- EAGS / Back of the Range photo
If the field of 108 came to Sunnehanna Country Club Monday for pleasant round of golf on one of America’s most revered layouts, someone misread the weather forecast.
The club and course were battered with significant rainfall overnight and into the morning and when daybreak arrived there was no way the course would be ready for an 8 o’clock start to the 82nd Sunnehanna Amateur.
The course was soaked, a few branches were scattered about and the temperature fell to fall-like levels.
A 3-hour delay allowed the grounds crew to get the course tournament-ready resulted in an 11 a.m. started that was soon delayed for another 26 minutes, for a 3:26 late start. Play continued until dark and the first round will be finished Thursday morning.
Those not finishing their rounds Wednesday played until dark, approximately 9 p.m. They are scheduled to return to the course and be ready to play at 8:40 a.m.
Johnny Keefer of San Antonio, Tx. left the course as the leader in the clubhouse after posting a five-birdie, no-bogey 65 golf.
That lead didn’t last all that long because Sebastian Moss, of Pearland, Tx., also caught fire and put up a 65 of his own that included three birdies and eagle.
Herman Senke moved those two out of the lead in a hurry, blistering the back nine at Sunnehanna, making eight birdies on the day. He made two bogeys, including a round-ending bogey on 18. He still shot a 6-under par 66 and is the leader in the clubhouse.
“It was crazy out there today,” said Carson Bacha, of York, Pa. “It was tough to control your shots, especially wedges. On No. 12, I hit my 54-degree wedge 80 yards into the green and I couldn’t believe how far that thing spun back. I made a 45-foot uphill putt for eagle on one hole and made birdies on 12 and 13.”
A group of four players finished their opening rounds at 4-under par. Ian Gilligian, Zack Jones, William Moll and Bach are those players.
Thirty players posted rounds of par or below, 20 shot below par.
There was no further rain at Sunnehanna and with the winds that blew there Wednesday, the course should dry out a bit and be a bit firmer for Thursday round.
by Mike Dudurich, for Amateurgolf.com
So what should players competing in this week's Sunnehanna Amateur expect when they are driven up the driveway to the classic clubhouse and equally classic golf course?
Even those who've played the course before are going to notice them. Some will encourage lower scores, others will making scoring difficult.
The Sunnehanna Amateur will be held June 14-17. There is a full field in place with players from 12 countries. Bryce Lewis of Hendersonville, Tenn. is back to defend his 2022 title
“There have been a lot of changes to the golf course,” Sunnehanna Amateur co-chairman John Yerger. "And a lot of changes to golf in general."
There's such interest in getting into this one a qualifier had to be established.
In the first 10 minutes of registration, we had 36 spots taken. in one hour, it was 51. In 25 hours, 105 five players signed up."
Since last year's event, some significant changes have taken place, including bunker work on just about every hole.
“The specific goal was to really improve the bunkers,” Leppert said. “The bunker drainage has been deteriorating over the past few years.
“The sand had been contaminated. The whole idea was to start by doing bunker renovations, to get new drainage and new sand in the bunkers, and to redo the sod and the bunker banks.”
Other upgrades were made over a three-year period with a couple goals in mind: making the course more playable for members and more difficult for some of the better players.
Fairways were shortened on the 9th, 11th and 15th fairways. the turf that job and widened the fairways on the 15th and the 18th.
A bunker in front of the third green is new addition as is a bunker at the top of No. 9.
There are pair of changes that could affect scores and ultimately who wins.
A tall oak tree on the 8th, one that's somewhere near 100 years old will affect how players attack the 8th and 18th holes.
“Strategically, the course will play easier and much shorter because of the eighth and the 18th hole,” Yerger said. “With the removal of the tree on 8, players will drive directly at the green.
“Before, they would play back because of the tree, playing to the left quadrant of the fairway to have the best angle, leaving themselves typically a shot within 100 yards.”
Yerger said the final hole will play much differently than in the past.
“The 18th hole, the players would hit iron off the tee and would usually leave themselves about 125 to 135 yards in because the bunkers were on the right,” Yerger said. “Now, to carry the two new bunkers on the left requires a drive of 270 yards to a fairway that is now 40 yards wide instead of 20."
It sure sounds like chances are very good for an amazing week high atop the Allegheny Mountains.