Notes From The US Senior Open: Monday

Inverness Hole 1 US Senior Open
This is tee of the first hole at Inverness in Toldeo, site of the 2011 US Senior Open. The tee box is shared by the first and tenth holes, and the two are separated by a small practice green. The flag is a USGA banner

Monday is a practice day at the US Senior Open, but there were very few actually going that here. From the schedule boards in the media room, just 56 players were out on the course today. The most notable: Loren Roberts and Hale Irwin. I walked the course but I sometimes went three holes without seeing a single player.

I think I was also one of just two or three media members there. I guess they already know that nothing much happens Monday.

I arrived at Inverness in Toledo at about 10 am, having got a much later start than planned, thanks to the diabolical hiding skills of the diabetic cat. I couldn’t find her to give her the insulin injection.

The media parking lot is just off Dorr Road in Toledo, directly across from the course. It’s in a very large field that apparently is part of the corporate campus of Healthcare REIT. It occurs to me that if you’re running a Major Championship—or any golf event for that matter—one of the most valuable attributes for a course is to have lots of parking space available. And there had better be lots of it for the prickly media types. It makes me wonder about the logistics of having a tournament at the Detroit Golf Club.

Registration was easy. Just inside the entrance and to the right of the pro shop and caddy shack is a large white media tent. The USGA had emailed me a temporary pass, and this got me in the door to the media registration desk. The media tent is basically a bunch of long narrow tables, covered with white cloths, arranged in rows in front of a podium and two large lcd monitors on poles. The televisions currently are showing the practice group times. To one side of the media tent is a curtained off area with food, drinks and (in a freezer) ICE CREAM for the media. Anything to keep them happy, I guess.

The internet access in the media tent is appallingly slow. I’m going to bring my wireless modem tomorrow.

My goal for day one was to walk the course and see what all I can find. As soon as I get home, I’m going to process the photos and upload them from a (much speedier) internet connection.

The course is mostly open, with scattered trees between holes. The setup the USGA is using is not the usual for the members, with (by my count) twelve holes involved in the re-routing. Along the way, I talked to a volunteer who had been a caddy at Inverness some 50 years ago. He said that he didn’t like the rerouting at first, but after thinking about it, understood what the USGA was doing. By changing the order of the holes, he said, the USGA packed the most difficult holes into the back stretch. Sixteen, seventeen and eighteen, he thought, would make all the difference on Sunday.

On eight, I watched several volunteers—bored for the lack of players to tend to—drop balls on the edge of the green at the back and watch them roll off the front. And that’s not the only place where holding a green is going to be a problem. Sixteen’s green is massive, with a green that looks to me like a bulldozer scoop, high at the back and sloping quickly down to the front, and from there a hundred feet down to the bottom of a hill. I watched a couple of guys land shots on seventeen, only to have the ball trickle off the front.

At one point, a volunteer noticed my camera and said to me: We have a beautiful course, don’t we? Which hole does the camera like the best?” I noted a couple where I thought the shots would come out well, particularly from the grandstands behind the green on seventeen.

The volunteer turned out to be a club member and he had his own opinion about the greens. “If we get past friday without any rain,” he said, “and the USGA decides to speed things up a little, it’s going to get nasty. Players won’t be able to hold many of the greens.”  He noted that the greens were fast today, even as the USGA watered heavily and cut the greens high to keep the heat from killing them. My friend the volunteer reiterated the opinion of the former caddy: sixteen and seventeen would be critical (sixteen usually is seven; seventeen and eighteen are unchanged).

The heat is definitely going to be an issue this week. It was appallingly hot out there today, even as a breeze cut through. In the middle of their first hole (the tenth for today) the group of Jeff Hart, Vic Wilk, Douglas Pool and Greg Galasso were drenched.

A bad sign (but good planning): there were a large number of Toledo emergency services guys walking around with portable defibrillators. I think they were waiting for a number of these guys (or spectators) to keel over.

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