Golf Club creates new tradition with skills challenge

Grant Engle | Staff Writer

Professional golfers say you drive for show and putt for dough.

Chautauquans will have the opportunity to showcase all aspects of their game at the first-ever Chautauqua Golf Club Skills Challenge from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Chautauqua Golf Learning Center.

The skills challenge will pit Chautauquan golfers against one another in four events. Three of the contests highlight important aspects of every golfer’s game, while the main event features the most exciting shot in golf. The competition consists of a bunker shot challenge, a putting competition, a long drive contest and a hole-in-one challenge.

Mark Doty, a member of the golf club’s board of directors, said the skills challenge was inspired by the Old First Night Run/Walk/Swim. Doty said the board wanted to raise money for Old First Night while starting a tradition that could live on at the learning center.

“Chautauqua is a place that’s steeped with tradition, but it’s hard to build a new one,” Doty said. “We’re looking for our golfers to create long-standing records like they have at Club.”

Doty said the way the events are set up and the volatility of golf will give players of all ages and skill sets a chance to win.

For the bunker shot challenge, golfers will take three shots each. The golfer whose shot is closest to the pin, or whose shot goes in, will win the challenge.

The putting competition sets the golfers up with four putts around the green: a short putt, a medium-length putt, a long putt and an 85-foot putt from across the green. The 85-footer will be shot at an 8-inch hole, almost double the size of a regulation hole.

Doty said the extra wide hole creates a more level playing field among advanced and beginner golfers.

“The fun part is that these contests lend themselves to golfers at any skill level,” Doty said. “Anybody can get lucky and make an 85-foot putt in an extra large hole and win the event.”

The long drive competition will be separated by gender and will consist of a qualifying round and a championship round. Women will have to drive the ball at least 180 yards to qualify for the finals, and men will have to drive the ball at least 250 yards to enter the championship round.

Troy Moss, head pro at the golf club, said the conditions for the long drive competition should be favorable, and he offered some expert advice to the competitors.

“It will be a little downhill, and the ground should be pretty hard,” Moss said. “Hit a nice, medium-flighted draw and hope it runs out for you.”

The winners of the bunker shot, putting and long drive events will each win 2013 cart cards to the learning center. The card gives golfers access to the entire learning center, including its three practice holes.

The main event will revolve around the most exciting and rare occurrence in golf: the hole-in-one.

Contestants will first play a qualifying round. The golfers who sink a hole-in-one or who have the closest shots to the pin will advance to the championship round, where they could win the grand prize of a 2013 pass to the golf club, which has a $1,000 value.

Doty and Moss said that though the event is designed to raise money for Old First Night, its other goal is to give the community of golfers at Chautauqua an opportunity to play together while bringing attention to the learning center.

Moss described the center as a place for people to work on their golf game while not spending an entire morning on an 18-hole course.

“We’re trying to make golf at Chautauqua family-oriented,” Moss said. “That’s the way golf is going. The learning center is one way to get families to play together.”

Each event costs $5 to enter, or golfers can compete in all four challenges for $15. The club will have hot dogs, chips and soda for spectators and golfers.

Admission is free for non-golfers who plan to watch the events.

Doty said he will watch, because he is anxious to see the very first golf records set at what he hopes will be a long tradition.

“It’s going to be very exciting,” Doty said. “I’m looking forward to seeing who is going to be the longest driver and see if someone can actually sink an 85-foot putt or a hole-in-one.”