The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

July 15, 2012

Courses’ differences enhance BNI charm

By Cam Huffman
Sports Editor

— Some golf tournaments test a golfer’s length off the tee. Others provide a challenge with chipping and playing out of hazards, while some focus mostly on the ability to read greens and sink putts. Tournaments spread over multiple days make the competitors prove they can stay consistent and hold up to the physical test of 54 or 72 holes over the span of three or four days.

The Beckley Newspapers Memorial Golf Classic, which began Saturday, can claim all of the above.

Unlike most weekend club tournaments, which are played on one course with all of the regulars, the BNI is played on three different courses over three days, providing a true read on who is truly the best golfer in the field.

“The pace of all of the greens are different, and each course requires some different skills,” said 1982 BNI winner Dennis Vass, shortly after finishing off a 2-under-par 70 at the Pipestem course Saturday. “You have to focus on every shot.”

The format of the 32nd annual event had half of the field of more than 150 golfers playing at Pipestem Resort State Park Saturday, with the other half at Grandview Country Club. Those groups will flip-flop for today’s second round, before the entire group finishes up at The Resort at Glade Springs’ Cobb Course Monday.

The courses the players will encounter are quite different.

The Geoffrey Cornish-designed Pipestem Course, which opened in 1966, is 6,884 yards long with a slope rating of 125. It’s part of a state park and has relatively narrow fairways, with plenty of trees for players to avoid.

The Grandview course is similar in length (6,834 yards long), but it has slightly more slope (132). The course isn’t as tight as Pipestem and is very forgiving to those who struggle with their drivers.

George Cobb’s course at Glade Springs is a completely different challenge. It’s the longest of the three at 7,121 yards, and it’s filled with trouble, with eight lakes and 51 sand bunkers on the course.

By the end of the 54-hole tournament, if a player has found a way to master all three tests, he’s proven his game is legit.

Taking away any homefield advantage is another perk of playing a tournament on multiple courses. As Vass, who considers Grandview his home course, explained, there are players spread throughout the field that call one of the courses their home course. But there are very few — if any — who can claim they play all three on a regular basis.

The unique idea of moving the BNI players around opens up the list of possible winners and insures both fairness and a true test of golfing ability. And that’s probably a big reason so many golfers keep coming back year after year.

— E-mail: chuffman@