Sergio Garcia Checks on Progress at New TPC of San Antonio

By: Steve Habel

Donning a new cap with a look to the future, Sergio Garcia paid a recent visit to San Antonio and toured the dusty and rocky construction site of the first of two golf courses to be built at the TPC of San Antonio.

Fresh off playing in all four FedEx Cup playoff events (where he finished ninth overall and fourth in the season-ending Tour Championship), Garcia rode and walked around the still- raw course with design coordinators and TPC officials. He met the assembled media afterward to discuss what he saw and the factors he's bringing to the project. Garcia is listed as co-designer of the first course, along with Greg Norman.

"Today, we were able to take a good look at the holes and how the course will set up," Garcia said. "There is wonderful terrain here, and I think we are building a wonderful golf course.

"Not only will this track be good for us, I think it will be a challenge to golfers of all skill levels, and that is the main goal," Garcia added. "We want amateurs to be able to come back and enjoy this course again and again."

Garcia said that the PGA Tour does a good job getting insight from its players when it designs TPC courses and learning where the professionals are most likely to hit the ball off the tee, how they aim going into the greens and how big the putting surfaces should be to challenge players the most.

"It is a great process because then the courses don't need to be revisited and changed for us when they prove too easy," Garcia said. "I love the trees on this site - they are not too big and they fit so nice with the hole line. You can work your way around them and they give us a nice unique look to the course."

The golf resort, which will feature a 1,000-room JW Marriott Resort, will be located north of downtown San Antonio on a 2,855-acre tract. Marriott will develop and manage the property and retain PGA Tour Golf Course Properties to operate the golf facilities.

The JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa is set for a March 2010 debut. The Hill Country resort will feature 138,000 square feet of meeting space, the two TPC golf courses and a spa. Play at the resort will be limited to guests of the JW Marriott and members only.

The Norman-Garcia course will be called Cibolo Canyons PGA Golf Course, while the second 18 (a Pete Dye-Bruce Lietzke collaboration) will be ready for play in fall 2009.

Initial construction work on the site began June 1. Garcia said a key component of the project would be to balance the parameters of TPC Course while assuring the track has a South Texas flair. "We want to keep some of the native grasses out here and the trees and still give it a San Antonio look," Garcia commented. "We don't want the course to look out of place, and that is one of our real challenges. We are going to have a lot of sandy areas and runoffs around the greens to take advantage of the winds we are going to see. I think all those things are going to come together to make a great golf course."

Garcia continually stated that one of the design team's goals is to have this course be the host for the Valero Texas Open, although PGA Tour and Texas Open officials who were at the media conference would not comment on that aspect of the project. The Valero Texas Open is currently held on the Resort Course at La Cantera Resort.

"The way we are setting up this course we think it will be a great site to host that tournament," Garcia said. "This course will not be as hilly. It will be a little easier to walk than La Cantera. You can still have courses that are quite hilly and still be playable, and I would think this course would have an affect on attracting the players that will decide to come here and play. There is a lot of talk about the project [among fellow professionals]. We were very fortunate to find this piece of land - it is a little rocky, but besides that it is easy to work with. I think with the development and the resort this course will attract players from all over the world. The work here is on schedule and set for completion for late next year, with the move of the tour event in 2010 after the course 'settles down a little.' "

According to Garcia, his track will contain be a few water hazards and water collection areas while featuring some waste bunkers and sandy areas that will give the course a lot of personality and its own look. "This course will not be as long as you may think - around 7,400 yards - but there will be challenges that will make us think and execute shots," Garcia added. "We will have smaller putting surfaces and it will be a little tougher around the greens, so the course will push you that way. You try to fit a course to the terrain. There are holes already routed out there that I can see that I will like and that fit my eye."

Designing golf courses is a job Garcia says he wants to do for the long haul. "At the moment, I couldn't design a course myself because I am not good enough yet to know everything that is involved," Garcia said. "I can give my insight as a player and tell the designer some of the things to look for. By spending time with Greg and some of the other designers I can get some things in my head about how they do things."

Steve Habel is an Austin, Texas-based journalist. Since 1990, he has traveled around the globe covering news, business and sports assignments for various news bureaus, newspapers, magazines and websites. He also contributes to Business District magazine in Austin as managing editor and is the Texas football beat writer and a contributing editor for Horns Illustrated, the Austin-based magazine for University of Texas sports. Habel writes a weekly golf column for The River Cities Tribune in Marble Falls, Texas, and is a member of the Texas Golf Writers' Association.