CEO decides not to play Turning Stone event

Nation Enterprises CEO Ray Halbritter poses in the Turning Stone Casino on July 3, 2003.

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Ray Halbritter, the executive who made the controversial decision to award himself an exemption into the PGA Tour’s Turning Stone Resort Championship, made the right call Sunday in withdrawing from the event.

“My goal was to celebrate, not detract from, our wonderful tournament, its players and fans,” Halbritter said in a statement. Halbritter, 60, is the CEO of Nation Enterprises, which owns the Turning Stone Resort & Casino.

Halbritter got publicity for his event, and resort. Now it’s time to let an accomplished player tee it up in his place. Events like Turning Stone provide players opportunity to jump-start their careers, or get them back on track. Those storylines make for a better tournament than a white-collar worker shooting two rounds in the mid-80s.

Halbritter made a great decision in awarding one sponsor exemption to 15-year-old Gavin Hall, a resident of nearby Pittsford, N.Y. We all saw what Jordan Spieth did for this year’s Byron Nelson, where he tied for 16th in front of a hometown crowd. Hall has the ability to provide the same kind of excitment. He recently shot a 62 at the U.S. Junior Amateur, and finished second at last week’s Porter Cup, one of the country’s top amateur events.

Halbritter said that he will be replaced in the field by the tournament’s first alternate. That’s a good call. It gives a veteran player a chance to resurrect his career. Paul Stankowski got into last week’s Greenbrier Classic as an alternate and tied for fourth. Stankowski moved up to No. 133 on the money list as he attempts to regain a PGA Tour card for the first time in several years.

Halbritter said he withdrew because of criticism he received for accepting the exemption. He said he wanted to play “to fulfill a golfer’s dream,” but also to serve as an inspiration.

“My objectives were mischaracterized,” Halbritter told Golfweek on Monday. “That happens sometimes. People don’t have the full story. They write without knowing the full background of what’s going on here. The goals were trying to be an example to elderly people that you still can do things in life. Even at my age you can still be active. ... And for the youth, I wanted them to think, ‘Wow, you can play golf. That can be a great lifelong game.’

“All those things were supposed to be part of a message, and obviously that message didn’t come out the way we’d hoped it would.”

Halbritter conveyed that message just by passing his PGA Playing Ability Test last year at the age of 59. That impressive accomplishment got plenty of press after his sponsor exemption was announced. But, with the tournament just three days away, it’s time to let the real players play.

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