2001: Teams scramble to fill hole in schedule

Columbus, Ohio

Competition days in college golf became quite precious a few years back when the NCAA said teams would be allowed just 24 of them during the regular season. Conference, regional and NCAA Championship tournaments don’t count among the 24, but still, it’s a tight schedule.

Because of the 24-day rule, two-day, 54-hole events have become the norm. By participating in tournaments like this, coaches can squeeze in more events.

Making the most of the competitive days has become crucial.

So recently when Golf World canceled its annual fall men’s and women’s tournament at Palmetto Dunes Golf Resort in Hilton Head Island, S.C., it was a sudden blow to the mid-section for coaches.

Suddenly they were faced with scrambling to fill a three-day playing gap.

The tournament, which has been held for 15 years at Palmetto Dunes, was slated for Nov. 9-11 and included 18 men’s teams and 12 women’s teams.

In a letter dated Sept. 25 and received via fax by most participating schools on Sept. 28 at their offices, Golf World publisher Peter Gross said, “While the events of the past several weeks have been personally unsettling to many of us, they have also had a profound impact on an already soft business environment. As a result of these events, and with great regret, we feel it both prudent and necessary to cancel this year’s Golf World Palmetto Dunes Collegiate Invitational. . .”

Gross went on to say that it was the publication’s intent to resume the competition in 2002.

Many of the men’s teams scheduled to play at Palmetto Dunes were at Ohio State’s Scarlet course Sept. 28-30 participating in the Ping/Golfweek Preview when they learned the news.

“My read on this is that they won’t be sponsoring the tournament anymore, no matter what the letter might say,” said one coach who requested anonymity. “They never called anyone to ask for input or what the coaches might do to help out. I think if they did, something might have been worked out and we could have held the tournament, and they would still be the title sponsor. We just got a letter, and that was that. It sure leaves us all in a bind this year. It’s just not a good situation.”

A similar incident happened in 1999 when Golf Digest pulled its sponsorship at its men’s tournament in Las Vegas. At least then, it was announced in the fall, and the tournament was in the spring. Thanks to the efforts of UNLV coach Dwaine Knight, the Las Vegas Founders Club and the community, the event was held as scheduled.

This time around, with the Palmetto Dunes tournament just a month away and with no official “host” team to take charge, that scenario might not be possible.

“This really is going to put us in a bind,” said Oklahoma coach Jim Regan. “We were scheduled to play in the Inverness Invitational and that was canceled (because of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks), and now this one gets canceled. That gives us five playing days, and I don’t know how we’re going to get those filled. That’s one-fifth of our schedule.”

Some of the coaches responded quickly upon hearing the news, calling courses in their area to ask if they want to step in and host an event.

On the women’s side, Auburn coach Kim Evans said she would host a tournament those same dates for the 12 teams involved. Evans indicated she already had found a hotel for accommodations and a course to play (Auburn University Club at Yarbrough Farms). She said the teams she was able to contact were in favor of it. She also indicated these plans were not definite.

While it appears that both the men and women will be able to find another venue this year, many of the coaches indicated they still would like to play at Palmetto Dunes and were hoping something could be worked out so an event could be held on the same dates.

“I think most of us would still like to go back to Palmetto Dunes, and hopefully we can find a solution and make that happen,” said Oklahoma State coach Mike Holder. “Some sacrifices might have to be made as far as expenses go, but I think we can make something happen. This is hard because of the short notice, but I think the coaches can work together and work with whoever we have to and have a tournament. Hopefully, it can be at Palmetto Dunes, but if not, somewhere else.”

More than likely, all the teams involved will scramble and play somewhere this fall to get in those three precious playing days. They’ll probably play in events involving the same teams.

It’s going to be a hassle to get it all together. And what a sad loss.

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