Fred Couples examines his shot before hitting from behind the bushes off the 10th fairway in the first round of the Masters Thursday in Augusta, Ga.
By Gerry Dulac Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Alcoma Golf Club, which has been around since 1929, has a new name -- Three Lakes Golf Course. And Art Hawk, a longtime member, wishes he had made the change sooner.
Hawk, 59, bought Alcoma from the members in December 2006 and converted the private club in Penn Hills into a daily-fee facility. But he did not change the name until January, something he regrets.
"I wish I would have changed the name three years ago," said Hawk, a Murrysville resident who owns a foundation waterproofing business. "The easiest way to tell people this is something different is to change the name. I didn't think there was any value in calling it Alcoma."
So, the name was changed to Three Lakes, a reference to the number of lakes that sit on the property. The new name was chosen from 100 entries in a contest. The winning entry was submitted by Travis Walton, 16.
"He even designed a new logo for us," Hawk said.
Despite his longtime ties to Alcoma, Hawk wanted to create a new identity and new atmosphere for his golf course. He has instituted a new 18-hole rate that will apply all the time ($39.50, including cart), renovated the dining room into a grille room that will serve only bar food and added forward tees for female golfers. He also installed a women's restroom on the first floor of the club -- something that did not exist at male-dominated Alcoma.
"We made a real aggressive step this year," Hawk said, referring to the standard greens fee that has been reduced from the rates last year of $50 weekdays, $60 weekends. "We did almost 18,000 rounds last year. We hope, by being aggressive, to increase that to 25,000 to 27,000 rounds this year."
Alcoma is the latest private club in Western Pennsylvania to succumb to declining membership and convert to a public facility, joining Oak Tree in West Middlesex, Totteridge in Greensburg and St. Jude in Chicora, to name a few.
"We've had our trials and tribulations, and the economy wasn't helping us," Hawk said. "But we're doing fine as a daily-fee course. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel."
Only four players have won a PGA Tour event the week before the Masters and then gone on to win the Masters. Ralph Guldahl (1939), Art Wall (1959) and Sandy Lyle (1988) were the first three. Who was the most recent? Answer at end.
Champions Tour master
Former Masters champion Fred Couples did not give himself much of a chance at Augusta National, even though he is coming off three consecutive victories on the Champions Tour -- the first player to accomplish that feat.
"To win this would be a small, small miracle," Couples said.
Nonetheless, Couples is off to an incredible start in his first season on the Champions Tour. He has finished 2-1-1-1 in his four starts, is 75-under par with 12 consecutive rounds in the 60s and his high score for the year is 68. The record for consecutive rounds in the 60s is 13 by Hale Irwin.
What's more, he's first on the tour in scoring average, driving distance, eagles and all-around and is second in greens in regulation, putting, birdies and sand saves. He also leads the money list with $931,000.
No debts for Aubrey
Unlike some public course owners in Western Pennsylvania, John Aubrey doesn't have to worry about debt at Dubb's Dred Golf Course in Butler. He and his family have owned the course since 1964 and making monthly payments is not on their financial scorecard.
"I don't know how some of these guys do it, having to make monthly payments these days, with everything that's going on with the economy," Aubrey said. "And it's so expensive anymore to maintain a course with the cost of chemicals and gas."
Nonetheless, to stimulate play, Aubrey is another in a line of owners who is offering a special monthly rate at Dubb's Dred that is almost too good to ignore. It's $40 per month ($480 annually) for unlimited golf any day, cart not included.
"It's important to get people out there playing your golf course," Aubrey said.
Aubrey is something of a rarity himself. A six-time Tri-State PGA Senior Player of the Year, he is one of the few full-time PGA professionals who remain at a public course.
But he and his brother, George, have done more than just maintain operation of the golf course. They have developed real-estate projects around their course and are in the beginning phases of another.
Dissa and data
• Until Anthony Kim beat Vaughn Taylor on the first extra hole at the Shell Houston Open, there had not been a playoff through the first 14 events on the PGA Tour -- the longest the Tour had gone to start a season since 1974. Lee Elder won in a playoff in the 16th event that year.
• Susquehanna University senior Mitch Mercer, a Pine-Richland High School graduate, was named Player of the Week in the Empire 8 Athletic Conference for the fifth time. Mercer tied for second place out of 78 players with a two-day total of 150 at the McDaniel Spring Invitational March 27--28.
Phil Mickelson won the Masters in 2006 after winning the Bell South Classic a week earlier.
. Listen to "The Golf Show with Gerry Dulac" every Thursday night, 7 to 8:30 p.m., on Fox Sports Radio 970 AM.