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French Lick Media Day

Apr 28, 2010

FRENCH LICK, Ind. – The wind kicked up Monday morning at The Pete Dye
Course at French Lick Resort. The temperature dipped into the low 50s
and a mist spread over the course to leave a chill to the bone.

If it’s April in Indiana, the locals tell you, anything’s possible.
Forget that the previous two weeks offered balmy Chamber of Commerce

“It’s pretty rough out there now, but it’s an easy course when it’s
dry and fast,” said Pete Dye, the 84-year-old World Golf Hall of Fame
designer, who was at the Media Day promoting the 43rd PGA Professional
National Championship.

The showcase event for PGA Professionals will make its first
appearance in Indiana, June 27-30, at French Lick Resort’s Donald Ross
and Pete Dye Courses. The final two rounds will be contested over Dye’s
stunning and demanding layout that will test 312 PGA Professionals
representing 43 states.

Though the back tees on the par-72 Pete Dye Course extend to 8,102
yards, the National Championship will be contested at 7,174 yards. The
par-70 Donald Ross Course will play to 6,885 yards.

Dye was joined at the head table by his pet dog, “Sixty,” a white
German shepherd that refused to be anywhere but at the foot of his

“It’s an honor to have a national championship come to a course that
is barely over a year old,” Dye said. “It’s an honor to have it in
Indiana. It’s great to build a course that is in your backyard. I don’t
know how it will all go over, but right now I’m tickled to death.”

Dye, who later accompanied media guests while playing his namesake
course, was also joined at the head table by PGA of America Secretary
Ted Bishop, defending National Champion Mike Small of Champaign, Ill.;
reigning Indiana PGA Champion Todd M. Smith of Peru, Ind.; Indiana PGA
President and the 2009 PGA Golf Professional of the Year Jack Barber of
Indianapolis; and Steve Ferguson, chairman of the board, the Cook Group,
that owns and operates the resort.

Nearly a year ago, Small was forced to skip the Champions’ Dinner at
the PGA Professional National Championship in Santa Ana Pueblo, N.M.
Riddled with back pain from a compressed disk, Small didn’t know if he
could make it to the first tee the next day.

Four days later, the University of Illinois men’s golf coach found
relief long enough to rally to win a second National Championship in
five years.

“It’s an honor and a privilege to be a PGA Professional and to have
been able to win this Championship,” said Small, who eerily could not
enjoy a practice round Monday due to the recurring back pain compounded
by the cold weather. “We all know what this Association means and
represents for many of us. It is the fabric of our family. It’s a big
part of our lives.

“The PGA promotes the game of golf and for us to be able to do the
same and also go out and compete in a Championship like this is very
special. I think winning last year validated the one I won in 2005.
There are a lot of great players in this Championship, many of them here
today, and it’s all a matter of being in the right spot at the right

“I was pleased to have won in 2005 on a course [The Ocean Course in
Kiawah Island, S.C.] that Pete had built. I remember telling Pete a
while back when I met him at Crooked Stick that I had played golf with
him in a U.S. Amateur qualifier when I was a 19-year-old amateur. It was
a great pleasure then to be with him, and it is again today.”

Todd Smith, who won the 2009 Indiana PGA Championship at The Pete Dye
Course with a 9-over-par 223 for 54 holes, said that he would not
choose to play anywhere else.

“This place is really special,” said Smith, a 47-year-old PGA head
professional at Rock Hollow Golf Club and a nine-time Indiana PGA Player
of the Year. “Mr. Dye gives you a chance to play a hole with ample room
in a fairway, but when it comes to making a score on a hole, you have
to be precise. I love to play his courses.”

Bishop, the general manager and PGA head professional at the Legends
of Indiana Golf Club in Franklin, Ind., said the National Championship
has one special theme.

“It is a unique opportunity for the general public to see the experts
in the business of golf competing on the highest level,” said Bishop.
“It is so special to see this Championship come to Indiana, and I know
that when everyone leaves after the final round they will have sampled
the best of Indiana hospitality.”

Indiana is the 14th state to host the PGA Professional National
Championship, and it is the first PGA of America-sanctioned championship
to be conducted in French Lick since 1924 when PGA co-founder Walter
Hagen won the PGA Championship.

“It is great to add to the history of this Championship by hosting
this Championship where Walter Hagen made history,” said Ferguson. “We
are very proud to serve as hosts and realize the importance of this
Championship to the PGA Professional.”

Media Day attracted an unprecedented turnout of former National
Champions, along with several members of the 2009 PGA Cup Team that
defeated Great Britain & Ireland in Loch Lomond, Scotland.

Those getting in practice rounds at The Pete Dye Course included 1984
National Champion Bill Schumaker of Columbia City, Ind.; 2000 and 2003
National Champion Tim Thelen of College Station, Texas; 2002 National
Champion Barry Evans of Charleston, W.Va.; 2006 National Champion Ron
Philo Jr. of Amelia Island, Fla.; 2007 National Champion Chip Sullivan
of Troutville, Va.; and 2008 National Champion Scott Hebert of Traverse
City, Mich.

The 2009 PGA Cup Team alumni assembled at the Pete Dye Course
included: Small, Hebert, Philo; Ryan Benzel of Bothell, Wash.; Kyle
Flinton of Edmond, Okla.; Eric Lippert of Pebble Beach, Calif.; Mark
Sheftic of Ardmore, Pa.; and Craig Thomas of White Plains, N.Y.

Begun in 1968, the PGA Professional National Championship brings
together the finest playing PGA Professionals representing The PGA of
America’s 41 Sections.