Alan Cull was hired as the head pro at TPC Twin Cities a few months before the course opened in Blaine on June 26, 2000. Two years later, he became the general manager and has continued as the on-site person in charge for the PGA Tour.
“The normal time frame for a golf club to be updated with some significant changes is every 20 years,’’ Cull said. “We’re right there. So the revisions you are hearing about are not solely for the switch from a Champions event to a Tour event.
“The changes are also for our members. We have a lot of good players; a high percentage of our members are 10 handicappers or less. Talking informally, they have been excited about seeing the changes.’’
The Blaine City Council gave approval to the plans on Thursday night. The club members received an e-mail with an overview of the changes on Friday afternoon. And starting Tuesday morning, the remodeling of the course will start in earnest.
In between, the 18th 3M Championship at this course — and the 26th annual senior event in the Twin Cities — will be contested. The tournament field has an end-of-the-road look to it, with many top players (including Bernhard Langer) on the Champions Tour choosing not to make the trip from St. Andrews last weekend to Blaine.
And that’s OK. The threesome of Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino and Gary Player is again scheduled to headline the Greats of Golf exhibition on Saturday. The PGA Tour embraced a senior tour in 1980 on a wave of nostalgia, and what better way for the Twin Cities to wave goodbye than with modern versions of Jack’s Pack, Lee’s Fleas and admirers of Player, the game’s Black Knight.
Come late Sunday, one of the 78 gentlemen will have enjoyed the latest birdiefest on a par-72 layout with an official distance of 7,114 yards, and will collect the winner’s check for $262,500. Then, the looking ahead to the first 3M Open, July 4-7, 2019, on the PGA Tour will start with some earth-moving at TPC Twin Cities.
Tom Lehman was a consultant when Arnold Palmer was designing the course in the late ’90s, and now Lehman has been a lead consultant to the changes that will lengthen the course to something over 7,500 yards and reduce the par to 71 for the pros.
Know this before getting too worked up over 20-some-unders for three rounds that you have seen from 3M winners in this decade. Bruce Lietzke won the first 3M here at 9 under in 2001, and Hale Irwin won at 12 under in 2002.
The greens were fast and the many pin placements were tough and there was also some wind in ’02. In other words, the TPC Twin Cities was being played as Arnold had designed it, but Chi Chi Rodriguez shot 74-79-76, tied for 73rd, collected a check for $1,225 and whined mightily. And he wasn’t alone.
Gradually, the pins became more friendly, the greens softer and tournament boss Hollis Cavner delighted in selling the 3M Championship as an event to watch familiar names make birdies.
Cull offers assurance the Blaine track isn’t a pitch-and-putt, as the 25 under from David Frost in 2010, or the 23 under from Kenny Perry in 2014, would indicate.
“We’re going to play significantly longer. and I’m sure the Tour will make the pins tougher to get,’’ Cull said. “Our greens are good; Tom [Lehman] said that. We aren’t changing there, except for a couple of grassy runoff areas.’’
There will be nine new championship tees. Fairways will be narrowed by “changing the grass line’’ on 13 of the 14 non-par-3s.
It was intriguing to hear about a tee box that changes the alignment on the par-4 No. 2, and No. 3 going from a 550-yard par-5 to a 500-yard par-4 for the 3M Open, and what the other new tee boxes might do to increase the challenge for Dustin Johnson, or his younger clones.
What’s most interesting is what will be done to No. 18, the par-5 closing hole that is listed generously at 582 yards. The plan is to excavate the lake (Loch Lehman?) and have it consume 30 or 40 more yards of fairway. The tee box will move to a hill to the right of the current location, making the water a consideration on the first shot.
A tournament-winning eagle on No. 18 will remain gettable late on a Sunday afternoon, although with a more dramatic vista.
The TPC Twin Cities in 2019 isn’t going to be Carnoustie with the wind blowing, and it’s also not going to be the gentle walk in the pasture that the seniors have enjoyed since Chi Chi got irritated.