This week’s Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship is the third of four Web.com Tour Finals events and is the only one of the four returning to the same golf course in 2016—the Scarlet Course at The Ohio State University Golf Club—where Jack Nicklaus played collegiate golf becoming the NCAA and Big Ten Champion in his last year as an amateur.
The Ohio State University Golf Club’s Scarlet Course, ranked among Golfweek’s Best Campus Courses and Golf Digest’s Best in State for 2015, is also considered one of the more challenging courses on the Tour.
A historic track designed by a legend and redesigned by Nicklaus, who grew up in nearby Upper Arlington, the Scarlet Course requires even professional golfers to be at their best if they want to finish on the leaderboard. It requires an even higher level of play to finish at the top.
“It [the Scarlet Course] really tests every part of your game,” said Andrew Loupe, who won last year’s event with a 5-under par 279. “It’s not just a long course or difficult greens. It has it all.”
Loupe says the course will challenge golfers from tee to green.
“It has length and penalty off the tee and the greens are undulated and usually very fast,” said Loupe, whose victory in Columbus last year earned the native of Baton Rouge, La., his PGA TOUR Card for 2015-16. “There are some very difficult spots out there that you can put yourself in and make a bogey or worse without doing too many things wrong.”
And playing this golf course in the fall only makes things that much more difficult for even the most proficient golfer.
“The time of year this tournament is played, the temperatures cool down and the wind kicks up,” Loupe said. “I remember it blowing pretty good on the weekend. And those last four holes played in a difficult wind direction.”
Loupe says golfers better stay in the fairway if they want to hit those greens.
“It’s a great test and a great golf course,” he said.
And most great tests and great golf courses come with great history.
The two Ohio State University golf courses (Scarlet and Gray) are considered by many to be masterpieces in classical golf course architecture. Dr. Alister MacKenzie, a world-renowned golf course architect, submitted the original routing plans to Ohio State’s Athletic Director L.W. St. John in January 1931, and construction of the Scarlet course was overseen by famed architect Perry Maxwell.
The Scarlet was completed in 1938 and the Gray was finished later in 1940.
In 2005-06, the Scarlet Course underwent a major restoration project overseen by Buckeye legend Jack Nicklaus, who concentrated on restoring the course to the way MacKenzie originally intended it to play.
“Dr. Alister MacKenzie designed the course, but he wasn’t here when it was built,” said General Manager Marc A. Lucas. “They went with the original architectural design, but when it came to the bunkers they did some push-up bunkers. They wanted Jack to come in and create bunkers more along the lines of what Dr. Alister MacKenzie would have done, similar to Cypress Point and Crystal Downs.”
Lucas said that when the project began, they realized that the greens would have to change because “the current green complexes wouldn’t handle some of the shots from the bunker design.”
“So it ended up being a total bunker renovation and green renovation,” Lucas said. “Jack changed the original design of the greens. There was a pretty radical change to No. 4 which made it a much more challenging hole than what it was in the past.”
The course also was lengthened to play to more than 7,400 yards and the par was changed to 71. The driving range was also enlarged and a short-game practice area was built for both of the varsity golf teams as well as another one for the members of the club.
“My experience as a student at Ohio State was wonderful,” said Nicklaus, who essentially donated his design services to update the Scarlet. “The opportunity to come back so many years later and to give back was a real pleasure and something I wanted to do. It was very meaningful to me and was a lot of fun. It was a real thrill for me to be involved.”
Brian Kelly, head golf professional at The Ohio State University Golf Club, says the Scarlet Course is in excellent condition heading into this week’s Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship.
“The greens are really firm right now and very fast so it’s playing the way it was designed,” Kelly said. “It’s going to favor someone who hits it a long way off the tee and can hit their irons nice and high.”
Kelly then added an asterisk to his comments.
“Unless we get rain,” he said.
Then everything changes.
“But if the conditions stay how it is now, it favors someone who can bomb it and hit very high iron shots,” he said. “You have to drive it well here and you are going to have to putt it really well here to be successful. The key will be whoever hits the best high iron shots.”
Lucas said OSU and the Scarlet Course are proud to host one of the Finals events on the Web.com Tour.
“We really like the event,” he said. “The players like the challenge of playing here. We like to see these great players challenged a little bit. And it’s also great exposure for our university and a nice recruiting tool for our golf programs here at Ohio State.”
This year’s event is the 10th playing of the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship. Since the tournament’s inception in 2007, the pediatric cancer program at Nationwide Children’s Hospital has been the primary beneficiary of the tournament. The 2015 event raised a single-season record donation for pediatric cancer research and treatment at Nationwide Children’s in the amount of $1,253,322. To-date, the tournament has raised more than $5.7 million in support of the hospital’s pediatric cancer program.
Nationwide Children’s Hospital, also the beneficiary of the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide, has been caring for sick and injured children and adolescents for more than 120 years. Today, the hospital is America’s fourth-largest and busiest pediatric hospital and research center serving patients from all 50 states, and 21 foreign countries. Nationwide Children’s offers services in every pediatric specialty with a staff of more than 8,500 physicians, scientists and support staff ensuring the best possible care.
As an extension of their philanthropic support, The Web.com Tour Wives is partnering with the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship to “Fill the Cart with Fun.” While at the tournament, The Web.com Tour Wives is inviting patrons to help fill golf carts with games, toys, crafts and more that will benefit the patients of the Pediatric Cancer Unit at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
Another tournament initiative, Pros fore Patients, was held earlier this week to highlight children, appropriately named “Patient Champions,” who are battling, or have battled, pediatric cancer at Nationwide Children’s. The Pros fore Patients campaign gives the Patient Champions and their families an opportunity to meet and interact with Web.com Tour and PGA TOUR players from the tournament’s field of competitors in a number of special activities, including a putting challenge, hitting stations, a hula hoop contest, face painting and more. The eight Patient Champions and their families, along with the Tour professionals, also created care packages to be delivered to inpatients at Nationwide Children’s Hospital during tournament week.
Jack and Barbara Nicklaus have supported Nationwide Children’s Hospital since the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide was founded in 1976.
“Barbara and I said a long time ago that if we were in a position to help somebody, it would be kids. So when we started the Memorial Tournament, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, which saved my daughter’s life when she was less than a year old, was the beneficiary from day one,” Nicklaus said.
For more information about the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship, visit ncc-golf.com.