The Concession and Northwestern triumph

The 2012 Big Ten Match Play Men’s Championship turned out to be a very big deal for no other reason than The Concession Golf Club in East Manatee County hosted it.

 Flags from each Big Ten school doted the entry way. The parking lot was filled with more cars than you will see at the club in a year’s time, and there were more volunteers helping with the weekend tournament than there are golfers on a normal day.

 “Ohio State drew the most fans by far,” said tournament director Jimmy Wright.

Probably because Buckeye legend Jack Nicklaus designed the course, and Concession general manger Bruce Cassidy Jr. is an Ohio State alum.

But The Concession itself was the biggest draw.  The Championship gave the public the opportunity to see the course free of charge. Most area golfers have never seen or played the exclusive private course.

Senior golfer Lou Rebstock of Sarasota is one of those. He works the cart barn at The Founders Club and is a starter at The Meadows, and although The Concession opened in 2005, he had not stepped inside the gated club.

“Never seen greens like these,” he said on Saturday.concessionimage11.jpg

And The Concession lived up to its reputation. It is ranked the 75th most difficult course in the country.

“These college kids love a challenge,” said Minnesota coach John Carlson. “It is penalizing and treacherous.”

As the eighth seed, Carlson’s Gophers upset top-seeded Illinois en route to the final round.

“We have a proud tradition at Minnesota,” he said. “We won the 2002 NCAA championship.”

Most college followers would not consider the Big Ten a power golf conference. Illinois, at No. 19, is its highest-ranked team in the country.  Minnesota’s NCAA title was the first for the Big Ten since 1979 when Ohio State triumphed.

 However, individually the conference boasts alums such as Luke Donald (Northwestern) and Tom Lehman (Minnesota). It hardly gets any better than having the two top-ranked players on the PGA and Champions Tours as alumni. Steve Stricker is an Illinois grad.

“The weather is the biggest factor in recruiting players to these northern schools,” said Northwestern coach Pat Goss, who recruited Donald and remains his coach.

 The 7th-seeded Wildcats didn’t need Donald. They won four of the six final matches to defeat Minnesota for the Championship. Golf fans unable to attend can view the tournament on the Big Ten Network on March 11 at noon.  For complete results, visit  http://www.ajga.org/big10mpc.

More collegians are scheduled to play at The Concession in the near future. The Callaway Match Play Championship will be held at the club March 13-16 with 16 Division 1 teams.

“The Cassidys are very collegiate friendly,” said Concession teaching pro Gary Geiger.   “We would like to hold tournaments like the U.S. Amateur here. To do that, you have to pay your dues.”

 

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