to where you could do that." 

Aronimink finished with a stroke average of 71.218 for the tournament, the second-toughest of the seven par-70 courses that have hosted a tour event this year. A total of 109 sub-par scores were carded over the four days. 

Justin Rose had three of them, and with a final-round 70, he captured the Liberty Bell Trophy, plus a check for $1,116,000. 

No two people were more delighted with the week than Aronimink president David Boucher and past president Mike Higgins, the tournament chairman, who are on a personal campaign to increase the course's visibility with Golf Digest and others who rate golf courses. 

Officials easily moved people from parking lots, through the gates, and around the 300-plus acres of the golf course property every day. Favorable reviews were heard for the concessions and the fan-enhancement areas between the ninth and 18th fairways. 

"You put the golf course on a national stage, and you wonder how the players will react to it," Boucher said. "The reaction has been so great. The other great thing has been the reaction of the spectators, the patrons, in terms of their parking, how you get them here, how you handle the crowds once you get them here. We handled 45,000 people without much of a problem." 

The same reaction was heard from the Tiger Woods Foundation, the tournament organizer, which offered its namesake - the world's No. 1 player - to provide a jolt to the gate. 

"The club has been amazing," said Emily Taylor, the foundation's vice president of communications. "They've been supportive of it from the beginning. They were wonderful to work with in setting up. The members were great, the leadership was great. So it was a really good experience from our perspective." 

Even Woods, the unofficial tournament host, who had a forgettable week on the golf course, appreciated the support of area fans. 

"This is a huge sports town," he said, "and for them to come out and support our event like this, they were loud, boisterous and extremely respectful, and that's all any tournament would want to have. We're lucky to have them here." 

Another check for Aronimink was the TV coverage, which constantly raved about the course, strengthening the club's chance to get on the radar of both the U.S. Golf Association and the PGA of America, and perhaps attract a major. 

"We've now gotten our course exposed on a national scale," Boucher said. "I think everybody has known that Aronimink has been a great golf course, but then to get it exposed like this, to get the kind of player reaction, to get the commentator reaction that we've gotten from CBS and the Golf Channel, has been spectacular. 

"But the other part of it is, we have parking, we can handle the crowds with relative ease, so all of that is important as you put yourself out there as a possible site for a larger tournament." 

The club hosted a Senior PGA in 2003 and feels it has a good relationship with PGA of America officials. Sigel has a long relationship with the USGA going back to his lengthy amateur career, and Aronimink officials believe they can get a meeting with the association. 

The USGA has been to the course twice before, for the 1977 U.S. Amateur and the 1997 U.S. Junior Amateur. 

The club and the Tiger Woods Foundation will take roughly a month to evaluate how the week went, and then meet to discuss any changes, improvements or new strategies for next year's AT&T National. That includes player feedback that tournament director Greg McLaughlin will gather. 

"It's going to be a tough act to follow with the weather and everything," Higgins said. "The weather really cooperated. We had four splendid days. But we're going to have a critique with the Tiger Woods people and the tour, and we'll go over things there. There will be a few things we can tweak." 

Until then, the officials and the members will bask in the warmth of a week they won't soon forget. 

Joe Juliano – The Philadelphia Inquirer