Read The Greens Golf Column: Will Salem CC Restoration Project Ahead a 7th USGA Championship? | Sports

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  Read The Greens Golf Column: Will Salem CC Restoration Project Ahead a 7th USGA Championship?  |  Sports

The Salem Country Club embarked on a $ 3.5 million restoration project this week, big news if the area’s championship venue carries out such an endeavor. Based on what similarly highly rated United States Golf Association (USGA) tournament sites have been doing over the past few years, could this mean a seventh USGA championship is coming to Salem?

Salem officials are mum on the matter, but several five-star clubs, like Salem, have carried out restorations to varying degrees over the past decade, after which many have set up a championship appointment with the country’s golf association. Could the Donald Ross designed diamond in Peabody be similar on the USGA’s radar?

This is more than likely, according to a source at USGA New Jersey headquarters, but nothing is definitive. The two parties are currently only in the informal discussion phase. The fact of the matter is, Salem has remained on the USGA’s list of preferred sites since the club hosted a hugely successful US Women’s Open in 1984, which Hollis Stacy dramatically won, her third such title. This was followed by the 2001 and US Senior Opens 2017. Before the last USGA official left Salem after Champion Kenny Perry’s final round duel with Kirk Triplett in ’17, more than one high-ranking USGA guy had announced that they were returning for another championship.

After the restoration project is complete, the club and the USGA are expected to begin more serious discussions. But don’t hold your breath at what might be heralded as the third US Women’s Open or the third US Senior Open on the North Shore. The first available opening for either event on the USGA schedule is believed to be in 2030, although all sites may not be official until the 2020s.

But Salem can wait. There is no hurry. Members happily waited 17 years between the 84 Women’s Open and 2001 Senior Open, then another 16 years before the 2017 Senior Open returned.

Additionally, no USGA championship is contested in Salem without prior membership approval before a contract is signed – standard practice for most clubs of Salem’s stature and makeup.

“The project will address a number of delayed maintenance issues,” said Charlie Fox, Jr., President of Salem, “and will provide an opportunity to continue realizing Salem’s potential. We believe this project will enable our Donald Ross course to continue to be one of the most beautiful and fun 18 year olds in America. That is the rationale for the project.

“With regard to our relationship with USGA,” Fox continued, “Salem and USGA continue to have a strong working relationship and we value our USGA history. We speak to them annually anyway, but no future tournament is planned at the moment. “

The ongoing restoration project, with the exception of the most ambitious part, the restoration of the course’s 54 bunkers, which was last carried out in the early 1990s, is mainly cosmetic in nature, after which the USGA closed its doors in Salem for its first Senior Open. In that championship, the all-time greats, Jack Nicklaus, who almost won his third Senior Open that week, were Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Tom Watson.

Bunker restoration involves digging deep into each construction site to replace drainage before replacing it with new sand, often replacing all of the surrounding sod, possibly even remodeling the site for one reason or another. This part of the project has the highest costs within the project budget.

The project also includes reshaping and possibly rebuilding any number of tees, minimal altering the contours of selected fairways, possibly even removing trees and rough in certain areas outside the fairway due to light, tree and air flow problems.

Salem has been financially in a comfortable position for years thanks to years of sales of the surrounding club space to the Commonwealth and the federal government for the construction of adjacent highways. This explains the club’s ability to regularly incur significant expenses to upgrade its golf course and clubhouse.

The club recently redesigned and resized all 18 greens to come closest to Ross specifications for the course’s opening in 1926. The project also included a new drainage system for each green. Greens # 7 and # 8 were previously two of the course’s largest greens; after the project they became two of the smallest.

Before the US Senior Open 2017, the club expanded the driving range to include the widest tee area at the east end, so that the media tent could be set up at the west end.

The course has undergone general – and controlled – tree removal on a consistent basis, as is the case with virtually all private golf courses in the country, but not as extreme as USGA favorite Oakmont does, which removes every tree from the property will. First-time visitors to Salem often praise not only the excellent quality of the course, but also the beauty of the trees.

At the turn of the century, the club installed a new irrigation system, renewed cart paths and spent millions to modernize and expand its almost 100-year-old clubhouse from the roof to the basement to the terrace.

Salem CCs Steven DiLisio, fresh from five years of service, including a senior year on the Duke University golf team, missed the pre-qualification cut for the Korn Ferry Tour Qualifying School last week at Highland GC in Lincoln, Nebraska, by five strokes. DiLisio shot 69-74-71 for 215, two under par, when it required a 210 win to cut the 24 players and ties to get into the first stage of the main qualification process … Cheryl Tremblay, Joe Barnes and John Kaneb.

Gary Larrabee, sports writer for The Salem News from 1971-95, has covered golf on the North Shore and beyond for over 50 years.

Gary Larrabee, sports writer for The Salem News from 1971-95, has covered golf on the North Shore and beyond for over 50 years.

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