BELMONT – Grandstands are being built and the golf course, despite the recent winter challenges, appears to be lush, green, and right on schedule. Belmont Country Club, by all indications, is ready for its reintroduction to some of the best professional golfers in the world.
It’s been 78 years since Byron Nelson won the 1937 PGA Match Play Championship, and although professional events have been held at Belmont Country Club since then — the course hosted consecutive New England Opens in 2013-14, and was the site of the Massachusetts Open most recently in 2009 — next month’s Constellation Senior Players Championship returns Belmont to a lofty stage, and a very exclusive list of venues.
Let Brian Goin, the PGA Tour’s senior vice president for championship management, explain.
“There are nine championships that are majors in men’s golf around the world. Of those nine, two of them [Open Championship, Senior Open Championship] are played in Europe every year, so that drops you down to seven. One [Masters] is played in Augusta every year, so that drops you down to six. So this year, six [US] communities, six clubs, will host a major championship. And this is one of those six,” Goin said at Belmont on Monday, during media day for next month’s Constellation Senior Players Championship. “To have the opportunity to host a major championship is few and far between. It’s a very unique thing.
“Of all the tournaments that the PGA Tour manages or franchises, only one of those events is a major championship, and that’s this one.”
The Players Championship, won in dramatic fashion on Sunday by Rickie Fowler, is not a major on the PGA Tour schedule. But the Constellation Senior Players Championship is a major, one of five on the calendar for the 50-and-over Champions Tour (the first is this week, at the Tradition). In one month — the first round of the 80-player, 72-hole, no-cut event is June 11 — the likes of Fred Couples, Tom Watson, Colin Montgomerie, Kenny Perry, Tom Lehman, Corey Pavin, Brad Faxon, and defending champion Bernhard Langer are expected to be at Belmont, competing for a $2.7 million purse, the second-richest on tour.
“It’s very exciting for me to win the Senior Players Championship. One of my first thoughts was I get to play the Players again,” Langer said last week in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., where he missed the cut at the Players Championship. Winning last year’s Senior Players Championship near Pittsburgh earned Langer a spot in the PGA Tour’s flagship event.
He’ll look to do something that only one man has accomplished, and he happens to be the King. Arnold Palmer is one of three people in tournament history to win the Senior Players Championship twice (Raymond Floyd and Dave Stockton are the others), but he’s the only one to win in back-to-back years. Palmer won in 1984-85, when the tournament was in its infancy. Miller Barber was the first Senior Players champion, in 1983.
It’s become one of the five biggest golf tournaments for the senior circuit, one which boasts a strong roll call of winners (Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Billy Casper, Craig Stadler, Hale Irwin, and Allen Doyle), and generates a lot of money for local charities. This year, nine primary beneficiaries will receive the largest chunks of the charity money donated by Constellation, which is expected to be more than $500,000: First Tee of Massachusetts, Boston Medical Center, Junior Achievement of Northern New England, Jimmy Fund/Dana-Farber, Sports Museum of New England, Francis Ouimet Scholarship Fund, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Boston, Golf Fights Cancer, and the Joey Fund/Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
“We are so excited to have this championship here,” said Peter Kotzen, former president of Belmont Country Club who is co-chairing the tournament. “I can’t think of a better experience, at a country club or a golf course, to have these players come and compete on your golf course, to watch them and see how they play. It’s a Donald Ross course, it’s loaded with golf history, and we can’t wait to get this championship going in a month.”
A month out, and there’s work to be done and opportunities available. The tournament is still looking for volunteers, and a number of ticket options (single-day or weekly) can still be purchased through the event’s website, at www.cspgolf.com.Michael Whitmer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeWhitmer.