Recovery Professional Golf Returns to New Orleans

By Mercer BaggsApril 16, 2006, 4:00 pm
Golf Chronicles: After KatrinaNEW ORLEANS -- They stand wired and strapped in atop the New Orleans Superdome, looking like ants trying to rebuild their hill kicked by man. Only this time, the role of unremorseful man was played by Mother Nature. And the men themselves were ants.
 
Not far away, there is a billboard. It reads: What if this can help put the groove back in the city?
 
The sign shows a golfer striking a ball. It is referring to the Zurich Classic, which will be contested at English Turn Golf & Country Club.
 
The tournament will commence April 27 ' nearly eight months to the day after Hurricane Katrina ripped through the Gulf Coast region, resulting in the worst natural disaster in United States history.
 
On one side of the Superdome, which served as a disheveled and putrid sanctuary for thousands of disenfranchised, there is a sign trumpeting its re-opening, 9-25-2006, for a Monday night football game between the New Orleans Saints and their divisional rival Atlanta Falcons.
 
But well before then, the PGA TOUR will be in town to host the first professional, nationally televised network sporting event since 8-29-2005.
 
We want to show the nation that the city is recovering, said Zurich Classic tournament director John Subers. Were vibrant, alive, open for business.
 
English Turn is hosting the event after a years stay at the TPC of Louisiana. The TPC course was supposed to be the permanent site of the tournament, but that changed, as much did, after Katrina.
 
According to Subers and English Turn course superintendent Matt Yount, the TPC of Louisiana sustained significant tree damage and, due to poor drainage, significant flooding, making the venue unsuitable for this years event.
 
In fact, the event itself was in doubt ' but not for long.
 
We had a group of us go to Ponte Vedra (home to PGA TOUR headquarters in Florida) 10 days after the storm, said Mike Rodrigue, Chairman of the Board and Founder of the Fore!Kids Foundation, the tournaments primary beneficiary. We just didnt know what course was going to be available. There was talk of moving it for 2006 to the east coast. But we had a full commitment from Zurich to play the tournament in town.
 
Fortunately, they had English Turn to turn to in this time of need. The course, which hosted this tournament from 1989-2004, did not receive any major damage, including no flooding, during The Storm, as the locals refer to Katrina, making it a viable option.
 
With the TOUR holding a tournament here for so many years, there was pretty much a plan in place, Yount said.
 
We lost about 300 trees, he added, but were able to stand some back up. We replaced others with groups of younger, smaller trees. Hopefully, the course will play similarly to the way they are used to playing it.
 
On the final day of March, members and their guests were playing a tournament at English Turn. Semi-erected hospitality tents lined the 18th fairway and encircled the green.
 
Yount said the course is averaging about 85 rounds a day, almost back to full speed.
 
Zurich Classic of New Orleans
Tournament officials anticipate crowds of around 30,000 on both Saturday and Sunday this year.
Subers expects to see little fallout in relation to the tournament, as well. According to him, there will be 55 open-air sky boxes on the home hole and 12 more around the 16th green. Corporate tents have long been sold out; though, they were reduced in price, some up to 30 percent.
 
He anticipates 30,000 fans on both Saturday and Sunday of the tournament, the same numbers they received a year ago.
 
People will come, Subers said. They want to come.
 
And they need them to come.
 
This event normally provides more than $25 million to the local economy. It also raises about $1 million for charity, much of which goes to Fore!Kids, which raises money for various childrens charities through golf events.
 
This money is desperately desired.
 
When we were deciding if we needed to continue this event, because of all the uncertainties after the storm, there was no question that the children in our community needed it. We needed to continue our mission to do what we needed to do to hold the event in New Orleans, however we could, Subers said.
 
This years event features plenty of star power to entice attendees: Masters champion Phil Mickelson; Louisiana native David Toms; Chris DiMarco; past winner Davis Love III; and Retief Goosen, who is making his first appearance in New Orleans.
 
Subers said that they are working with the PGA TOUR Wives Association to provide guided tours for anyone interested in surveying the many areas of devastation. The wives themselves told Subers that they would like to get their hands dirty and help out however they can prior to the tournament.
 
Subers, now in his third year as tournament director, was in Boston at the Deutsche Bank Championship for a recruiting trip when Katrina struck last year. Usually, trying to get the worlds best players to come play your event is a beggars job. Not so this time.
 
Weve gotten a ton of support from the PGA TOUR. They established the U.S. Golf (Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund). And the players have been compassionate to help anyway they can, he said.
 
Fifty-seven times, dating back to 1938, New Orleans has hosted this event. Past champions include everyone from Bryon Nelson to Jack Nicklaus to Tom Watson to Vijay Singh.
 
And, thanks to unwavering support and dedication, there will be a 58th occasion.
 
For Subers and Co., they always believed that this was the right thing to do. It needed to be done for the community ' to be held in the community. That belief was reinforced a few months ago.
 
We saw a huge success when Mardi Gras came to town, Subers said. That told me personally that this is a great thing; that we are going to have a successful golf tournament.
 
People do want to get out. They want to get their lives back to normal.
 
Email your thoughts to Mercer Baggs
 
Related Links:
  • Rebuild: The Resurrection of Metairie C.C.
  • Rebirth: History on the Brink of Extinction
  • Golf Channel Airtimes - Golf Chronicles: After Katrina
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    Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

    Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

    While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

    “I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

    Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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    DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

    Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

    “I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

    Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

    “Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

    Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

    “It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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    Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

    What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

    Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    “I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

    McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

    He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

    Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

    “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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    Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

    Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

    Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

    Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

    Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

    Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.