Golf Bucks County

By Bob Oliver

Middletown Country Club

Middletown is a compact 80 acres of challenging golf, with rolling hills and large specimen trees that have watched many golfers travel its fairways over time. It has retained its old time feel with tees and greens in close proximity, allowing golfers to walk the course if they choose.

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PGA Tour evades Delaware Valley

Written by Bob Oliver on .

The PGA Tour Championship was an outstanding event to watch on television.

 

Seeing Phil Mickelson come back from near disaster to win was exciting, and seeing the stories written by Tiger Woods, Kenny Perry, Steve Stricker and the Delaware Valley's own Sean O'Hair over the course of the last four days at historic East Lake reminds all that golf is full of great story lines.

 

 

For Bucks County golf enthusiasts, though, it strikes a different chord. For while watching on television is fine, watching a PGA Tour event in person is even better.

 

Yet Philly is nowhere on the PGA Tour radar screen.

 

That's a shame.

 

The PGA Tour and the Delaware Valley has a long history, only most of it has been decades ago.

 

The last regularly scheduled PGA Tour event in the Delaware Valley was the SEI Pennsylvania Classic in 2000. Nick Napoleon, a Pennsbury grad, Monday qualified for the event, and while he missed the cut he holds the distinction of last local player to compete in a DelVal Tour event.

 

Prior to 2000 the area has hosted a wealth of PGA Tour events, dating back to the 1940s.

 

Whitemarsh Valley played host to 17 Tour events from 1963-1980, featuring three wins by Jack Nicklaus (1964, 1965, 1978) and other triumphs by Arnold Palmer (1963), Tom Weiskopf (1971, 1973) and Tom Kite (1976). Other significant players who claimed the IVB included Hubert Green, J.C. Snead and Don January.

 

The IVB went on a one-year hiatus after the 1980 event, deferring to historic Merion (East) Golf Club which was hosting the 1981 United States Open Golf Championship.

 

Merion also hosted the U.S. Open in 1934, 1950 (who can forget the photograph of Ben Hogan's wonderful swing on the 72nd hole?) and 1971. But despite a promise of a return to Whitemarsh Valley in 1982, the comeback never occurred.

 

The closest the PGA Tour came to Bucks County was the 1944 Philadelphia Inquirer Open at Torresdale-Frankford C.C.  There were six Inquirer Opens held at various sites in the area, including Byron Nelson's win at Llanerch in 1945.

 

Cobbs Creek Golf Club hosted two Philadelphia Daily News Opens in 1955 and 1956.

 

While Merion has attracted a handful of U.S. Opens, three other Delaware Valley courses have drawn PGA Championships.  The Philadelphia Cricket Club hosted the 1907 and 1910 events, while the Philadelphia Country Club was the site of the 1939 PGA.

 

Aronimink was the site of the 1962 PGA Championship won by Gary Player.

 

For years the Senior PGA Tour (now Champions Tour) played an event in the Delaware Valley, but even that stopped in the 2002. Lee Trevino, Gary Player, Chi Chi Rodriguez and Berwyn's own Jay Sigel claimed crowns, but like the IVB and PGA Tour the Champions Tour has gone away from the area. Laurel Creek hosted one Nationwide Tour event near Rancocas...one and done.

 

It's a shame, but a reality. Tiger's tournament, the AT&T National, comes to the area for a year while Congressional is being put into U.S. Open shape next year, and Merion will host the 2013 U.S. Open.

 

Until those events area fans will have to watch the PGA Tour on television.