Oakmont prepares for U.S. Open, Hall of Fame dinner approaching: From the desk of Mike Dudurich

By Mike Dudurich, Freelance writer and host of The Golf Show on 93.7 The Fan Saturday mornings from 7-8 AM – Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeDudurich

The WPGA has retained Mike Dudurich to write a blog for its website. The opinions and observations contained within are his own and do not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of the Association.

You may have heard that the U.S. Open will be held at Oakmont Country Club next June. It will no doubt be a torturous test for the 156 players who make the field.

With winter inexorably making its way toward us, the next several months will definitely be nervous times for the folks at Oakmont, who can’t afford the kind of winter damage that attacked golf courses throughout Western Pennsylvania last winter.

Grounds superintendent John Zimmers told me on my radio show the plan is to go above and beyond in the area of protection this winter. Heavier green covers will be in use and wind fences will surround each green in an attempt to cut down Mother Nature’s access to those diabolical putting surfaces.

Those measures will go into effect as the colder weather arrives. Zimmers said that most likely will start to take place toward the end of November.

Get those greens back to their historic selves, get the rest of the legendary layout hard and fast and the field will get a real test of golf after last year’s “experiment” at Chambers Bay.

A special night on the West Penn Golf Association is on the near horizon.

The 2015 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and WPGA Champions Dinner will take place on Oct. 14 at Chartiers Country Club.

A sparkling class of inductees – Eben Byers, Bobby Cruickshank, Judy Oliver, Sam Parks, Jr., Donald “Doc” Giffin, Sean Knapp and Nathan Smith – will enter the Hall and all 2015 WPGA champions and players of the year will be honored.

Sam Saunders 2015 season on the PGA Tour was certainly not what he would have hoped.

He played in 28 events, lost in a playoff in Puerto Rico and had four top-25 finishes, collecting $578,571.

The worst part of his season was yet to come, however. As he prepared to compete in the Web.com Tour Finals in late August, Saunders fell off a scooter and spent two nights in intensive care as a result of an epidural hematoma, known as a brain bleed.

But Saunders, the grandson of legendary Arnold Palmer, has recovered nicely and after the first day of the Web.com Tour Championship, he was a shot out of the lead after a 64.

“It makes me not want to be stupid and think I’m invincible,” Saunders said. “I have a wife and kids that I need to be around for, for a long time. Something like that certainly makes you think twice about jumping off a rock, or not wearing a helmet. It’s just not worth it.

Saunders finished fourth in the Hotel Fitness Championship, a finish that all but wrapped up his return to the PGA Tour next year. But a good performance this weekend will tie up a return to the PGA Tour.

An early heads-up on a program for young golfers that started on the Left Coast and is making its way east.

It’s called Youth on Course and it’s an idea that actually does something to attract youngsters to the game instead of just talking about it.

Adam Heieck, executive director of YOC, started the program in 2006 and it enables juniors to pay $5 per round at participating golf courses and the YOC making up the difference between that and the junior rate at the course.

“Kids never pay more than $5 a round,”” Heieck said. “That’s the hallmark of the program. It’s been great to see the growth and outpouring of support from private institutions, and the way golf courses have jumped on board.”

Heieck said YOC subsidizes almost 60,000 rounds a year in Northern California. It is a nonprofit organization that holds fundraisers and accepts donations. The Southern California Golf Association has gotten involved as have associations in Oregon, Nevada, Idaho, Utah and Arizona. “We think this should be a national model,” Heieck said. For more information on the program, go to youthoncourse.org.


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