The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

June 13, 2013

Backup plan in place as Sunnehanna Amateur watches weather

Joe Gorden

JOHNSTOWN — Rarely does the Sunnehanna Amateur Tournament of Champions escape bad weather, and if forecasts are to be believed, the 60th annual edition of the golf classic, scheduled to begin today, will not be an exception.

The tournament’s first round is scheduled to tee off at 8 a.m., but weather forecasters are predicting showers and thunder showers, with a potential for high winds and heavy rain. A threat of hail and tornadoes has been thrown in.

Should that transpire, of course, golf will be out of the question. But, Sunnehanna’s tournament committee has a Plan B that has served it well in the past.

“If we get the weather (today) that is forecast, we’ll play 18 holes on Friday, 36 holes on Saturday and 18 holes on Sunday which, coincidentally, is what we did for the first 52 years of the Sunnehanna Amateur,” said committee co-chairman Jim Hargreaves. “It’s something we’re familiar with.”

The fourth day of play on Thursday was added several years ago to allow an expanded field of entries, and has enabled Sunnehanna to bring more of the country’s top amateur golfers to Johnstown each summer. But, especially with this year’s record field, it complicates the task of compressing the event into three days.

“It’s a little more difficult with a field of 83 players, but given the fact that we have light until 9 o’clock now, it’s possible,” Hargreaves said. “Given the weather forecast, it may be what we have to do, and we’ll certainly have no problem fitting the tournament in.”

Hargreaves said the tournament committee is prepared to take any setback in stride, and noted that there is another big Pennsylvania tournament – the U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club in Delaware County – that also will be facing severe weather. It, too, is scheduled to begin this morning.

“We’re not in panic mode and, frankly, the people who probably are in panic mode are at the USGA in Merion,” he said. “They have 156 players to get around the course. We only have 83.

“Of course, the difference is they can go to Monday. That’s not an option we really have.”

For now, though, the committee is planning to begin the latest Sunnehanna Amateur on schedule.

“Hopefully, we’ll be able to play some golf,” Hargreaves said.

“But, I don’t know. (Wednesday) turned out a lot better than was forecast. We’ll wait and see, but we’ve already formulated our plan.”

If a postponement becomes necessary, Hargreaves said the committee would post notices on its website and social media and notify news outlets to keep potential spectators informed.