Colonial, Crowne Plaza Invitational a real golf media favorite
FT. WORTH, Texas – The Crowne Plaza Invitational is still a month a day, but on Monday it was center stage at venerable Colonial Country Club. It was media day, which means we got to play the course.
They don’t always let the press play golf anymore at every PGA Tour event’s media day, but I have the feeling if the good folks at the Colonial ever pulled the plug on this event, some of us would have to undergo therapy (many of us already need that). Getting to play Colonial, simply put, is a treat, a step below Augusta National perhaps, with nearly as much history.
The media tournament here is called the Wide Open, and there are some old cohorts of mine who have been playing in this since the 1960s. As one veteran told me, once you’re in, you in, and you don’t ever want to stop coming.
This year, we couldn’t have asked for a better day. Weather was perfect, and so were course conditions. Each group had a club member to help shepherd them around the course. Barry was our guy, and he couldn’t have been a more gracious host (plus, he guided us to a second-place finish). He’s been a member at Colonial for 37 years, and there wasn’t a putt he couldn’t read on Colonial’s small and difficult greens.
The club was founded in 1936 by Marvin Leonard, who owned Leonard Bros. Department Stores in Ft. Worth. At the time, it was probably the only course in the area with bentgrass greens. Known as Hogan’s Alley, this was Ben Hogan’s home club after he retired from golf, but that just scratches the surface of the history of this place. Throughout the magnificent clubhouse are photos of past champions that include every big name in golf. By in large, this was a favorite venue on the PGA Tour, and it’s even better now after Keith Foster’s renovation a few years ago. Foster’s goal was to bring the course back to its roots. He did just that, combined with a little modern technology, of course.
“I began concentrating on ‘peeling off’ the layers of previous work which, although well-intended, I think began to change the inherent charm of Colonial’s original design,” Foster said before the 2009 Colonial Invitational. “My desire, and our goal, was to reveal and restore its classic elements.”
Indeed, Colonial and the Crowne Plaza Invitational – and yes, the Wide Open – remain as classics.
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Our shepherd member also cued us into Hogan's Alley ~ alas ~ only pars for our group. ~ kudos on the second place finish! ~ JS