Champions has Prepared for the Rain

Mike Fannin and Doug Smith won the Member-Member club championship at Keene Trace over the weekend, and the golf course that will host the Barbasol Championship in a few weeks came out a winner, too, despite wet conditions.

That was good news to Evan Mossbarger and B Fryer, co-owners of Champions at Keene Trace which will welcome the PGA TOUR back to Nicholasville July 18-21.

When the Barbasol Championship was contested here last summer, Mother Nature dumped a deluge on the golf course, making playing conditions more than mucky, and forcing the tournament to a Monday finish.

Central Kentucky has had above average rainfall the last few weeks, but you wouldn’t know it if you walked the fairways at Champions at Keene Trace. Extensive work was done in early spring to remedy drainage issues on several holes.

“We had rain again during the Member-Member this weekend,” Mossbarger said, “and I can’t tell you how many members came up to me and said, ‘We’re so glad you did that drainage work.’

“We couldn’t even have walked in some areas, much less played a golf tournament. Balls were bouncing in the fairways where before they would have just plugged.

“The work was expensive – over $200,000 – but we knew we had to do it. There’s no doubt it’s made a huge difference. It’ll come back to pay huge dividends for us.”

Frye agreed.

“It was money well spent,” he said. “Not only is it going to help us with big rains, it’ll make the quality of the turf a lot better.

“The PGA TOUR recommended it, and we’re trying to do everything they ask — and go over and above that — so they’re happy and want to stay here. It’s good for our members as well, so I see it as a win-win.”

Samson Bailey’s Golf Preservations (Middlesboro, KY) company remedied drainage problems on the 4th, 5th, 10th, 11th, 12th and 15th holes, as well as the entire practice tee.

The landing area in the 10th fairway has been a problem spot as long as Mossbarger can remember.

“Even when I was a member here 20 years ago, it always stayed wet,” he said. “I specifically went to that area when I was playing this weekend. When I walked across it, it didn’t even make any ‘squish’ sounds.

“The work Samson’s done for us is amazing.”

The hope is, of course, that this year’s $3.5 Barbasol Championship will be played under sunny skies and on a dry, fast Champions at Keene Trace track.

Not that last year’s miserable weather kept Frye and Mossbarger from appreciating Kentucky’s first regular PGA TOUR event in almost 60 years.

“We had tremendous sponsorship sales, a lot of community support and a great field,” Frye said. “There were some people who didn’t realize how big it was going to be, and I think support is just going to grow and get better and better.”

Mossbarger said he was “blown away by how the operation looked, and the build-out. So many people came back to me with, ‘I expected to pull up here and see a bunch of 10-by-10 pop-up tents. But, man, this was a real golf tournament.’

“That was encouraging to me. That got me even more excited for this year because I know if we have good weather it’s going to amplify what we saw last year when so many people came out on Thursday when we had good weather.”

Mossbarger and Frye were also thrilled when the PGA TOUR committed to holding the Barbasol Championship here through 2023.

“That made us really ecstatic,” Mossbarger said. “People don’t want to throw money at something that may be gone the next year. They want to put money in something that’ll be sustained. 

“Sponsorships and hospitality are where we’ve seen the biggest impact. When we talk to people about  Caddie127 and its give-back to charities, they can buy into it because they know we have this thing for five years, and ultimately hope to keep it for 25 years.”

Mossbarger also noted that this year’s tournament is on track financially.

“If we sell 8 more pro-am teams, we’ll make our budget and basically everything over that (i.e. concession sales) will go to charity. That’s why we feel very good about everything that’s gone on this year, and why we’re excited for the future.”

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