Snoqualmie on the PGA map?

Golf is not a game I'm particularly good at or even care to play, but I do have to admit it's easy to get wrapped up in golf fever when a legend, Jack Nicklaus, is only 10 feet from you. Last week I had the fortunate assignment (Yes, I assigned myself this assignment) of taking photos at the Merrill Lynch Invitational at TPC Snoqualmie Ridge.

I wasn't quite sure what to expect, so I arrived early and settled into my seat for the press conference. All the local sports writing gurus were there with their photographers. (I was both doing a bit of writing and taking photos; small staff, ya know.) It was a little nerve-racking to think up questions that didn't sound too stupid, nor did I want to stammer when the questions came out. I wondered, while sitting there, if any of the other Seattle-area sportswriters stammer when asking great athletes questions. Writers from the Eastside Journal, Seattle Times, the P.I. and Fox Sports Northwest chatted quietly before any of the golfers arrived. I felt a little out of my league. After all, my best golf interview was likely with Sean Armstrong, a former Mount Si player, just the week before. But I jotted down a few questions anyway.

The layout and organization of the event seemed top-notch; press conferences, spectators, breakfast breakouts and lessons were all on the agenda for the day. The course looked beautiful and, despite a touch of rain, everything appeared perfect.

Craig Smith, a sportswriter for the Times, asked the tournament heads if there was a shot at TPC Snoqualmie Ridge getting a tour event in the near future. That got me thinking - a tour event with the likes of a Tiger Woods here in Snoqualmie. Does this mean we are on the map? Are the new phone books out? Can we play host to some of the biggest names in a sport? The answer was yes, yes we can.

The tournament director replied that it was his goal to have a tour event here within a few years, but there were many variables that would influence the decision. One variable that he should be able to count on is community support. Just an event of the caliber of the Merrill Lynch Invitational brought a few thousand people to our Valley who spent money, as tourists do, although the amount is unknown. But a tour event would bring tens of thousands of people to the Valley and infuse a lot of tourist money.

We, as a community, need to do everything we can to support bringing a tour event to TPC Snoqualmie Ridge. Volunteers will be needed, letters of support should be written and we need to get the tour elite to recognize what a great golf course the Snoqualmie Valley has.

I did finally get to ask my question of Nicklaus, which revolved around how well the course met his vision. He responded with a few comments about the use of trees and the topography, then went into a story about an agronomist and a bear.

I also listened to Juli Inkster, Nancy Lopez and John Daly, all impressive golfers in their own right. Lopez was calling this her farewell tour. Inkster just recently won the U.S. Open and Daly has a bit of a comic side to his personality.

But Jack Nicklaus, wow ... he was only 10 feet away and he answered my question. Might have to head to the range and hit a few balls.

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