A Major Returns to Rochester


Royal St. Georges was an unfamiliar ' to most ' links layout, idiosyncratic in character. Olympia Fields was straight-forward, but a strange acquaintance nonetheless.
Enter Oak Hill Country Club, site of the 85th PGA Championship, and, in a way, a combination of its two major predecessors.
Oak Hill is a par-70 venue, extending 7,098 tree-lined yards. Built by Donald Ross in 1923, its traditionally tight with tumbling fairways and tiny greens.
Like Olympia Fields, it has a sit-in-the-front-of-the-classroom persona ' while Royal St. Georges is more of a class prankster.
But this years U.S. Open course lacked a professional link to those in the field. It had not hosted a major event on the regular circuit ' it was the site of the 1997 U.S. Senior Open ' in over 40 years.
Some, if only a few, had previously played Royal St. Georges in the 1993 Open Championship. The same can be said of Oak Hill, which hosted the 1995 Ryder Cup Matches and the 1989 U.S. Open.
The Rochester, N.Y. layout has also been the site of two U.S. Amateurs (1949 and 1998), two other U.S. Opens (1956, 68), a U.S. Senior Open (1984), and one PGA Championship (1980).
Charlie Coe captured the '56 U.S. Amateur, while Hank Kuehne came through the draw unscathed in '98.
Carey Middlecoff won the 56 Open, while Lee Trevino won over Jack Nicklaus in 68. Nicklaus exacted a bit of revenge on the course when he won the 80 PGA by a full seven shots.
Curtis Stranges fortunes were reversed in two Oak Hill appearances. He captured the 89 U.S. Open ' his second consecutive national championship, but went a dismal 0-3 as a captains selection in the 95 Ryder Cup.
Strange, needing only to halve his singles match with Nick Faldo to give the Americans victory, lost the final two holes; Faldo won 1-up, and the Europeans retained the Cup.
Perhaps that shocking moment will turn out to be a harbinger. Its been 73 years since a European-born player won the PGA Championship. Tommy Armour, the Silver Scot, won the 1930 PGA at Fresh Meadows Country Club in Flushing.
Neither Strange nor Faldo will make the return trip to Oak Hill, but several of their teammates will be in attendance, including Fred Couples, Bernhard Langer, Davis Love III, Colin Montgomerie, Loren Roberts, Brad Faxon, Jay Haas, Peter Jacobsen, Tom Lehman and Jeff Maggert.
Several other prominent golfing figures have ties to the area. Walter Hagen, who won five of his 11 major championships in the PGA, was a Rochester native. Jeff Sluman, the 1988 PGA champion, is a native of nearby Greece. Instructor Craig Harmon is the head professional at Oak Hill.
Then theres Sammy Urzetta. The East Rochester resident recorded a stunning victory in the 1950 U.S. Amateur Championship.
This is one of four majors to be contested in the Empire State in a five-year span. The 2002 U.S. Open was held at Bethpage in Farmingdale. It will return to Shinnecock at Southampton in 2004, and to Winged Foot at Mamaroneck in 06.
But for now ' and once again ' the major spotlight is cast down on Rochester.
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage of 2003 PGA Championship
  • Oak Hill Course Tour