From Day 1, when Caves Valley Golf Club was still a real dream for some, perhaps an impossible one for others, the intent of club president Les Disharoon, the big dreamer among the founding fathers, was to do everything possible to promote and accomodate the world of amateur golf.
There is no doubt that mandate has been accomplished in this the club's fifth year of existence. One only has to ask the officials and players assembled for the 15th annual U.S. Mid-Amateur championship which begins a six-day run tomorrow.
Tony Zirpoli has been a USGA staff member for 16 years, including the last dozen as a major role player in U.S. Opens, Senior Opens, Amateurs, and Mid-Amateurs, and yesterday he called on that experience and said, "The best pure golf course the Mid-Am has had was Prairie Dunes [in Hutchinson, Kan.), but here is as good as any we've had when you consider everything."
This was late afternoon, under a warm sun, and from the back of the clubhouse, looking over the golf course to a distant ridge, with no houses in sight, it was easy to see how players from across the country, using the new driving range and putting green below, would think everything had been done to accomodate them.
"The building of Caves Valley was an economic development project of the Baltimore business community," Disharoon said later, "and one of its missions was to build a national club for members and guests that would attract national players [23 players in the field are Caves Valley members].
"Another mission was our desire to host a national championship, one we wanted to make better than any other. In the years to come we will be looking at hosting others -- the U.S. Amateur, the Women's Amateur, Walker Cup, and the three Opens."
Although not unique, it is unusual that such a young club be invited to host a championship. The initial contact four years ago was an invitation from Baltimore resident Reg Murphy, a Caves Valley member, and then chairman of the USGA championship committee for other USGA officials to come and look at the club.
There were other visits, and, eventually two years ago, a successful bid was made for the 1995 Mid-Amateur, especially noteworthy as it is the centennial of the USGA, and Murphy is its current president.
"I've been in marketing all my life, and I know you have to get the people here -- Maryland. . .Baltimore. . .Caves Valley -- before you can tell them what a wonderful area this is for business, for living, and for pleasure," Disharon said.
Of the successful bid, Zirpoli said, ""I don't think there was much discussion The club has the facilities, the amenities, the committment. What more could you ask for?"
Until last year, despite a steady increase in entries for this event, only 150 players qualified for the championship and all play was at one site.
"Two years ago was the turn-around for the championship," Zirpoli continued. "We were at the point where it was more difficult to qualify for the Mid-Am than the Amateur.
"That was our thinking in going to two courses, but we knew it would be more difficult to run, so we limited the field to 240 players. "We didn't want to force it, but it ran so smoothly, we decided to go to 264 players this year. I think that's the right number the maximum for this late in the year, considering the daylight hours."
What: 15th annual U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship
When: Tomorrow through Thursday (Practice rounds today at both clubs)
Where: Caves Valley GC & Woodholme CC tomorrow and Sunday; remainder at Caves Valley.
Who: 264 players at least 25 years of age.
Format: 36-hole qualifying (single 18-hole rounds at each site, with low 64 scorers advancing to match play)
Tickets: Admission is free
Parking: Available at each site; no charge
Directions: Caves Valley GC (Park Heights Avenue, about five miles outside the Beltway). Woodholme CC (off Reisterstown Road, first light outside the Beltway. Turn left and road leads back to the club).