Dulac: McIroy proves that he isn't a one-hit wonder

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Showing that winning one major tournament by eight shots was not a fluke, Rory McIlroy won another last week by a similar margin when he dusted a wind-blown field in the 94th PGA Championship with a bogey-free final round that was as masterful as it was dominating.

Winning two majors in 14 months at the age of 23 is impressive enough. Winning both by a combined 16 shots is a whole other matter that defies belief.

But, as awesome as McIlroy was a week ago, when his final-round 66 included a fitting 25-foot birdie putt at the 72nd hole, he might not have even been the star of the tournament.

That distinction might belong to the venue on which the final major of the year was played -- The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, S.C.

"We had a great winner and the golf course was in outstanding condition," said Kiawah Island resort president Roger Warren, a former president of the PGA of America. "It proved to be the test we thought it would be and we didn't hear any negative comments from the players."

To be sure, Kiawah had some logistical nightmares with traffic and parking -- issues Warren said would need to be addressed if the resort were to play host to another major. Shuttle rides from nearby Charleston about 25 miles from the resort, were taking from an hour to 2 1/2 hours. That's because of the 17-mile stretch of mainly one-lane road that leads to the resort from U.S. Route 17.

But to anyone who watched the event on television, the pictures of the holes, the aerials of the course and the vivid images of the ocean waves crashing beyond the sand dunes only enhanced the reputation of The Ocean Course and brought to life one of the great golfing experiences in the country.

After all, where else can television zoom in on McIlroy's face on the 18th tee, with the tide rolling in behind him just a sand wedge away?

"The TV people told me that, unlike many of the golf courses they do for regular tour events, every one of these holes had a uniqueness to it that allowed them to have things to talk about," Warren said the other day over the phone. "The uniqueness of the holes and the conditions were so perfect that it was great to listen to people talk about it."

One of the unique features of the course condition was the paspalum grass that is used on the putting surfaces. The grass, which is salt tolerant and more suited to a coastal environment, was seeded in 2003 when it was determined that the TifEagle Bermuda grass that was planted a year earlier had died.

Many of the players in the PGA enjoyed the grass, which they described as "sticky," because it allowed them to spin wedge shots into tricky hole locations. But Warren said the surface was "sticky" only because the course had 8 inches of rain during the week.

"If the moisture wasn't there, that grass gets slicker and they wouldn't enjoy that sticky feeling," Warren said.

A true Pittsburgher

There will be no mistaking Brian Cooper when he competes on the Golf Channel's "Big Break Greenbrier" in October.

He will be the one wearing a Steelers belt with a yellow Terrible Towel on his golf bag. And he would have worn a Steelers hat during the show if he knew he was allowed.

Cooper, a mini-tour professional from Phoenix who grew up in McKeesport, was one of 12 players who were picked for the competition that was taped in June but won't air until Oct. 2. The contestants were announced this past week.

"It was very important for me to be known as a Pittsburgh guy," Cooper said. "No disrespect to Phoenix, but it's never going to be my home. To me, Pittsburgh is my home. I made that extremely apparent."

Cooper is coming back home this week to try to qualify for the Web.com Tour's Mylan Classic that will be held at Southpointe Golf Club on Labor Day weekend. The 18-hole qualifier is Aug. 27 at Green Oaks Country Club.

He is hoping the confidence gained from competing in the Big Break will help him get into the field at Southpointe.

"It is the most nerve-wracking thing I've ever dealt with," said Cooper, who, at 45, is the oldest player in the competition. "People can't grasp how that shot comes about. There are 11 cameras on you at all times, and it can be 15 minutes between shots. It's not like you're on the range; you're sitting there waiting, you're borderline stiff, your mind is over-thinking the shot, it's nuts. You got to be clicking every shot. It's so unlike golf.

"You have to be on every shot. You can't miss a shot."

Like all contestants, Cooper is not allowed to discuss the event or reveal the winner. But the winner of the competition gets a spot in the field for the PGA Tour's 2013 Greenbrier Classic.

"It was the greatest golf experience of my life," Cooper said. "Nothing compares to what I did there. The privilege of being on the show was truly a gift, I kid you not. It's the greatest experience of my life, plain and simple."

Can't beat Caledonia

It's not just the impressive string of live oak trees, dripping with Spanish moss, that line the entrance to the Caledonia Golf & Fish Club.

Or that the golf course, which opened in 1994, has the feel and southern charm of a layout that is much older.

Of all the good golf courses in the Myrtle Beach, S.C., area, and there are many, only a few can tantalize your senses like Caledonia -- built on the site of what was once the largest plantation in South Carolina.

The course is on Pawley's Island and is one of those layouts where the shot-making is very good and the experience is even better.

The first six holes weave through the oaks and native shrubs of the property and challenge the player with large waste areas and sand bunkers. And eight of the final 12 holes require navigation over some body of water, none more challenging than the strategic 383-yard 18th that wraps around wetlands and requires an all-carry approach to a narrow putting surface.

It is a fitting end to a memorable experience, something not every golf course can boast.

A league of their own

The U.S. Golf Local League -- a Little League for golfers -- has two more events remaining in its first season in Western Pennsylvania and is seeking to build on its membership.

The league is open to junior golfers, ages 6-18, and features team match-play competitions rather than individual competitions. The idea is to have junior players learn and enjoy the game without the pressure of competing in individual matches.

"We're trying to make sure the kids have a blast out there, meet some new kids and also be able to work with a couple PGA pros that we have on site," said Dave McKinzie, who helped form the affiliate league in Western Pennsylvania with his wife, Cathie, and PGA professional Ron Lucas.

The league already has 47 members and it has two events remaining -- Sept. 8 at Scally's Golf Center in Moon and Sept. 16 at Churchill Country Club. Previous events were in Beaver Falls, Latrobe and Sarver.

For information or to join: www.pittsburghpa.usgll.org.

golf

Gerry Dulac: gdulac@post-gazette.com; twitter: @gerrydulac. Listen to "The Golf Show with Gerry Dulac" every Thursday from 7-8:30 p.m. on 970 ESPN.


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