Senior Players Championship: Jewel of a course draws seniors back

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Some of the biggest names in golf from recent decades are still competing at a high level, they just do it on the Champions Tour -- formerly known as the Senior PGA Tour. That's why the popularity of the tour has steadily been on the rise.

Fans locally got a major taste of the tour last year when the Constellation Senior Players Championship was held at Fox Chapel Country Club. They apparently liked what they saw -- an estimated 55,000-60,000 of them attended the four day event.

That success at the gate, along with the popularity of the course -- Tom Watson called Fox Chapel an "unsung jewel" at the event last year -- is why Fox Chapel was chosen to be host for the event both this year and next. This year, the event will be held June 27-30.

The course may have become a more permanent home for the Senior Players Championship beyond two years had it not been for the fact that the U.S. Open is set to return to Oakmont -- right up the road -- in 2016 and the tour doesn't want to dilute corporate sales and sponsorships.

Also, Constellation, which has been a title sponsor for the Senior Players Championship since 2007, signed a deal to remain the title sponsor through 2017.

Although ticket sales were strong last year, a big reason that the event will return is because Fox Chapel's course received rave reviews from many of the players last year.

"People should wake up and realize what a great golf course this is, because that's what it is," Watson said last year.

Fox Chapel had a limited window to get ready for the 2012 tournament, but this year will be the second time through for local organizers and that should make for an even better operation and event.

"We're proud of our golf course and the response it received from the best players on the Champions Tour this past summer and are excited to serve as host venue for the Constellation Senior Players through 2014," said Fox Chapel Golf Club President Arthur M. Scully lll in a news release. "Fox Chapel Golf Club made a tremendous debut in 2012 and we look forward to even better events in 2013 and 2014, as well as investing the proceeds of the tournament into several wonderful charities that positively impact the lives of children and adults in Western Pennsylvania."

Along with a great course, there should again be a great field of big-name players, including perhaps local favorite and Greensburg native Rocco Mediate, who has turned 50 and joined the Champions Tour this year.

Mediate got off to a great start in February, winning his first Champions Tour event, the Allianz Championship in Boca Raton, Fla., and tying a tournament record by shooting a 17-under 199.

He is currently No. 3 in the Charles Schwab Cup standings, although there is a long way to go in this season before that ranking becomes more relevant.

But Mediate, given that he is one of the youngest players on the Champions Tour and is an accomplished pro and veteran on the PGA Tour, should be a strong contender in just about any event he plays this year.

That means he will likely enter the Players Championship at Fox Chapel and, if he is in the mix on Sunday it would be an added bonus for many local fans who have followed Mediate's career for nearly 30 years.

Although last year's field at Fox Chapel was a star-studded affair and this year's field should be the same, a relative unknown journeyman named Joe Daley stole the show when he shot 14 under and won the event.

Still, bigger names like Mark Calcavecchia, Fred Couples, Tom Lehman and Kenny Perry were in the hunt. Couples, in fact, had a brief lead on the final day but gave in to chronic back issues and slid to four-shots off the lead.

Other big-name players who are currently on the Champions tour include Mark O'Meara, Tom Kite and Bernhard Langer.


Paul Zeise: or Twitter: @paulzeise First Published April 14, 2013 4:00 AM


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