Grad Takes Augusta's 19th Hole Design Contest

Sonny Pittman's 19th Hole DesignIt’s not every day that anybody asks you to improve upon perfection but the Augusta Chronicle did just that. The Chronicle urged readers to submit proposals for a 19th hole at the home of the Masters. Originally Alister MacKenzie and Bobby Jones planned on creating a 19th hole at Augusta National Golf Club, the hole was intended to tee off from the left of the 18th green.

MacKenzie, the co-designer of the course, was the inspiration for the contest. He had the idea to have a 19th hole so golfers could make a friendly wager, or play for double or nothing, though it was likely wiped from the drawing board because of the opinion that it lacked the flow that made the rest of the course feel seamless, not to mention that it would have been a distraction from the legendary 18th green. MacKenzie's plan was designed for golfers to exit the 18th green and head left, a tee would be built there, and the 90-yard, par 3 hole would play up the hill to where the practice putting green is currently situated.

When the Augusta Chronicle proposed the contest the guidelines were simple: use the course aerial as a guide; the hole must be a par-3, no more than 100 yards; the direction of the hole is toward the Par-3 Course so the tee can be anywhere behind the 18th green. The rules were simple enough, so the real show would be in the creativity and mastery of course design. As luck would have it, Sonny Pittman, a Fall 2011 graduate of the Professional Golfers Career College in Hilton Head, heard about the contest and decided to take a shot.

After retiring from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sonny, 64, elected to attend the golf college where part of the curriculum focuses on course design, though unbelievable he had yet to take any design courses when he took on this challenge. Pittman recalls “I wanted something that would be a challenge to the professional but would also be enjoyable for the members to play, so I kind of blended both.” His design had the uphill hole with a tee box located between the ninth and 18th green, this allows numerous pin placements, and be flanked in the front by a sand bunker and with a large grass bunker in the rear and the green, sized at approximately 6,500 square feet, would be level on the right and slightly downhill on the left.

Sonny Pittman's 19th Hole DesignThe draft, which took him Sonny about a month, would take much longer to approve than expected. “It took a year for me to find out I’d won, I kind of forgot about it until the next Masters came around.” A week before the legendary tournament Sonny received an email from an editor at the Chronicle informing him that his design had been chosen and that he’d be receiving and plaque, a book and concert tickets to Hootie and the Blowfish.

The Chronicle’s goal was to encourage the creative vision, if only on paper, that the original designers, Bobby Jones and Alister MacKenzie, would have been pleased with. Pittman explains this challenge dovetailed seamlessly with his post-graduation goals, “I would like to get into the design and construction phase.” Or, he says he’d like to work at one of the military courses, “A lot of their military courses don’t have trained golf professionals, they have a manager, which is fine, but I think it’s important to have somebody who understands the business side and the golf side of it.”

President and Founder Awarded Life Membership to SCPGA

Dr. Somerville Receiving Lifetime Membership to SCPGADr. Tim Somerville, President and Founder of The Professional Golfers Career College, was presented a very special award on November 20, 2011. The Southern California section of the PGA, Inland Empire chapter, awarded Dr. Somerville its Honorary Life Member Award. This award was given in appreciation for his dedicated service to the game of golf, his distinctive contributions to the game and his love of the golf profession.

Over the last 31 years he's spent developing and refining golf education "Doc", as he is affectionately referred to around the campus, has taken the idea of a college dedicated to golf and made it a reality. In Dr. Somerville’s own words, every day the school is “Educating the future leaders in the world of golf” which is what they’ve done for literally thousands of students who have now graduated from the golf college.

Dr. Somerville was quoted as saying “With all humbleness, I accept this award on behalf of my staff and the students who make PGCC such a wonderful school to attend.”

Instructor Wins 10K for Hole-In-One

Business Law Instructor, Ed SmilowAny day spent on the course is a good day, but once in a great while that good day can become great…when somebody sinks a hole-in-one. Not too long ago Ed Smilow, graduate of the Professional Golfers Career College, and Business Law instructor for PGCC Temecula, experienced that oh-so-rare breed of day.

Smilow recalls, “I was invited to play in a charity tournament at Tustin Ranch Golf Club, to benefit the American Cancer Society Research Program.” Target Specialty Products, manufacturer and distributor of turf grass products, sponsored the event which, in addition to being a fundraiser for a good cause, furnished a unique opportunity for players to win a prize for a hole-in-one.

The prize? A cool $10,000 cash.

The California Golf Course Owners Association was encouraged to participate, and four members of the CGCOA were asked to play in the event. The foursome was comprised of Smilow, CGOA President, George Kelley, Executive Director, Ted Horton, and Secretary, Jay Miller.

As Smilow recalls “Our foursome was having a wonderful time, and we were birdying every hole in the scramble format. When we came upon the 11th tee there was a sign that read “Hole-In-One Wins! $10,000 CASH”. The par 3 hole measured 137 yards over water to a front pin location. Seeing this Jay Miller, jokingly said “Okay boys, what do you say that if anyone makes a hole-in-one we split the prize?” jokingly, we all agreed. “When the foursome ahead cleared the green, I took a look at the shot and, as my usual routine, I said to myself, “Let’s put this in the hole”.

As a part of his mental game, Smilow visualized the shot from start to finish, recalling that “After teeing it up on the right side of the tee, I stood behind the ball holding my 8 iron in hand. With the wind slightly from my right, I saw the ball flying in the air and landing, curving to the left and landing just short of the pin.” Snapping back to reality Smilow took a practice swing to get the feel, stood up to the ball and let it go. Only seconds later three of the foursome were startled to hear Miller yell out “Oh my God, it went in the hole!” After a spotter verified the shot, and two months of waiting, the check finally arrived and, as promised, contributions were made to the Get-A-Grip Foundation, an organization that assists at risk youth through after school programs.

When asked about any other remarkable shots like this one Smilow responds, “I had three prior holes-in-one, and have come to realize that anything is possible if you believe in it.”