The U.S. Women's Open will dominate the summer golf season (Paula Creamer just announced she will throw out the first pitch at the July 6 Phillies' game), but that shouldn't limit golfers from hitting the links themselves.Though one course (Mahoning Valley Country Club) has shuttered, another (Mount Airy) is poised to return after a two-year closure. With that in mind. here's a look at what's new in area golf for 2009.
NEW AT ALLENTOWN MUNI
Regulars who don't long for beer-and-cheese soup or spicy chicken sandwiches take note: The Brew Works on the Green will have $1.50 hot dogs, too.
"We're trying not to rock the boat for customers who have been going for years," Brew Works president Jeff Fegley said. "We want to please them and bring in new customers that Allentown Municipal never saw before."
Following a winter renovation, Brew Works on the Green is scheduled to open May 1 at Allentown Municipal. The third outpost of the Brew Works family replaces the former Sand Trap Grille at the 57-year-old course.
Fegley said his group gutted the 1,750 square-foot space, replacing it with an 85-seat restaurant that will serve a menu familiar to Brew Works fans. It also will feature breakfast, microbrews and a 32-seat patio. Fegley said the restaurant will be open year-round.
"We think that, during the offseaso7n, the Brew Works will be pulling customers into the course for holiday sales," Fegley said. "There's no doubt we'll be seeing increased revenue in the winter months as well."
In addition, the city is renovating the course's locker rooms but has shelved plans for a heated, two-level driving-range deck.
MOUNT AIRY RETURNS
After two years sitting idle as the nearby casino was built, the Mount Airy Golf Course is scheduled to reopen April 30. Though the course remains a work in progress, head pro Randy Vaskas has high expectations.
"The course is not the standard right now that we'd like it to be, to be honest," Vaskas said. "But by next year or the following year, we will be the premier golf course in the area."
Vaskas, a former assistant pro at Philadelphia Country Club, said the course has undergone significant improvement this year. About 500 trees have been removed, which will benefit conditions, and the 16th hole has been shortened to a par 4 to accommodate a new parking area.
Lisa DeNaples, chief operating officer of Mount Airy Casino Resort, called the course "an integral part of the complete resort experience."
Green fees range from $47-$55, and tee times will be taken starting today.
"READY' AT SHAWNEE
The Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort is looking to speed play on its 27-hole facility by implementing a "ready golf" program that encourages players to complete rounds in 41/2 hours.
The program, which begins today, will offer course management briefings during the day, and groups will be provided alternative strategies to speed play. Among them will be tips on etiquette, effective places to park carts and ways to finish holes and leave the green more quickly.
"The Ready Golf Program at The Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort is designed to improve the speed of play, which we believe will translate into an even better experience for everyone," said Steve Taggart, Shawnee's director of golf. "We want to maintain a steady pace and eliminate preventable waiting periods throughout the golf course."
Three area courses appear in Golfweek Magazine's annual rankings this year. On the 2009 list of Best Classic Courses, Lehigh Country Club checks in at No. 80. Nine Pennsylvania courses are in the top 100, including Merion East, the highest-ranked at No. 4.
On the Best Courses You Can Play listing, Lederach Golf Club in Harleysville is No. 9 IN Pennsylvania and The Architects Club in Lopatcong is No. 7 in New Jersey.
Woodland Hills in Hellertown has delayed its opening because of an issue with its greens. The course is tentatively scheduled to open in early summer. Bethlehem Municipal has outfitted its carts with GPS screens and has relocated its cart barn to the lower parking lot near the first tee. The change makes carts more accessible and frees the former cart barn to be converted into an outing pavilion. Whitetail Golf Club has added a new cart fleet as well, which includes an upgraded GPS system. Woodbridge Golf Club in Kutztown begins its second season this spring. The course opened for public play last April. Villas Crossing in Tamaqua has future plans for six new holes and condominium construction. The sixth class of the Lehigh Valley Golf Hall of Fame will be inducted in September prior to the Lehigh Valley Amateur. The class will be announced this spring. The Golf Association of the Lehigh Valley will debut a new Web site this season. The site will feature tournament registration and scoring, player of the year standings and local amateur golf history. Former PGA Tour pro Jim Booros is the new golf coach at DeSales University Jim Furyk's Exelon Invitational returns to The ACE Club in Lafayette Hill on June 8. The 11th annual charity tournament will feature Furyk, Paul Casey, Anthony Kim and one more player competing for $300,000 in prize money.
MAJOR LOCAL TOURNAMENTS
The 73rd annual Lehigh Valley Amateur returns to Green Pond this September, highlighting a busy season of local amateur tournament golf. A list of the prominent events scheduled for this spring and summer:
Northeast Pennsylvania Stroke Play, April 18-19, Hideaway Hills
Lehigh Valley Inter-Club, May 22-24, Bethlehem, Wedgewood, Green Pond
L.V. Medal Play, June 26-27, Harkers Hollow
L.V. Women's Amateur Stroke Play, June 27, Wedgewood
L.V. Mid-Amateur, July 10, Shepherd Hills
Allentown City Match Play, July 18-19, Allentown Municipal
Bethlehem Medal Play, Aug. 1-2, Bethlehem Municipal
KNBT Lehigh Valley Open, Aug. 3-4, Riverview
Eastern Pennsylvania Amateur, Aug. 7-8, Southmoore/Whitetail
L.V. Amateur, Sept 19-27, Green Pond
L.V. Tournament of Champions, Oct. 9-10, Woodstone
Note: The U.S. Women's Open is July 6-12 at Saucon Valley Country Club.