“I intended to make this my masterpiece, but not until today did I realize that I built better than I knew.” So said world-renowned course architect Donald Ross in 1948, a full twenty years after designing Aronimink Golf Club, near Philadelphia, which is the site of the Tiger Woods’ hosted AT&T National this weekend on the PGA Tour. For a man who designed over 500 golf courses, including Pinehurst #2 (NC), Oakland Hills (MI), Seminole (FL), and Oak Hill (NY) just to name a few, calling this his greatest creation is quite an honor.

Because Congressional was unable to host this year’s tournament, as it is undergoing modifications for next year’s US Open, Tiger Woods and the AT&T people needed to find another location suitable to host their tournament. They could not have made a better choice than to enter the Philadelphia market on July 4th weekend and play one of the great old ladies in golf history. Aronimink hosted its first “major” in 1962, with Gary Player winnin the PGA Championship. Since then, it has hosted the US Amateur in 1977 (John Fought), the 1997 US Junior Amateur (Jason Allred), and the 2003 Senior PGA (John Jacobs).

Personally, there is something that I just love about the old Northeastern golf courses, like Aronimink, Merion, Winged Foot, Oak Hill, etc. Playing in the summer in lush, tree-lined fairways, to me, is how golf should be played. Of course, I grew up on a course very much like that-lol. Subtle changes in elevation, small, undulating greens and numerous, devilishly placed bunkers just seem to make a great test of golf. It will be interesting to see how this course, not short by most “old course” standards at 7,190 yards (par 70), holds up against the “grip it and rip it” pros of today’s PGA Tour.

Way back before electricity, I was fortunate enough to play Aronimink, as I was invited to play in a large Junior tournament at nearby Saucon Valley, about an hour north of Aronimink. They allowed a bunch of us to play Aronimink two days prior to our other tournament. Just being driven into the stately entrance as a 17 year old kid was enough to make me nervous, let alone to actually play my first really “famous” course (Saucon Valley quickly became my second).

All I remember is that it was so full of trees, that you could literally hear an echo if your ball hit one (which a lot did, unfortunately). The trees literally sound-proofed the course between fairways.  In reading about the course since I played, I see that due to agronomy and aesthetic issues, Aronimink unfortunately has lost over 1,000 trees in the last 20-30 years. When you watch this weekend, try to imagine another 50-75 trees on every hole!

An interesting fact that I wish I had known prior to picking Jim Furyk to win this week: PGA Tour member Sean O’Hair grew up as an Aronimink member, and was defeated by Trevor Immelman in the 1997 US Junior I mentioned earlier. He obviously has a little home-course advantage on his side.

Anyway, try to catch at least a little of Tiger and the AT&T between your hamburgers and fireworks. If you do, let’s see if the old lady holds up as well as I hope she does.

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