Stinkin’ Barbasol Golf—By Dr. John Huang
(NICHOLASVILLE, Ky.) – If a round of golf is a good walk spoiled, then four rounds at this year’s Barbasol Championships could stink to high heaven. After all, all the elite players are playing across the pond at the British Open—showing off their skills at the stunning Northern Irish links of Royal Portrush. What we’re left here with in little old Nicholasville, Kentucky is a hodgepodge of no-name-up-and-comers squeaking out a living, alongside a few washed-up-has-beens living off their past glory. Throw in some unbearable heat, some unpredictable washout storms like last year, and a sprinkling of inebriated golf patrons—and you’ve got the recipe for disaster. Why waste your hard-earned money? Go see the Bluegrass Boys play basketball instead.
Not so fast, my friend! If you hadn’t already guessed, the above paragraph was written with tongue firmly planted in cheek. There are plenty of reasons to plunk down $100 for a weekly (Thursday through Sunday) grounds pass to the Champions Course at Keene Trace. Here are five compelling reasons to go.
1. A regular PGA tour event in our fine state is nothing to scoff at. Not counting last year, this will be the first PGA TOUR tournament (excluding majors) to be held in Kentucky since the Kentucky Derby Open was played in Louisville from 1957-59. In other words, there just aren’t that many opportunities to watch a group of 132 top caliber golfers tee off in your neighborhood. Make no mistake about it—these guys may not be the top names in golf—but THESE GUYS ARE GOOD. They’re professionals, and you’ll regret not seeing them play in person when you had the chance.
2. This year’s tournament will be far better managed than last year’s inaugural edition. Global Golf Management brings a ton of experience and expertise to the Barbasol. You’ll see the difference the minute you approach the grounds. It’ll be much more organized, fan friendly, with plenty of places to eat, drink, and be merry. Even the golf course setup is dramatically different than last year. The front and back nine have been flipped—the traditional finishing 18th hole back in its usual place. The difficult par 4 bordered by water, with a small green to shoot for, should bring plenty of drama at tournament’s end.
3. The Kentucky connection gives you plenty to cheer for. Current UK golfer Cullan Brown will be competing as an amateur. Former Wildcats Chip McDaniel, Cooper Musselman, Lukas Euler, and Stephen Stallings also received tournament exemptions. Josh Teater, who was born in Danville and attended Morehead State University, is also scheduled to play. So is former Covington Catholic and UK star Steve Flesch, as is Lexington native Hunter Stewart. And just when you think the bandwagon is overflowing, here comes 14-time PGA TOUR winner Kenny Perry rounding out the field. Be sure to follow each of these guys around the course, and show them your full-fledged, home state support.
4. The John Daly saga adds intrigue. The 53-year-old Californian is a portly, cigarette smoking, hard partying golf icon who also happens to have a PGA and British Open Championship prominently displayed on his resume. His free-wheeling spirit makes him one of the most popular golfers on the tour. OK—he hasn’t won in a decade and a half, but who really cares about wins? Watching “Long John” hit those 300-yard drives is worth the price of admission alone. You may be hard pressed, however, to keep up with John on the fairways. Due to osteoarthritis in his knee, he’ll be driving the course in a cart. Buckle your seat belts, please!
5. The champion from last year is back to defend his title. If you remember, Troy Merritt shot a 5-under 67 to finish the week at 23 under par. He’ll once again be shooting for a hefty portion of the $3.5 million purse together with 300 FedEx Cup points. But other familiar names—such as Jason Dufner, Hunter Mahan, Chad Campbell, Boo Weekley, David Toms, Y.E. Yang, Tim Herron, Mike Weir, and Robert Allenby—will also be in hot pursuit. Trust me on this one—this will not be your typical weekend hackfest.
There you go. Everything’s set up for a fantastic tournament. “The rough looks nice and thick,” said PGA TOUR tournament official Andrew Miller. “The greens and fairways all look green and healthy…(but) there’s a lot more to it than 18 holes of golf.”
Isn’t that the truth? Let’s hope for great weather, a great turnout, and some great golf this upcoming weekend. For local media like me, the Barbasol Championship has become the sweetest smelling golf tournament of the year. See you there!
Dr. John Huang is a columnist for Nolan Group Media and lead writer for Sports View America. If you enjoy his writing, you can read more at www.huangswhinings.com or follow him on Twitter @KYHuangs.