Christmas Eve is here and there's no sign of a 2014 Web.com Tour schedule to see whether Omaha remains on the PGA Tour's feeder circuit.
When PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem met with business leaders at the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce headquarters on Oct. 30, he said 90 days was ideally the timetable for a 2014 relaunch of the Omaha tournament that was held at Champions Run since 1996. Almost 60 days have passed.
After Finchem visited Omaha, the president of the now-dormant Cox Classic tournament board, Gary Grote, told The World-Herald that the termination phone call from the tour was unexpected.
“When I took that call, I thought we'd be talking about a partnership with a potential title sponsor,” Grote said recently. “Were we taken aback? Absolutely. Our negotiations heated up right after the tourney in August. We were in negotiations with a local title sponsor and meeting with a golf course. Certainly there were no commitments, but meaningful discussion.
“You might have to ask (the tour) when our relationship went bad. When we knew it was bad was when they told us we weren't running the tourney.”
As for what impact the tournament board's inquiries into a Champions Tour event had on the relationship with the tour, Grote said it was a natural idea to pursue in the wake of the early financial success of the 2013 U.S. Senior Open.
“We owed it to our staff and volunteers when we looked at the future viability of our business mode to see whether the Champions Tour was a possibility,'' Grote said. “We canvased our stakeholders and community leaders and learned to continue on with the Web.com Tour was best for Omaha and to go at that with a little different business model than what the tour model is. Our focus always was to keep as much money in the community as possible.”
The tour, he said, always was interested in getting the highest purse. “We felt that players would still come to Omaha because of the fun environment here and fans wouldn't care what the purse level was. Less money for a purse results in more money for Omaha charities.”
The final allocation of charity donations has yet to be announced. The tournament office has closed. Former tournament director Chad Mardesen has taken a sales job with Nike Golf.
Grote said the Omaha Community Service Foundation plans to maintain dormant status as a non-profit organization in case a future golf event would want to employ it.
“The three groups that I feel worse about are the dedicated staff we had who put their life into our event and were sent looking for jobs, the army of volunteers we had for the entire 18 years and the fans who continued to show up here year after year,” Grote said.
“Our thanks, too, to all the terrific sponsors in addition to Cox and Lexus of Omaha. The unique thing was it was done on the back of the small business owner, not those giving hundreds of thousands of dollars but reasonable donations to make it a real community event.”
'Golf' honors Dismal River
Dismal River's Red Course, designed by Tom Doak, is Golf Magazine's best new golf course of 2013.
“The latest if-you-build-it-they-will-come destination to pop up on the prairies of the Midwest is only “dismal” in name,'' wrote Joe Passov. “Even with a prime piece of real estate, that wasn't always a given. Not only did Tom Doak edge out Tiger Woods for the design commission, but between his other masterworks on sandy soil, Coore/Crenshaw's nearby Sand Hills and an acclaimed Jack Nicklaus course on the property, the pressure was on Doak to nail this one. He did.”
Dismal Red is the state's first “best new”course in either Golf Magazine or Golf Digest ratings since Quarry Oaks topped Golf Digest's 1997 list of best new affordable courses. Sand Hills was the 1995 best new private course by Golf Digest and heads several best-of lists for courses built in the past 50 years.
Nebraska-born Ron Whitten, architecture editor for Golf Digest, saluted Doak's body of work for the past year, including Dismal Red, but did not rank the limited supply of new courses.
Sajevics sweep honors
Andy Sajevic of Fremont, who claimed the Nebraska match play and Nebraska Amateur titles, is the Nebraska Golf Association's golfer of the year and his father, John, is the NGA senior golfer of the year.
Andy Sajevic, in his final year on the North Carolina men's golf team, was the first to sweep the men's state titles since Steve Friesen of Lincoln in 1998. John Sajevic notched the double in 1989. Andy won the Nebraska Amateur for the third time in four years and the golfer of the year award was his second in four years.
His father, 57 and a Nebraska Golf Hall of Famer, repeated as the senior honoree by finishing runner-up at the Nebraska Senior Amateur, tying for fifth at the national North-South Senior Amateur and tying for 15th at the Nebraska Amateur.
The NGA's junior golfers of the year were Carson Schaake of Omaha for boys and Haley Thiele of Wahoo for girls. Schaake was the Nebraska Class A high school champion and won the Nebraska Junior Match Play. He tied for third at the Nebraska Amateur and is a freshman on the Iowa men's golf team. Thiele, a junior this year at Wahoo Neumann, swept the girls stroke- and match-play titles after tying for 13th in the Class C boys high school state tournament.
Also at the annual awards banquet last month, Gary Austin of Omaha received the association's Virgil Parker Special Recognition Award for his work as a tournament official and volunteer coordinator.
NGA junior all-star teams—Boys: Cameron Bargell, North Platte; Ben Maschka, Carson Schaake, Sean Song, Omaha; Sam Meuret, Brunswick. Girls: Haley Thiele, Hannah Thiele, Wahoo; Amy Ahlers, Albion; Sarah Jo Pravacek, Omaha; Megan Vetrovsky, McCook.
Nebraska PGA award finalists
These are the finalists for the Nebraska PGA yearly awards:
Golf professional of the year: Charlie Borner, Hillcrest CC; Mike Cornell, Champions Run; Don Dravland, The Pines CC; David Honnens, Nebraska PGA; Don Kruse, Jackrabbit Run GC; Mark Ruhga, Oak Hills CC; Bob Vermeer, Oak Hills CC.
Teacher of the year: Ron Block, Lake Maloney GC; Mike Cornell, Champions Run; Cory Fletcher, GolfTEC-Omaha; James Kinney, Golf TEC-Omaha; Chad Lydiatt, Awarii Dunes GC; Ryan Norman, GolfTEC-Omaha; Jon Petersen, Tiburon GC; Mike Schuchart, Wilderness Ridge GC; James Sieckmann, Shadow Ridge CC; Shane Zywiec, Highlands GC.
Horton Smith Award (education): Tony Pesavento, Omaha CC; Rick Reynoldson, Crooked Creek GC.
Bill Strausbaugh Award: Bob Baber, Omaha; Matt Shaner, Kearney CC; Jeff Porter, ArborLinks.
Junior golf leader: Baber; Joe Canny, Nebraska PGA; Hank McFarland, Lochland CC; Brett Morgan, Field Club, Omaha; Matt Shaner, Kearney CC; Bob Walker, Floyd Park GC.
Merchandiser of the year (private facility): Mike Brown, Hillcrest CC; Troy Harder, Wayne CC; Nick Muller, CC of Lincoln; Carly Ulrich, Omaha CC.
Merchandiser of the year (public facility): David James, Meadowlark Hills GC; Tom Potvin, Dodge Riverside GC; James Rolls, Indian Creek GC; Denis Vontz, Highlands GC.
Facility of the year: ArborLinks, Nebraska City; Champions Run, Omaha; Dakota Dunes (S.D.) CC; Omaha CC; Wild Horse, Gothenburg; Wilderness Ridge, Lincoln.
Assistant professional of the year: Tony Driscoll, Bent Tree GC; Derek Francois, Wilderness Ridge GC; Sonya Freese, Firethorn GC; Jeff Henry, CC of Lincoln; Dawn Neujahr, Champions Run; Sean O'Neill, The Country Club of Lincoln; Jerad Palmer, Iron Horse GC; Karrie Van Ravenswaay, The Ridge GC.
Player development: Joe Canny, Nebraska PGA; Chris Thomson, Wilderness Ridge GC.