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Fallen Oak in Mississippi Set to Once Again Host Champions Tour
Peter Jacobsen mentioned it in the same sentence as Pebble Beach and Augusta National. Loren Roberts said it could host a major championship. Ben Crenshaw, himself a noted architect, called it "an honest golf course." And Jay Haas put it in "the top five" of the host courses on the Champions Tour.
In 2010, Fallen Oak in Biloxi, Miss., was more than ready for its close-up among the game's legends. Now, the Tom Fazio design is ready for its encore. For the second time, the Champions Tour's mainstays will test their games at Fallen Oak March 28-April 3 for the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic.
"We are proud to host this spectacular tournament again and look forward to welcoming the Champions Tour professionals back to Fallen Oak," said George P. Corchis, Jr., MGM Resorts International's president and chief operating officer of regional operations. "The MGRC has quickly become one of the region's signature sporting events and provides a tremendous boost to the Mississippi Gulf Coast tourism industry."
Some of the games most decorated players will find a course in pristine condition. Fallen Oak earned its 20th national award in 2010, four years after opening in November 2006.
"Fallen Oak is exciting. It's an exciting golf course to play: demanding, fun, tough. It's exciting to play all the great golf courses we play out here, like Pebble Beach, Augusta National and Fallen Oak," Jacobsen said after the 2010 Classic.
For Jacobsen to drop Pebble Beach's name in the same sentence as Fallen Oak is not lost on the raters of Golf Digest. Pebble Beach (No. 1) was the only Champions Tour course rated ahead of Fallen Oak (No. 19) in the magazine's list of "America's Greatest 100 Courses You Can Play."
"It's an honest golf course. There's a good mix of holes: long par-3s, short par-3s, a driveable par-4. But all the holes are filled with quality," Crenshaw said. "There's a lot to deal with here because it's a real good test of golf. It's quality."
Fallen Oak's quality is such that Champions Tour officials haven't needed to create more work for Director of Grounds Matt Hughes and his staff. Both received high praise from players and fans alike after the 2010 event for the course's condition.
"Condition-wise, the strength of the layout, this is easily in the top-five ¬- if not the best course ¬ we play all year," said Haas, who finished tied for 19th in 2010.
The biggest challenge for Hughes and his staff is once again, maintaining Fallen Oak's numerous and notorious bunkers. Fazio designed every bunker with a purpose and it's up to Hughes and Co. to ensure the purpose remains consistent with not only Fazio's design, but with the Champions Tour course management team.
"The course is in incredible shape and it's not out of line with where we normally maintain it," Hughes said. "What the Champions Tour staff is most interested in seeing is how we handle the bunkers to prevent buried lies and keeping the rough consistent. But we learned how they wanted things last year, so this is much easier to manage."
Last year, David Eger managed Fallen Oak better than his fellow Champions Tour pros. His winning score of 11-under-par 205 for three rounds was one of 27 scores of par or better among the 75 players who finished all three rounds. Barely a third of the field shot par or better over 54 holes, yet Fallen Oak stood tall in the eyes of the players.
"It sets up really nicely. It's a very good golf course. It's right up there with all the best courses we play out here. This is a good test of golf and that's what you look for out here," said John Cook (T39 in 2010).
"We came off a very cold winter last year and while we knew the players would love the site and conditions, we werenąt sure how much of a test it would provide these guys," Fallen Oak general manager David Stinson said. "But they not only found a true test of golf, but our infrastructure held up tremendously, even with the rainy and windy weather we had on Sunday."
Stinson said last year that his fondest hope was that the players he and many of the fans lining Fallen Oakąs fairways and greens grew up watching would say Fallen Oak was one of the finest courses they played all year. He was not disappointed.
"You could hold a major championship on this course. All you have to do is grow the rough up a little," said Roberts, who finished T12 at 4-under-par last year.
"I think they did a very nice job getting it in shape for the inaugural tournament and I know they'll work on improving it ¬ if thatąs possible ¬ in the coming years," added Bernhard Langer (T39 last year), the reigning Champions Tour Player of the Year.
And once the Champions Tour pros are finished with their test, Fallen Oak remains one of the must-play golfing destinations in the United States. Joining the heralded Shadow Creek as the only courses built by MGM Resorts International for their guests, Fallen Oak is located on a 510-acre tract at the edge of the DeSoto National Forest.
Stretching a hearty 7,487 yards from the back tees, Fallen Oak offers golfers five sets of tees and strategic play options as each hole winds through ever-changing terrain and environments.
Fallen Oak is available exclusively for guests of Beau Rivage. Greens fees are $200. For more information or to make reservations, call toll-free 877/805-4657 or visit www.beaurivage.com.
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