Is there a Pumpkin Ridge curse?
NORTH PLAINS, Ore. – I was lucky enough to test my skills recently on the Ghost Creek course at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club, which is being used for this week’s LPGA Safeway Classic.
I was a zillion over par, but that’s beside the point. My playing partners, Bob Clemo and Gregory Crawford, are Pumpkin Ridge members, and suddenly I heard them talking about the Pumpkin Ridge Curse.
Clemo is controller for Systems Management, Inc., a firm that helps other businesses choose and integrate software applications. He is a details guy, which was obvious as he traced the Pumpkin Ridge Curse back into the 1990s.
Pumpkin Ridge has two golf courses, both designed by Bob Cupp. Ghost Creek is a public course, while Witch Hollow is a private facility. The two layouts were used in the qualifying round for the 1996 U.S. Amateur, followed by match play on Witch Hollow. The next summer, in 1997, Witch Hollow hosted the U.S. Women’s Open.
It was there at Witch, more than 10 years ago, that the curse got started. The curse has been something of a graveyard for golfers, although happiness in their lives outside golf has not necessarily eluded them.
Steve Scott, who was something of a junior prodigy and a star at the University of Florida, blew a 5-up lead and lost on the 38th hole of the U.S. Amateur final. It would be his last hoorah, as he repeatedly failed to make it to the PGA Tour.
Today Scott, 32, is head professional at The Ridge at Back Brook in Ringoes, N.J.
It gets better. Scott married his longtime girlfriend and caddie, Kristi Hommel, and they have a son, Jeffrey Christopher, born in June, 2008. Kristi, by the way, is also a Class A PGA professional.
Alison Nicholas edged overwhelming fan favorite Nancy Lopez by one stroke in the 1997 U.S. Women’s Open. Nicholas would win just one more LPGA event, while Lopez would never win another tournament.
Nicholas founded the Alison Nicholas Golf Academy in Birmingham, England, and was captain of the 2009 European Solheim Cup team. Lopez, of course, remains a golf icon.
The 2003 U.S. Women’s Open returned to Witch Hollow, and it was the site of the only tournament victory by longshot Hillary Lunke.
Lunke effectively is retired from golf. She had her first child in 2007 and has played just 16 LPGA events in the last three years, none in 2009.
Kelly Robbins, a loser to Lunke in an 18-hole playoff, would injure her back a short time later and end her LPGA career.
The 2000 U.S. Junior and U.S. Girls Junior were played on both courses at Pumpkin Ridge, with Matthew Rosenfeld and Lisa Ferrero emerging as champions. Both went on to play golf at the University of Texas.
The two junior champs have stumbled as professionals. Rosenfeld, a longtime student of instructor Hank Haney, currently plays on the Adams Golf Pro Tour Series, a development tour, while Ferrero is a member of the LPGA’s Duramed Futures Tour.
In the 2006 U.S. Women’s Amateur at Witch Hollow, 14-year-old Kimberly Kim became the youngest winner in the history of the event, first played in 1895.
Kim, now 17, has been erratic in the last three years. In her defense, she has shuttled back and forth between her home state of Hawaii and her adopted state of Arizona. Kim reached the final of the 2009 U.S. Girls Junior, but lost 6-and-5 to Amy Anderson.
Kim’s victim in the U.S. Women’s Amateur final, Katharina Schallenberg of Germany, plays on the Ladies European Tour and has recorded five top 10 finishes but no victories in her three-year pro career.
Another USGA event, the U.S. Senior Open, was scheduled to be played in 2006 on the Ghost Creek course. It was moved after Peter Jacobsen announced that a major event on the Champions Tour, the Jeld-Wen Tradition, would be played in the nearby community of Aloha, Ore.
“Maybe it’s a good thing the Senior Open didn’t come here,” Clemo said. “The guy who won would probably be a shoe salesman right now.”
Of course, there are exceptions to every curse. A young man named Tiger Woods managed to edge Scott in that 1996 U.S. Amateur final at Pumpkin Ridge. In his last appearance as an amateur, Woods captured his third successive National Amateur crown. Three years earlier, he won his third straight U.S. Junior title just down the road at Waverley Country Club in Portland, Ore.
We should all be so cursed.