From the PGA tour to local courses, slow play plagues golf, and for the 51st Alaska State Amateur Championship that begins today, pace of play might get as much attention from tournament officials as the scores being shot.
"Slow play is the No. 1 complaint in golf," said Jeff Barnhart, executive director of the Alaska Golf Association, saying groups with late tee times in the State Am often take up to six hours to complete a round that should take four hours.
Tournament officials, including Barnhart, will be at the Anchorage Golf Course today monitoring and timing players. Barnhart said they're prepared to issue penalty strokes for slow play in accordance with the rules of the U.S. Golf Association.
USGA rules allow tournament officials to penalize one player or an entire group if, after a verbal warning, they are unable to keep up with pace of play. Barnhart chose to penalize the whole group, something he hopes will apply peer pressure and encourage players to monitor one another.
Golfers will be put to the test today at AGC, a course with a reputation for being the slowest of the four used in the State Am. Golfers who miss the narrow fairways of AGC have a tendency to spend too much time looking for golf balls in the trees, Barnhart said.
Slow play is a significant concern because, for the second time in history, all golfers will play on the same course each day during the four-day tournament. There used to be more than 400 golfers filling up four courses; less than 150 will compete this year.
The tournament moves to Palmer Golf Course on Friday, Eagleglen Golf Course on Saturday and concludes on The Creek Course at Moose Run on Sunday.
Barnhart said Palmer and Eagleglen both play relatively fast, but Moose Run, while not as slow as AGC, can bog down.
Barnhart thinks a fast pace will be set each day because he is giving the women the earliest tee times. There are 18 women entered, and Barnhart said they all know how to play quickly.
In an effort to educate others about quick play, Barnhart sent an e-mail with a two-page attachment to all entrants detailing the best way to play "ready golf" -- a practice not so much about rushing through the round, but being ready to play when it's your turn.
Men's defending state champion Casey Cusack will get his turn early today and Friday, teeing off in the group right behind the last women's group. Cusack and the rest of the men's championship flight will tee off late on Saturday and Sunday.
Cusack, who owns a .4 handicap, won his first state am last year with a four-day total of 297 on a course rotation that included Settlers Bay instead of Moose Run.
The win was part of a great golf season for Cusack, who also won the state match-play championship and city championship. He recently won the local U.S. Public Links qualifier, but declined to play in the national event because the schedule conflicted with the state am.
Two-time defending women's champion Margaux Sheehan did not enter.
Find Jeremy Peters online at adn.com/contact/jpeters or call 257-4335.
Tiger's ex-coach was 1964 state am champ
The 1964 winner of the Alaska state am went on to do big things in golf. Butch Harmon won the tournament that year while stationed at Fort Richardson. Most golf fans know him today as Tiger Woods' former swing coach and Phil Mickelson's current swing coach. According to an old report in Golf Digest, Harmon shot a 64 at the Moose Run Hill Course, breaking Gay Brewer's course record by several shots. Brewer won the Masters in 1967.