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Pros have to make shots



Published: Sun, July 22, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Giant Eagle LPGA Classic comes to Squaw Creek Country Club this week and it might just be the best thing that could happen for the 144 women professionals who will be competing this week.

For the past eight years this tournament has been held at Avalon Lakes Golf Course, about 2 or 3 miles down the road in Howland Township.

The LPGA players have had their way with Avalon Lakes over the years with winning scores running from 10-under-par to a record 17-under back in 1999 by Jackie Gallagher-Smith.

Over a year ago Avalon Lakes underwent a complete renovation under the guidance of famed course designer Pete Dye. What Dye recreated was nothing short of unbelievable.

But because the renovation ran right up until the week before the tournament the LPGA would take no chances on the conditions. They put a lift-clean-place rule into effect.

Defenseless: They wouldn't permit the roughs to be left high and instructed pin placements and tees to be put in relative easy positions. In other words they left the golf course defenseless.

When Avalon Lakes owner Ron Klingle and Giant Eagle Tournament manager Eddie Thomas has their final disagreement the two parted ways and Thomas took the tournament to Squaw Creek late last season.

Avalon Lakes is now a very well conditioned, demanding golf course and I could guarantee that if left to play as it can, would drive the women pros crazy.

A year ago Avalon Lakes greens superintendent Bob Mizicko was barely able to get the green speeds to 10 on the stimp meter. This year the greens are rolling like crazy and on Pete Dye greens that only means problems for the players.

I don't think there would be double-digit under-par scores winning the tournament if it was still at Avalon Lakes, but then again the course will only play as tough as the LPGA will let it play.

Some people look back at the three years of the Phar-Mor in Youngstown tournament and are quick to say that the pros never really tore up Squaw Creek in those events.

Poor weather: Yes, the best winning score was 9-under-par, in each of the first two years and 7-under the final year.

You have to also remember that all three of those tournaments were held in some very inclement weather conditions.

So much rain fell the first year in 1990 that the tournament had to be finished on the following Monday.

The second year the tournament was halted by a tornado sighting and more heavy rain came during the third tournament.

The ladies never really got to play Squaw Creek under ideal conditions and if it happens this year I think that you can look for the winner reaching double-digit under-par figures.

Once again Squaw Creek is at the mercy of the LPGA. Greens superintendent Lou Greco would like to have the greens there nearing 11 on the meter, but he doesn't think the LPGA will let him.

Veteran of both: I've played both golf courses many times over the years, and I've always loved both layouts. The new redesigned Avalon Lakes is a classic. There are so many great holes on that golf course, it makes your head spin.

I've played the new layout five times and my best round was a 79 from the middle tees, or about where the ladies would play.

Over the years I've played many rounds at Squaw Creek where my best score ever was a 77.

What does that tell you? First of all that I'm not a very good golfer and secondly that I would never survive the cut in any LPGA event.

The difference for me is that I'm intimidated by the Avalon Lakes new layout. Trouble there will cost you at least one or two strokes.

I don't feel that intimidated at Squaw Creek, but that doesn't mean that you can't get into some deep trouble there. Just hit a tee shot a little off line on the par-5, No. 6 hole and see what you have left. It's not very pretty.

Yes the LPGA pros are going to be happy they're playing at Squaw Creek this week, for more reasons than even they can imagine.

XPete Mollica covers the LPGA for The Vindicator. Write him at mollica@vindy.com.




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