Golf

The PGA comes to Central Kentucky this week. Here are the toughest holes players will face.

Richy Werenski, left, walked the course on the 12th hole at Champions at Keene Trace during a practice round for the PGA Tour’s Barbasol Championship. Werenski’s best PGA finish this season was a tie for fourth at the FedEx St. Jude Classic on June 10.
Richy Werenski, left, walked the course on the 12th hole at Champions at Keene Trace during a practice round for the PGA Tour’s Barbasol Championship. Werenski’s best PGA finish this season was a tie for fourth at the FedEx St. Jude Classic on June 10. swalker@herald-leader.com

With some of the best players in the world traveling to Central Kentucky to compete in the PGA Barbasol Championship in Nicholasville this week, local spectators will have plenty of opportunities to witness firsthand the type of shot-making ability that sets professional golfers apart from amateur enthusiasts.

When the first regular-season PGA Tour event held in Kentucky in nearly 60 years begins Thursday on the Champions course at Keene Trace Golf Club, many of the pros in the field are sure to make mincemeat of several holes that typically give regular club members fits.

But one hole in particular should present a fascinating challenge for even the most seasoned PGA veterans. Keene Trace club members will recognize it as hole No. 3, but because the Champions course has been rearranged for the Barbasol Championship, it’s now No. 12.

The par-4, 462-yard No. 12 hole will undoubtedly make for some dramatic moments over the tournament’s four rounds. Multiple people associated with the course singled out No. 12 when asked to discuss its toughest holes.

PGA professional Grover Justice is no stranger to Champions. A former University of Kentucky golfer who won five collegiate tournaments and earned Second Team All-Southeastern Conference honors as a Wildcat, Justice spent two years as the club’s assistant golf professional before embarking on a six-year playing career that saw him reach the Nationwide Tour.

“Most of the course is pretty generous off the tees, it’s not necessarily a tight driving course,” Justice said of Champions. “But (No. 12) is going to be one of the more demanding tee shots.”

The Barbasol Championship, a PGA Tour event, starts Thursday, July 19, 2018 at the Champions Trace golf course in Jessamine County. Executive Director Brooks Downing believes the event will be a great show for Central Kentucky.

A couple of factors make it imperative to keep your drive in the fairway on No. 12. A grove of tall locust trees borders the right side of the fairway inside 100 yards of the green. The fairway is bordered on the left by a long bunker that sits 10 feet lower than the fairway itself. That means missing the fairway to either side off the tee could land you in big trouble.

Assuming you avoid those perils, a tough approach shot awaits. The green is situated atop a significant slope, so there’s virtually no chance of landing short and bouncing into putting position. The shot is all carry.

Carl Gray is the superintendent of Champions as well as its sister course, Keene Trace. He’s been the point man in charge of physically preparing the course for PGA competition. Gray agreed that No. 12 is a bear of a hole.

“Not only do you have the bunker and the trees to worry about, but that hard uphill shot to an undulated green makes it real tough,” Gray said. “It should make for some interesting golf.”

Course renovations ahead of the tournament will increase the difficulty on several other holes. Two tee boxes were expanded and four brand new tee boxes were created in order to add distance to Champions and bring it into line with the average total length of other PGA courses.

Justice said the extra yardage will make No. 13 a much tougher hole, making for a potentially perilous stretch as golfers dig into the back nine.

“The green is very wide but it’s very narrow and adding another 35 or 40 yards to the shot is going to present somewhat of a dilemma,” Justice said. “’Am I gonna go for it or not out of the rough.’ And on that particular hole you have to take enough club to get over the water and if you do get over the water holding the green is going to be extremely difficult.

“Also, (No. 16) used to be a hole that was just a driver and a little pitch shot. Now it’s going to be one of the longer holes on the golf course and be a much harder tee shot than it was before.”

Justice will get to face these new difficulties along with the rest of the Barbasol Championship field. He’s entered in the tournament as the Kentucky PGA Section Player of the Year.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” Justice said. “It’s going to be an exciting week.”

PGA Barbasol Championship schedule of events

At Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville

Tuesday, July 17

Gates open: 7 a.m.

Player practice (Free admittance to the public)

Wednesday, July 18

Gates open: 7 a.m.

Player practice (Free admittance to the public)

Tournament Pro-Am

Thursday-Sunday, July 19-22

Gates open: 7:30 a.m.

Barbasol Championship (tee times TBA)

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