Hallmark of the Fuhrer: Staying power

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Frank Fuhrer never worried about his three-day, 72-hole tournament being held at the same time as the Constellation Senior Players Championship. Nor did it bother him that the tournament, one of five majors on the Champions Tour, was being staged right across Fox Chapel Road from his venue at Pittsburgh Field Club.

He never considered moving his tournament -- one of the richest for club professionals and mini-tour players in the country -- to avoid a conflict.

"I was here long before them," said Fuhrer, a Pittsburgh businessman who will be inducted into the Western Pennsylvania Golf Hall of Fame this fall. "And I'll be here after they leave."

After butting heads with the Champions Tour event the past two years, the Frank B. Fuhrer Invitational has no such conflict this year. It is scheduled for June 30-July 2, right after the Senior Players Championship concludes the final year of its three-year run at Fox Chapel Golf Club.

The tournament, which features 40 players with a first prize of $40,000, is always scheduled for the last Monday in June.

But, not only has the Fuhrer Invitational conflicted with the Senior Players Championship, it has also been the same week as the National Club Professional Championship. Usually, anywhere from 6-8 players from the Tri-State PGA section qualify for the national tournament.

Those players are usually among the top 20 in the Tri-State points list, which automatically makes them eligible for the Fuhrer Invitational.

That, though, always has created a dilemma for those players. If they chose to play in the national club pro tournament -- a prestigious event among their peers -- and skipped the invitational, Fuhrer has never invited them back to his tournament.

The good news: The 72-hole national club pro championship begins today at the Dunes Golf & Beach Club and the Grande Dunes Resort in Myrtle Beach, S.C., thereby avoiding any conflict with the Fuhrer Invitational.

Eight professionals from the Tri-State PGA section are competing: Devin Gee of Oakmont, Kevin Shields of Nevillewood, Rob McClellan of Butler, Chris McKnight of Laurel Valley, Barry Evans of Berry Hills CC (Charleston, W.Va.), Jason Martin of Wheeling (W.Va) CC, Ty Roush of Riverside GC (Mason, W.Va.) and Adam Corson of Dick's Sporting Goods.

Mind over matter

Local pro Gordon Vietmeier spent more than three years putting together an ambitious project with neurobiologist Daniel Simmons, the result of which is their book, "Golf and Brain, the Lesson You Never Had."

Vietmeier, a golf instructor who is one of the top players in the Tri-State PGA section, has tried to find ways to help his students play with more feel and imagination. Seeing and feeling the shot before he hits the ball is something he has always practiced and preached.

But to understand how the brain works to form those visuals, he enlisted the help of Simmons, a professor of neurobiology at Pitt and one of his students. Together, they try to explain how the brain works in conjunction with the swing to help golfers improve.

"It was a long three years, but very exciting," Vietmeier said. "I learned more than I ever thought how the brain works and how we should interpret golf instruction and try to teach others how to do it."

In the book (available at Amazon.com), Vietmeier tries to convey that bad shots aren't necessarily the result of bad swings; rather, they are the result of the swing not matching what the brain is telling it to do.

"When we give information on how to hit a 10-yard draw and they're seeing a 20-yard slice, there's no way that I learned through neuroscience that the brain and body can put these muscle plans together to make this happen," Vietmeier said. "The brain needs to know the problem to solve."

Book it

One of the most entertaining and delightful reads for any golf fan is, "Fore! The Best of John Hopkins on Golf."

A compilation of articles written by John Hopkins, former golf correspondent for the Times of London, the book ($29, Amazon.com) is Hopkins at his absolute best: Masterfully written, classically detailed, with a good slice of respect and just the right amount of irreverence.

But what Hopkins does most is honor what should be the objective of any good writer -- he takes readers where they can't go. It is a device he learned years ago from one of his mentors in England. And he does this with aplomb, whether he's writing about the Postage Stamp green at Troon, the road hole at St. Andrews or the range where Nick Faldo is practicing under the watchful eye of David Leadbetter.

"He always told me, 'Tell them which way the wind is blowing,' " Hopkins said. "It helps paint a mental picture for the person who is reading what I'm writing."

Festivities start early

With the Constellation Senior Players Championship beginning Thursday at the Fox Chapel Golf Club, the 18-hole U.S. Senior Open qualifier at Sewickley Heights has quite an impressive field.

Among the 57 players competing for two spots in the championship are former PGA champion Mark Brooks, Tom Purtzer, Bobby Clampett, Chip Beck and Lonnie Nielsen. All have won on the PGA Tour except Nielsen, who has two Champions Tour victories.

Dissa and data

* The Champions Challenge featuring three players from the Champions Tour and one player each from the Steelers, Pirates and Penguins will be at 2 p.m. Tuesday at the practice area at Fox Chapel Golf Club. Rocco Mediate, John Cook and Jeff Sluman will team up with former Steelers safety Mike Wagner, former Penguins winger Phil Bourque and former Pirates pitcher Kent Tekulve and selected TV personalities. The winning team will receive $10,000 for its designated charity.

* Patrick Sheerer of Indiana Township and Maddy McDanel of Aliquippa won the Tri-State Section Junior PGA Championship last week at Fox Run Golf Club. Sheerer and McDanel qualified for the 39th Junior PGA Championship July 29-Aug. 1 at Miramont CC in Bryan, Texas.

Gerry Dulac: gdulac@post-gazette.com and Twitter @gerrydulac.


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