Area golfers turn focus to Laurel Hill for U.S. Amateur Public Links

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Sports,Golf,Kevin Dunleavy

Lorton course will host Amateur Public Links

Few people are as attuned to municipal golf as Fairfax's Peter Furey. Growing up in Arlington in the 1960s, the first course Furey remembers playing was East Potomac Park, or as it is more commonly known to locals, Hains Point. These days, Furey is director of golf for the Fairfax County Park Authority, which operates eight courses, including a few (Jefferson, Twin Lakes) he played as a child.

Municipal golf is not necessarily the bare-bones experience Furey remembers as a youth. There is no better example than one of the courses he now runs -- Laurel Hill.

On land that was formerly part of Lorton Reformatory, Laurel Hill has the creative, sophisticated design and finely maintained fairways and greens of a private golf course. A stamp of approval has come from the USGA, which will stage one of its oldest events, the U.S. Amateur Public Links, at Laurel Hill on July 15-20.

"Because it's a championship for public players only -- you can't be a member of a private club -- that hits us right in the middle of our mission," Furey said. "It's always been our goal to have this championship."

Laurel Hill now places its name among some of the illustrious municipal courses that have hosted including Bandon Dunes (2011), Torrey Pines (1998), Cog Hill (1989 and 1970), Harding Park (1956 and 1937), Cedar Crest (1954) and Bethpage (1936).

The tournament also has produced several champions who have gone on to PGA Tour success, including Billy Mayfair (1986), Tim Clark (1997), Trevor Immelman (1998), Ryan Moore (2002, and 2004) and Brandt Snedeker (2003).

The APL is open to amateurs with a handicap index of 4.4 or better. Last year 3,034 players entered at 72 qualifying sites scattered throughout the nation. Two days of stroke play whittle the field from 156 players to 64, followed by single-elimination match play.

According to the USGA's Bill McCarthy, who will be in charge of course set-up, the organization seeks courses capable of challenging elite amateur players. Another part of the evaluation process involves the on-site personnel.

"We walked away from that visit saying, 'This could be a home run,'?" McCarthy said. "The enthusiasm that we found with the staff here and the support of the Parks Authority was just phenomenal. We said, we gotta come here."

As it does with all its championships, the USGA will make some tweaks to the course, which it will set up at 7,022 yards. New tees have been added to lengthen holes No. 1, 9, 16 and 18. But there are not many radical changes to the original design of Bill Love.

Recognizing that there might be some weather constraints in July, the goal for McCarthy is to set up the course so it is hard and fast and will identify the best player. "We're gonna turn the water down a little bit," McCarthy said. "We're gonna massage it a little bit and provide a great challenge for these players."

kdunleavy@washingtonexaminer.com

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Kevin Dunleavy

Staff writer - sports
The Washington Examiner