CASTLE ROCK, Colorado (CBS4) – Solitude at Castle Pines has never looked or sounded this good. But it wasn’t long ago that one of the most exciting tournaments of the PGA Tour was held on the tranquil fairways in Colorado, lined with its namesake.
The course and tournament were the dream of the Colorado businessman Jack Vickers.
“I think he was hoping to introduce something new back then,” said Keith Schneider, vice president of Castle Pines Golf Club. “And I think he did.”
In 1986 The International was born and it was an instant hit.
Early winners like Greg Norman, Davis Love III and Phil Mickelson added credibility to the tournament by using the unique scoring system that awarded points for birdies and rewarded aggressive play.
“If you played aggressively and did it, you got great rewards,” said 2002 international champion Rich Beem. “It’s a golf course that is feast or famine.”
The International has also taken hospitality to another level. The players loved the way they were treated and the tournament soon became a staple of the tour.
“You just felt like whatever you wanted, wanted or asked for was there and you were kind of embarrassed asking about something strange, but listen, they leaned back for you, it was great “Added Beem.
“When I felt at home,” said 2000 international champion Ernie Els. “I actually thought about buying a house along 10th fairway for a while.”
In 2000 Els finally won his “home game”. But the victory of the Big Easy was not the crowning moment of the tournament. That came 2 years later. 1994 champion Steve Lowery made a memorable run against leading Rich Beem and a second international title. Lowery not only made the 14th hole, but also the 17th hole.
“I’ve had 20 hole-in-ones in my career, which is quite a lot because I’ve always hit iron on the pin and played aggressively, but it’s the best golf course of my career,” said Lowery.
“You’re on the 18th tee with a 9 point lead and that’s the best scenario you can have,” said Beem. “But when I hit my second shot, I’m only one point ahead. You can’t imagine a deeper feeling. “
Lowery’s furious comeback stalled on the final green when his putt narrowly missed to win or lose.
“To date, and I’ve seen some videos, I have no idea how that ball stayed out, but luckily it did,” Beem said.
“We saw each other at the airport that night and he (Beem) told me I might have won, but everyone will remember you,” Lowery said.
While the Lowery Beem duel was the best international, the most popular tournaments were when Tiger Woods played. The tiger mania occurred in 1998 and 99.
His best result was 4th when he recorded a hole-in-one on the 7th hole before the television cameras were on.
“Personally, I thought Tiger was great, but I thought what’s the big deal?” Said Schneider. “He does the ace on # 7, then he goes to # 13 and does a 2 and this place was buzzing and I was like, ‘Now I get it.'”
1999 was Tiger’s last appearance on The International. His absence affected audience ratings and ultimately the status of The International as one of the top events on the tour.
“There’s no other tournament, but maybe one or two, that’s our level,” Jack Vickers told CBS4 in 2007. “I will not be the proud owner of the second best golf tournament.”
And with that, a proud Jack Vickers made the unpopular decision to end the tournament.
“Everyone was very sad and we were sad about Mr. Vickers,” Schneider recalls. “He put his heart and soul into this tournament.”
“When I found out about it, I was hot,” Beem recalls. “And I made my voice very popular.”
“They were just devastated that the tournament was canceled,” Els said. “I even called then Commissioner (Tim) Finchem to see what I could do to save it.”
Unfortunately, the International could not be saved.
So what now? Will Castle Pines ever play professional golf again? There are rumors that the club will host a Fed Ex Cup playoff event and maybe even a Ryder Cup.
“Let me answer it like this: ‘Yes, we talked,'” Schneider admitted. “I think there is interest on our part and I think there is interest on their part. I’m not going to sit here and lie about it and say we didn’t speak to them – we did. “