Left to right – Breck Speed, owner of Mountain Valley Spring Water (sponsor of event); U.S. Hickory Open champ Alan Grieve; Hamp Munsey, tournament organizer; Chris Deinlein, president of the Society of Hickory Golfers.
Participants in the 2011 U.S. Hickory Open on the Donald Ross Course at French Lick, Ind.
To say that Alan Grieve has a passion for hickory clubs is an understatement. The Queensland Australian native was the first person to sign up for the U.S. Hickory Open Championship and traveled more than 36 hours and nearly 10,000 miles to participate in the event at French Lick Resort in southern Indiana.
The 39-year-old captured his first hickory championship this week on the resort’s historic Donald Ross course. Grieve shot rounds of 75 – 75 for a 36-hole total of 150 and a 5-shot victory over Rick Woeckener from Fredericksburg, Va. A record field of 81 players from 27 states, as well as Canada and Australia, braved record heat (heat index of 114 on Tuesday) to compete in the fourth U.S. Hickory Open.
The traveling Aussie who plays out of the Wynnum Golf Club in Brisbane, Austrailia, said he’d been playing hickory clubs for a year and a half.
“I wanted to change my game and give myself a challenge,” he said. “I love playing hickory clubs. When you hit a good shot you know you hit it. It feels so pure unlike modern day clubs.” This was his second hickory tournament and his first U. S. Hickory Open.
“I had a great week and this was the best I have ever played hickory clubs in back-to-back rounds. The Donald Ross course was a perfect setting for the event, but very tough as well. You have a lot of uphill shots, which can make it very challenging for hickory clubs. It was fun and exciting.”
Alan wasn’t the only one having a great week. Dr. David Brown scored an ace on No. 16, a 133-yard par three. It was the first ace scored in USHO competition.
SoHG President Chris Deinlein was ecstatic about the large field and the international flavor that Alan brought to the event. “Having the largest field ever coming to French Lick Resort, as well as our new champion being from Australia, is a testament to the growing popularity and passion not only in America, but also around the world for hickory clubs,” he said. “We congratulate Alan for his superb play and also French Lick Resort for hosting a perfect event.”
Dave Harner, PGA director of golf for the French Lick Resorts said he was pleased that the course held up well to hickory play, which demands accurate timing. “It was fun to watch the swing tempo of the hickory players versus today’s players.”
The Donald Ross course at French Lick is no stranger to hickories. In 1924, it hosted the PGA Championship won by an early hickory master – Walter Hagen.
The U.S. Hickory Open is one of four events in a Championship Series presented by Mountain Valley Spring Water. The others include the Southern 4-ball Hickory Championship, in birmingham, Ala.; the Heart of America in Omaha, Neb.; and the Mid Pines Hickory Open in Southern Pines, N.C.
Read news of the USHO here.
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