The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Sports

June 10, 2014

Notebook | Course changes meet approval

JOHNSTOWN — The rough is high, and the number of trees is down at the Sunnehanna Country Club course as a record 89 players prepare for the 61st Sunnehanna Amateur.

The first of four rounds begins today at the par-70 course.

“I liked all the changes,” defending champion Steven Ihm of Peosta, Iowa, said during Tuesday morning’s Roger McManus Amateur Sponsor event.

“They cut down all the trees left of 18,” University of Iowa’s Ihm said of the 373-yard, par-4 final hole.

A thick row of tall pine trees formerly lined the left border on No. 18. Sunnehanna Country Club Professional Carl Seelman estimated that 50 trees were removed near 18. He said approximately 100 trees were cut down this year. That number is in addition to the row of tall trees taken down last year along the road adjacent to No. 12 near the club entrance.

“That makes it a great finishing hole,” said Ihm, who led or shared the lead through all four rounds in 2013 with scores of 66, 71, 68 and 67 for a 272. “It was a good finishing hole before but now you can play it a variety of ways without the penalty of the forest to the left. You can bang drivers up there and get a good look at birdie. All the changes were good, and I like where the course is going.”

The high rough presents a challenge accepted by the top amateur players.

“The course is awesome,” Kramer Hickock of Plano, Texas, said. “The rough is definitely up. From what I’ve heard they haven’t cut it in a few months, which is great. It puts a lot of value in hitting the fairways. The greens are also very undulated so you’ve got to be in the right spots. If you’re  above the hole, three-putts are definitely in the picture.”

Hickock was an All Big 12 Conference selection from the University of Texas this spring. Last year he was a semifinalist in the Western Amateur, placed third in the Texas Amateur and tied for sixth in the Porter Cup.

“You’ve got to hit fairways, give yourself good angles into the greens and you’ve definitely got to be below the hole,” Hickock said of the Sunnehanna course.

Bryson Dechambeau of Clovis, Calif., is a member of this year’s U.S. Palmer Cup Team. The Southern Methodist University golfer tied for ninth at the NCAA Division I Tournament, was tied for seventh at the NCAA Regional in San Antonio, and won the American Athletic Conference championship.

Dechambeau said the rough at Sunnehanna will prepare him for a challenging schedule that includes a stop in the U.S. Amateur in Atlanta.

“I’ll get used to the rough,” Dechambeau said. “The rough is going to be long at the U.S. Amateur. Here, it’s 6 inches, which is pretty dang high, but it’s definitely playable. It’s not thick, thick rough, but it’s long rough.”

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