PNW PGA Professional Championship (PPC)/2006

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WORLEY, ID — The very best players in the Pacific Northwest will take on one of the very best golf courses in the Pacific Northwest. That’s the challenge as the Northwest PGA Professional Championship gets underway next week at the Coeur d’Alene Tribe’s Circling Raven Golf Club.

The field will draw 99 players, the largest number to compete in recent memory. Tribal hospitality will include all amenities at the Coeur d’Alene Casino Resort Hotel, but Circling Raven will demand the best from all comers.

The championship begins with a pro am on Monday, August 21st. Then, the pros will play 54 holes over the following three days, each seeking a share of the $50,500 purse and first place check of $5,000. The top seven finishers will qualify for the National PGA Professional Championship next June at Crosswater Golf Club in Sunriver, Oregon.

“The people at Circling Raven have done a great job preparing the course,” said Jeff Ellison, Northwest PGA Executive Director and also a competitor in the event. “Circling Raven is not only a challenge, it’s a lot of fun to play. It’s a perfect golf course for this event.”

Circling Raven has been a stunner to amateurs and professionals, alike. In only its third full season, the course has “Top 10, Best New” credentials from Golf Digest and GOLF Magazine. Zagat lists it among the best in the country. Fairways and Greens magazine listed it No. 7 among the “Top 101 Golf Experiences in the West” and, most recently, Native American Casino Magazine named it the best among 54 tribal-owned golf resorts in America.

The course has big shoulders, to be sure. It meanders among 620 acres of wetlands, woodlands and natural Palouse grasses, demanding the best from players but also distracting them with north Idaho’s natural beauty. The fairways will remain spacious and inviting, but the thick bluegrass rough will go uncut and 60 oversized bunkers also loom to gobble errant shots.

The PGA is taking over tee and pin placements. At 7,189 yards, the course is rated at 74.9 with a 140 slope.

“We’ll probably play it at about 7,000 yards,” Ellison said. “For the most part, we’ll play the back tees, but probably the blue tees on the par threes. If the wind doesn’t blow, I think the winners can get to 10-under.”

In Ellison’s view, the favorites will be defending champion Keith Coleman of Harbour Pointe Golf Club in Mukilteo and 2005 runner-up Jeff Coston of Semiahmoo in Blaine. Both finished at 15-under par last year at Montana’s Whitefish Lake Golf Club. Coleman prevailed after one hole of sudden death.

“I’m very excited to have these players here and for them to see this golf course,” said Circling Raven Director of Golf David Christenson, himself a competitor in the tournament. “We’ll have a chance to showcase Circling Raven for a lot of pros who have not yet played it.”

Christenson also cites Inland Northwest pros who will be in contention, including Tim Morton, head pro at Prairie Falls in Post Falls, who has been tearing up area course in pro am events. The Creek at Qualchan’s Mark Gardner and Indian Canyon’s ever-present Gary Lindeblad are also on Christenson’s list of contenders.

“And don’t forget Steve (Caruso, Circling Raven head pro) in this one,” Christenson said. “He’s been playing very well in the pro am events and he’ll have some advantage of course knowledge here.”

Christenson has lined up about 30 volunteers to assist existing staff in running the tournament. In public play, Circling Raven requires golf carts. Players will have the option to walk or ride the course. Shuttles will be provided at key points to take players to the next tee, if they chose to walk. Circling Raven’s expanse, 620 acres and seven miles of cart paths, make walking it a time-consuming affair.