Bay Hill Will Pose Same Challenges For State Amateur Participants As It Does For The Pros


By Jeff Shain - Orlando Sentinel

Golf fans have seen over the years the challenge Bay Hill presents when the PGA Tour's best arrive each spring for the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Nor does the blueprint change much when the state's top amateurs come calling.

To win the 93rd Florida State Amateur crown this weekend, golfers will have to negotiate a layout that - except for seasonal differences - will have a similar look and feel as what Ernie Els won on in March.

"The FSGA likes to set up the course as similar as they can," said Brian Dorn, Bay Hill's director of golf. "The distances are going to be the same; we don't make the fairways wider for this event. It will be just as much of a test."

Tournament Director Peter Dachison noted that last year's Amateur was played at the TPC Sawgrass, with tees all the way back and hole locations similar to those used for The Players Championship.

Former UCF golfer Blayne Barber captured that edition at 11-under par. So much for an intimidating setup.

"Not for these kids," Dachison said, noting that 106 of the 168 finalists are under age 25.

"A lot of them play college golf and this is their job right now. My guess is that the winning score, if we have good weather, will be between 6- and 9-under par."

Els, by the way, won at 11 under back in March. Last year, Tiger Woods' winning score was 5 under.

The biggest difference between now and March is the type of turf on the fairways. The course is overseeded in winter with ryegrass, which creates 4-inch rough for the pros but dies off when summer's hot temperatures hit.

Bermuda is Bay Hill's summer grass, with rough at about 2 1/2 inches but offering a different challenge. Bermuda tends to "swallow" balls, dropping underneath the grass stalks to the dirt underneath.

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