Rice, Victoria National Gear Up For Senior Amateur
By Pete Kowalski, USGA
Newburgh, Ind. – Mike Rice and the people of Victoria National Golf Club have embraced the 2006 USGA Senior Amateur, but for different reasons.
Rice, 66, is a former Southern Methodist University football player and a retired insurance executive who becomes atypically emotional when he talks about his victory in 2005. His bear hug of the Senior Amateur Championship Trophy demonstrated that the 56th Senior Amateur (Sept. 16-21) is incentive enough to keep custody of the prize.
"The people at the USGA sent me a letter asking to send the trophy back and I didn’t want to," said Rice during Senior Amateur Media Day Aug. 29. "I guess I’ll have to be like Allen Doyle at the Senior Open and win it again."
Rice never expected to feel so connected to an event, but he is.
"When we start here on September 16, there will be 156 golfers here who want to win this very, very badly," added Rice. "I can’t even put into words what his meant to me. When I won this, I got emotional. I still do, and I’m not an emotional guy."
Victoria National, for its part, put the squeeze onto this championship for amateurs 55 and older because the club wants to fulfill the dream of founder Terry Friedman – bringing championship events to its beloved Tom Fazio-designed course.
True to that spirit and vision, a select group of the club’s members melded together and put the throttle to the preparation process for the Senior Am not long after Friedman’s untimely death in 2004.
One person was former PGA and Nationwide Tour player Brian Tennyson, who grew up in the area and played his college golf at Ball State in Muncie, Ind.
"Our goal was simple," said Tennyson, chairman of the community support. "We want to put on the best Senior Amateur ever. It’s truly amazing to see what’s been done to make this championship a success."
The Senior Am is making its second appearance in the state of Indiana – the first was in 1983 at Crooked Stick outside of Indianapolis. The 2006 Senior Amateur is the 14th USGA championship to be played in the state but the first in the Evansville area.
"It’s more than that," Tennyson said. "It’s about family and community and the chance to be part of something special."
Forging and galvanizing local support has been a simple process for the club’s organizing committee. All they did was ask.
Take this example from volunteer chairman Gary Gurtcheff: "I’ve already gotten 400 volunteers who responded through mail or via e-mail and that’s just from the general public. That’s not counting members. We intend to make this a positive experience for everyone involved."
A 7,500-square-foot hospitality tent for spectators and volunteers – the largest ever erected in the Evansville area – is one of Victoria National’s most visible efforts. But the promotion of the championship also includes billboards, radio and TV advertising, distribution of free tickets and much more. It has not gone unnoticed.
"The preparations here seem to be a lot more than other places I’ve been," Rice said.
Rice, who spent a day and a half on property for Media Day, knows other lead work has to be done before the event commences.
"I can’t wait to play here because this is such a great golf course," Rice said. "It’s one that really sets up well for match play. You might even win a hole with an eight here. I don’t have any idea what kind of score it will take to get through to match play, though."
Pete Kowalski is a Manager of USGA Media Relations. E-mail him with questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.