CLYMER – Three weeks ago, they were skiing down the slopes at Peek’n Peak.
Two months from now, the next generation of PGA Tour stars will be teeing it up on the resort’s famed Upper course.
In the mean time, staff members for the resort, the Web.com Tour and Chautauqua County will be busy getting ready for an expected 40,000 visitors.
That’s how many people are expected to attend the Web.Com LECOM Health Challenge, which runs from July 4 to 10.
“We’ve been working on this for a year and a half, and it’s coming to fruition,” Kevin Sanvidge, administrative director of the Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency, said during a press conference Monday. “We’re so excited to be able to have this golf tournament here. … All eyes are on us.”
Those 40,000 visitors are expected to produce $5 to $7 million over a 10-day period – “serious economic development” – Sanvidge said.
Tournament preparations took another step forward Monday, with the official start of ticket sales (tickets cost $10 for a single day or $25 for a four-day pass for adults and are available at lecomhealthchallenge.com. Children under 18 are free). To mark the occasion, a press conference featuring Web.Com Tour player Dominic Bozzelli was hosted at the resort.
Bozzelli arrived Monday morning and admitted that he had yet to see the course. Unfortunately, that was a difficult thing to do Monday, as a thick, pea soup-like fog enveloped the course.
Steady morning rain also left the bunkers looking more like ponds. Temperatures never did break out of the 40s.
Those conditions are familiar to Western New York golfers in the spring. Despite the sogginess, the course appeared to be in otherwise great condition, which is a credit to course superintendent Thomas DeKoning. Conditions, it’s safe to assume, should be a whole lot better in a couple months for the field of 156 golfers.
“This golf course is going to be absolutely fantastic come Fourth of July,” Sanvidge said.
That’s one of the reasons the PGA Tour decided to return to Peek’n Peak after an eight-year absence.
“It’s going to be a great challenge for our players,” said Tim Iley, the PGA Tour’s senior director of tournament business affairs said. “There are some players on our Tour that I’ve talked to who played here and absolutely loved it back then.”
Bozzelli will tee it up on the Upper Course for the first time in July in the closest thing to a hometown tournament that he’ll get. The native of Rochester is in his second year as a Web.com Tour member.
“When the schedule came out, I definitely circled this event,” Bozzelli said. “I’m really excited to be here. Talking to some other players … they’ve had nothing but great things to say about it. It’s going to be a great week, I’m sure.”
Bozzelli is a former two-time All-American at Auburn who finished his collegiate career as the runner-up in the 2013 NCAA championship.
He earned his Web.Com Tour card with a fourth-place finish at qualifying school in December and currently ranks 61st on the tour’s money list, with $22,188 in earnings in six events played. He had a top-10 finish in the season-opening Panama Claro Championship, but has missed three cuts since then.
“It’s been pretty mediocre since then,” Bozzelli said. “But I’m confident that if I just keep working hard and continue to keep grinding, my good weeks are without a doubt coming soon.”
The goal for Bozzelli, as it is any of the other Web.com Tour players, is a top-25 finish on the money list. That guarantees them a spot on the 2016-17 PGA Tour.
All 50 PGA Tour cards that are awarded annually come through the Web.com Tour – 25 from the regular season and 25 from the four-event finals.
“It’s safe to say this is not a developmental tour,” Iley said. “The players that play on the Web.com Tour, they’re not developing their game. They have the game. We just don’t have enough room for them on the PGA Tour.
“Each week, we can handle only about 144 to 156 players on a PGA Tour event. There’s not enough daylight for the 250 guys who should probably be out there playing. … That’s the caliber of golf you’re going to see.”
According to Iley, there are players from 19 different countries on the Web.com Tour, and its graduates have won 436 PGA Tour titles.
Tournament organizers are still in need of about 200 volunteers for the event. Those interested can visit lecomhealthchallenge.com or call
• The Western New York PGA held its season-opening Senior Junior Pro-Pro/Pro-Am at Blue Heron Hills in Macedon on Monday.
The winning pro-am team was Mike D’Agostino (Penfield CC), Dick Lucas (Penfield CC) and amateurs Tom Ferindino and Carl Minnello, with a total of 8-under 133 in the best of 2 of 4 balls format.
The Locust Hill team of Steve Barber and Bob Pappert won the pro-pro division with a 4-under 67 total.
• The Buffalo District Golf Association has finalized its 2016 calendar with one change, dropping the WNY Scratch tournament and replacing it with a senior two-man best ball tournament run with the Rochester District Golf Association. That will be held Aug. 21 at Ravenwood in Rochester.
The BDGA season starts with the two-man opening scramble May 19. There are open, senior and ‘B’ flight divisions. For more information, visit buffdga.org.
• This is the first column of the 2016 season. Local golf news or suggestions to be featured in this space are welcome at the email address below.