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Chad Ryan | Journal Gazette
Chuck Walker, right, of the PGA Tour, shows a potential parking area west of the 18th hole for Golf Channel broadcast trailers to Western Golf Association officials, from left, Sally White, Joerdan Simpson and Duke Butler at Sycamore Hills Golf Club.

Sycamore Hills a vision in white

Despite recent snow, Web.com official impressed with host site for new event

Walker
Courtesy
This rendering shows how the 18th green will look with skyboxes for this summer’s Web.com tournament at Sycamore Hills Golf Club.

– Chuck Walker, the manager of tournament operations for the Web.com Tour, flew from Jacksonville, Fla., to Fort Wayne on Wednesday.

It was 76 degrees when he took off, 27 when he landed, and there was smattering of snow on the ground.

It hardly seemed like the ideal time to take a look around Sycamore Hills Golf Club and evaluate the logistics for the upcoming Hotel Fitness Championship, a professional tournament with a $1 million purse that will factor greatly in determining the PGA Tour lineup for 2014.

“This is actually one of my better site visits,” Walker said. “I’m going to places where they have to put you in a van and drive you around the snow-covered golf course, and then ask you what you think about the golf course. This is actually OK.”

The Hotel Fitness Championship (Aug. 29 to Sept. 1) is the first of four new events on the Web.com Tour, which is one tier below the PGA Tour. It will kick off four tournaments in the Web.com Tour Finals, which will also be in Davidson, N.C., Columbus, Ohio, and Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

The top 75 players on the Web.com Tour’s money list will be eligible for the finals, as will players who are ranked 126 to 200 on the PGA Tour’s FedExCup points list. In addition to the money – the winner at Jack Nicklaus-designed Sycamore Hills will get $180,000 – the players will be vying for PGA Tour cards.

Tour cards go to the 25 leading money winners on the Web.com Tour and another 25 players with the most cumulative money from the Tour Finals.

About 75 percent of the current PGA Tour players have competed on the Web.com Tour – formerly known as the Nationwide Tour and founded in 1990 – and it boasts alumni who have won 17 major championships, including Webb Simpson at last year’s U.S. Open.

As Walker explained it, his function is to deal with “everything outside the ropes,” from parking for spectators and caddies, to media and hospitality rooms, to players’ locker rooms.

“We never come in and say, ‘OK, you need to do this, this and this.’ We just offer ideas and alternatives,” Walker said. “Every venue is different, as you can imagine. Every parking situation is different. Every clubhouse is different. There’s not an exact model.”

Sycamore Hills played host to the Junior PGA Championship last summer – it was the fourth national championship there in as many years – and it will have the United States Golf Association’s Girls Junior this year, July 22 to 27.

But the Hotel Fitness Championship is a different undertaking, Walker said, adding that the Web.com Tour Finals are uncharted territory for everyone.

“I don’t think there’s a real comparison (to the junior tournaments),” he said. “They were just talking about housing and things like that they did here (for the Junior PGA). I don’t know how much that applies to what we’re trying to do here, which is really different than the other 18 or 19 events (on the Web.com Tour) because it’s the first year of something we’ve never done.”

On just his first two-day visit to Fort Wayne, Walker came away feeling great about the possibilities for this new union between Sycamore Hills and the Web.com Tour.

“Our people feel very confident in the enthusiasm for golf in this area and that this will be supported,” he said. “The feeling I get here is that the people are taking it personally and it will be a community event and people will want to show off Fort Wayne.”

jcohn@jg.net

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