What Caves Valley Golf Club, a natural creation of God's wondrous beauty with a helpful hand from man (costing an estimated $40 million), had hoped for it got: An on-course playing experience to be followed by an objective appraisal from an elite gathering of professional tour performers.
And their reviews? In a word, glowing. Four stars.
They came not knowing what they might find but went away offering an ecstatic evaluation that sounded as if it had been authored by a Caves Valley public relations director. Not so. The jury of 12 world-class players included Bernhard Langer, two-time Masters champion; Larry Mize, former Masters winner; Scott Simpson, a U.S. Open title-holder; and Larry Nelson, twice a holder of the PGA Championship and also a U.S. Open.
Such a distinguished group, along with a lineup that also included such prominent names and previous PGA Tour winners as Bobby Clampett, Rick Fehr, Fred Funk, Morris Hatalsky, Dave Peoples, Don Pooley, Ted Schulz and Doug Tewell, was in Baltimore to pay tribute to their friend, Rev. Larry Moody, who lives in Howard Country and serves as a religious counselor to a group of PGA players.
They toured Caves Valley in a pro-am format, with their partners from Baltimore business and industry, plus guests from seven states and Ireland. The Irishmen, guests of Jerry Casey, of First National Bank of Maryland, included three executives of the Allied Irish Banks of Dublin, namely Dermot Egan, Kevin Kelly and Gerry Scanlan.
When the day was over, the PGA players either headed for the Hartford Open or to fulfill other commitments. Before leaving Caves Valley, they exuded the kind of compliments that are usually reserved for such regal courses as Winged Foot, Merion, Pinehurst and Cherry Hill.
From Mize came this commendation: "It's only 2 years old but you could never tell that from its superb condition. It would be great to come here and play a championship sometime. This is a good new golf course. Architect Tom Fazio turned in a great job."
Meanwhile, Nelson offered this reaction: "A great course. It's not tricky. No gimmicks. It's in the ballpark with some others we play."
A guest spectator, Richard Talkin of Woodholme, approached Langer with two questions. How did he like Caves Valley? "I like it very much," he answered. And what about the possibility of its playing host to a future major championship? "Definitely," he responded. Then a pause and Langer repeated, "Definitely."
Funk was in obvious awe of the surroundings. "I've been hearing a lot of good things. But it's even better than I expected," he said.
Clampett insisted there was "no doubt Caves Valley could handle a major. It has the facilities. First it's a great course. The driving range is excellent and there's ample parking, two things they look at before a tournament is awarded."
While Tewell was preparing to tee off on the 10th hole, he pointed to the room at Caves Valley, where he had slept Sunday night, and said, "If I come back, I'd like to have that same room right over there. The place is outstanding. The members should be proud. It's a beautiful complex. I hope they talk to the right people and get some kind of a tournament here."
Playing on the corporate side was Reg Murphy, vice president of the USGA who headed the staging committee for the U.S. Open at Baltusrol. Murphy, a Caves Valley member, realizes the course's potential for a future event, maybe of classic proportions, and was listening attentively to all the acclaim.
In the process, the course record of 69, held by host professional Dennis Satyshur, was bettered by Tewell, Schulz and Langer. Each had 68. Nelson had to leave after 17 holes and was 4-under at the time. Incidentally, Lee Janzen, the new U.S. Open champion, played Caves Valley last year and had 73.
"The course totally impressed the pros," commented Les Disharoon, the club president. "Langer is headed back to Germany right away and his next start will be in the Irish Open. He got to play with our three visitors from Ireland and they were delighted to be with him."
Endorsements for Caves Valley carry much credence. The PGA delegation was so moved it no doubt will convey similar impressions to their contemporaries.
It was an enormously positive move in the brief history of a golf club that is doing much to enhance the game in Maryland.