Lynden Tribune: Bring on the big time
May 7, 2009
BLAINE, Wash. -
Caleb Breakey, Lynden Tribune sports reporter
When the players see the freshly painted parking lines, see the pressure-washed roof and see the signs with their school logos on them ...
When they step onto the green, gawk at the rough that's thick enough to sink a vente cup from Starbucks and admire the flowers and beauty bark ...
When they walk under the sparkling chandelier, up the curved stairs, onto the second floor, and up to the window ...
They will know why Loomis Trail Golf Course and Semiahmoo Resort were chosen to host the NCAA Division II Men's Golf National Championships on May 19-22.
Every amenity, every detail, every concern -- it's all been handled with grace to show the rest of the nation just what Washington can offer on the golf course.
The man behind the curtain is Brett Eaton, PGA Director of Golf at Semiahmoo Golf & Country Club and Loomis Trail Golf Club.
If you haven't seen him around for, oh, 18 months or so, it's because he's been preparing for one of the grandest golf events that Whatcom County has ever seen.
The NCAA event comes to this western region of 13 states every four years. The last time the event was held in this region, it was at Crosswater Resort in Bend, Ore.
When the time came to put in bids for the event, Eaton and WWU's men's golf coach Steve Card got together in the fall of 2006. They gathered pictures, memorabilia, accolades, yardage books, descriptions of all the amenities, everything they had to offer -- you name it -- and put in a bid for the event.
"We thought with the setting here at Loomis Trail and the Semiahmoo Resort hotel, you couldn't have a better setting," Eaton said. "Loomis Trail, when you drive in, this is 35,000 square feet -- pretty eye-catching, pretty spectacular. A lot of people will be coming from the east coast, and when the flowers are in bloom, it's pretty awesome here. The golf course itself, the makeup, it is a championship golf course."
In truth, Eaton already knows the event will be a hit. Just this past September, Loomis Trail invited the top 25 colleges from the country to come out and play. The reaction from those invited?
"They fell in love with it," Eaton said.
The course will be just over 7,000 yards and a par 71. One particular challenge for the golfers is the temperature.
Just ask Eaton. He could tell you just from the invitation held last September.
"When I drove in, I could see the Hawaii kids and Florida kids teeing off right next to the Western kids," he said. "They had full winter gear on. They couldn't move. And the Western kids are wearing shorts and short sleeve shirts.
"The climate change is going to play a big factor. In other places, the ball flies farther. Here, they're going to get to sea level and probably use a six iron when they might usually use a seven iron. So course knowledge and getting out to play will be huge."
As noted above, the rough will be another challenge for the players, as it truly is taller than a vente Starbucks coffee cup.
"If you don't hit it into the fairway, you will be grabbing your sand wedge and getting your nearest angle to get it back into play," Eaton said.
A total of 108 players -- 20 schools of five players, including eight individuals who qualified -- are set to play.
Western Washington University golfers will know if any of its players have qualified on May 6. As of Tuesday, the Vikings were playing at the NCAA Division II Central/West Super Regional being played at the 7,016-yard Wilderness Ridge Golf Club in Lincoln, Neb. The top five teams from that super regional also advance to play at Loomis Trail.
Admission is free, and spectators can see the action from as close as 15 feet away. Shuttles will be used to transport people from an off-site parking area to Loomis Trail.
While Eaton has several committed volunteers, he still has a need for more. There are about 80 to 100 volunteers needed per day. There will be volunteers needed for the event for walking scorers, spotters, ecology and lots more.
The event is poised to only help Whatcom County.
"I don't know if it's going to be two years, or five years, or 10 years when I see the residual effect of what it's brought," Eaton said. "We're going to have people from all across the country coming here who haven't been here before. Now, that's going to lead to them buying something here. It could lead them to Bellis Fair Mall. Or to Vancouver, B.C."
A total of 100 rooms have been booked at Semiahmoo for an entire week for the players and coaches, and that leaves close to another 100 rooms ready to be filled by out-of-town fans, family and spectators.
At Sehmiahmoo, the players will have all the luxury of a resort, including two movie showings every night with popcorn and pretzels, and those will be golf movies, of course.
"It's the overall package," Eaton said.
NOTES: On Saturday, May 23, all the members of Loomis Trails and Semiahmoo will have the privilege of playing the course just as it was set up for all the players.
After the practice round on Monday night, the president of the USGA, Jim Vernon, will present Bill Wright with a 50th anniversary plaque of his 1959 National Public Links Golf championship. Wright was a graduate of WWU.
Players and coaches will arrive on Saturday, May 16, and leave Saturday, May 23. All of them will be staying at Semiahmoo, which is about an eight to 10 minute drive from Loomis Trail.
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