Dick's Sporting Goods becoming a premiere event in the Champions Tour
ENDICOTT, N.Y. - After the flood in the fall of 2011 the future Dick's Sporting Goods Open bleak.
But here in 2013 the tournament has rebounded, continuing to become bigger and better.
Last year they were able to get the course ready and boasted the best field in the tournament's history.
"Last year's field was a wow moment," tournament director John Karedes stated. "And it was something I didn't think that we would have the opportunity to duplicate. Looking at the early commitments and looking at where we are today, it certainly looks like we can match last year's field. We can't exceed because we had the top 60 players so when you're batting 1,000 we can't go up but its getting to that thousand level still and were working on it."
Besides the field they've also brought in other entertainment this year, headlined by the Tim McGraw concert on Friday night.
"We certainly were able to see the field, the concert, the great fan experience last year and with that we just want to continue to build," Karedes remarked. "Were always trying to put on a bigger and better show for the community."
Arguably the biggest new name to commit this year is Hall of Famer Colin Montgomerie. He is one of the most prolific winners on the European Tour and was a part of Eight Ryder Cup victories between 1991 and 2006. He even captained the European team to a Ryder Cup title in 2010.
"His record speaks for himself," Karedes said. "To have him choose our event as one of his first events on the Champions Tour really speaks volumes because word has certainly gotten to him to say this is one of those events you need to come to."
Karedes credits past and current players telling future Champions Tour members about the changes to En-Joie since they switched from the BC Open to Dick's Sporting Goods.
En Joie doesn't look like it did 15, 20 years ago, Karedes said.
The 2012 champion Willie Wood can attest to that. He played in the BC Open during the 1980s and 90s and believes it is in the best shape it's ever been, despite the flooding.
"It is terrific," Wood said. "Rocco (Greco) has done a wonderful job of getting a ton of grass on the fairways. The fairways were always a little bit thin, even before the flooding. He's done a great job, I think that's one of the big reasons the people come back. The course is in great shape."
Greco, the superintendent at En-Joie, happily had very little to report.
"The good thing is I don't have much to talk about this year," he said during his speech.
With the Dick's Sporting Good's accession Karedes can't wait to get the top players that are turning 50 in the next few years.
"From the Steve Stricker's and Davis Love III's," he remarked. "That's the great thing about the Champions Tour. The PGA Tour, don't get me wrong, those guys are good but our guys are champions. When they turn 50 and they're coming out to the Champions Tour people know who they are and they know what type of player they are."
Karedes believes this area, En-Joie and Dick's Sporing Goods are a perfect fit to host a Champions Tour event.
"Our community, our region has at least some experience," he said. "The community knows these players, they're coming out and in the future it's going to be no different. The addition of Colin (Montgomerie) exemplifies the reputation we have on the Seniors Tour."
LAST YEAR'S WIN CAREER CHANGING FOR WOOD
Going into the 2012 Dick's Sporting Goods Open not many people were expecting Willie Wood to be among the leaders.
He had to qualify on Monday just to get in and never had done well when he participated in the BC Open earlier in his career.
Then a 35-foot putt changed everything.
He was able to force a playoff which he won to take his first Champions Tour even title. Then the next week he finished tied for third at another Champions Tour event in Seattle followed by his second win in just three weeks at the Pacific Links Hawaii Championship.
"Those three weeks were kind of life changing," Wood explained. "It was definitely a career changing run and a half for me."
During the 1980s and 90s Wood struggled at En-Joie while playing in the BC Open.
"I never drove the ball good," he said. "You must drive it straight here because there are trees everywhere."
Since then he has worked on hitting off the tee.
"I've been working for years and years on trying to put the ball in the fairway," Wood explained. "Last year, last summer, I really got to hitting it good off the tee and it paid off."
Coming into the week he didn't expect to be hoisting a trophy on Sunday.
"I was a little bit surprised honestly to play as well as I did here," Wood said. "My past history, you have a good feeling when you come into a tournament and I didn't have any good past experiences. I will this August."
Typically champions are taken out to dinner but Wood had to settle for Wendy's due to a very early morning flight on Monday. But even though he was across the country the win was still with him.
"It was a very challenging week for me because I had so many text messages and phone messages to rehash this event," Wood explained.
Getting the win changed things permanently for Wood.
"It definitely increased my confidence level," he explained. "It's fun to feel good about your game."
It also eased his stress level as he was always worrying about his schedule, needing to qualify to make tournaments. After those three weeks Wood didn't need to qualify.
"It's nice to be able to set a schedule," he explained. "Booking a hotel for not two days but for seven, that's nice."
Expectations, along with pressure, have also risen for Wood.
"I want people to expect me to do well," he said. "There will be pressure here in 55 days because I will be the defending champion. I haven't been a defending champion in quite a while."
The win has also changed the type of texts he gets now, too.
"I used to get texts when I finished 25th in a tournament saying 'well done'," Wood explained. "Now if I finish 25th it's 'hang in there.'"
Monday, August 12 - Practice Rounds, Event qualifier at Hiawatha Landing, UHS Pearls of Wisdom with Nancy Lopez
Tuesday, August 13 - Practice Rounds, Pro-Am draw party at Binghamton University Events Center
Wednesday, August 14 - Official Pro-Am with a double shotgun start (8 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.), Ben Witter Junior Clinic
Thursday, August 15 - Official Pro-Am with double shotgun start (8 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.)
Friday, August 16 - First Round, Tim McGraw Live in concert
Saturday, August 17 - Second Round, Ben Witter's Power Golf Long Drive and Trick Shot Show
Sunday, August 18 - Final Round, Wendy's Walk for Kids