Tag Archives: Kurt Everett

Hillcrest Hole Finally Gets to Stretch

“The wall comes down this week,” writes Kurt Everett, general manager of 43rd-ranked Hillcrest Golf & Country Club.

Just the promise of demolition boosted Hillcrest two rungs in the Top 50 ranking. When the greenside stones actually topple on the course’s once-great ninth hole, Hillcrest will likely soar to unprecedented heights. “The celebrations that greeted the destruction of the Berlin Wall will pale in comparison,” I considered writing to Everett. “The Great Wall of China will regain its stature as ‘world’s silliest if well-intended barrier.’”

Hillcrest's temporary green

The wall on Hillcrest’s ninth was not Donald Ross’s idea. (John Garrity)

Faithful readers of this blog know the history. Hillcrest Country Club, the only Donald Ross layout in Missouri, had a challenging ninth of 420 yards that was regarded as one of the best holes in the Kansas City area. The ninth tested the nation’s best players for decades, including the years when Hillcrest hosted the PGA Tour’s Kansas City Open. But some time ago, at the insistence of a club executive who dabbled in the bridesmaid-dresses resale market,* the Ross green was bulldozed and a new green installed some 50 yards closer to the tee. A stone bulkhead elevated the new green complex from mere deformity to flat-out laughing stock.

*The bridesmaid crack is relevant because the old green site was deemed the perfect spot for a wedding bower — if your dream wedding includes beeping golf carts and two foursomes of braying sandbaggers settling bets.

Hillcrest, Kansas City

Hillcrest’s green transplant began in earnest last week. (Photo by John Bozarth)

More recently, after a dalliance with bankruptcy and conversion to daily-fee status, Hillcrest’s new management decided to restore the original Ross green. That green emerged last fall and is now deemed ready for play. That, in turn, makes the bogus green redundant and its stone facade irrelevant. The ghost of Ronald Reagan was seen on the ninth tee last week, shaking his fist and shouting, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

Now, down it comes. It pains me that I can’t attend the actual wall-banging, but I’m moonlighting at The Masters for Sports Illustrated and Golf.com. Still, I’ll know when the wall has fallen.

It will be reflected in the ranking.

The Masters returns to Augusta National for a record 77th time. (John Garrity)

The Masters returns to Augusta National for a record 77th time. (John Garrity)

Top 50 on TV: It’s Masters week, so the golf industry is bivouacked outside 6th-ranked Augusta National Golf Club. Since we were there last, a wall of it’s own has fallen with the admission of the club’s first female members. Reagan’s ghost, we are told, had nothing to do with this long-awaited deconstruction.

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Parascenzo Weighs in on Duke

Fans of the Top 50’s current focus on tour coverage have singled out the contributions of our chief Asian correspondent, Duke Ishikawa. “This Duke guy must be psychic,” gushes a reader from Glendive, Mont. “He singles out a rookie I never heard of, Sang-Moon Bae, and Bae reaches the quarter-finals at the Accenture Match Play. He then focuses his all-knowing gaze on another rookie, John Huh, and Huh wins the Mayakoba Golf Classic. So here’s my question. Is ‘Duke’ his real name?”

Before I answer Glendive’s question, I have to correct him. Duke tipped us off to Bae, but credit for the Huh coverage goes to me and my print-media partner, Sports Illustrated Golf Plus, for which I pounded the Huh beat. And we weren’t psychic. We just couldn’t resist the opportunity to put “HUH?” in a headline.

But getting back to Duke Ishikawa, I was going to query him about his nickname when it struck me that he might demand a million yen for his answer. So I forwarded Glendive’s question to our chief Allegheny correspondent and former Golf Writers Association of America president, Marino Parascenzo, who volunteered an answer in less time than it takes to set a Bear Trap.

“The story of Duke Ishikawa goes back to the 1970s,” Marino replied in one of his elegant e-mails.

Duke was getting to be a pretty regular visitor to U.S. tournaments back then, and one day he was chatting with Joe Concannon of the Boston Globe. (Did you know the late Joe?) Duke told Joe he wished he had an American name because people had so much trouble with his given name, Hiroshi. He said ‘Ishikawa’ was tough enough. An American first name would make things easier.

So Joe asked him, “Well, can you think of an American name you would like?”

And Hiroshi said, “Harold.”

And Joe said, “Hell no. That really sucks.”

Hiroshi couldn’t think of another American name he wanted, so Concannon said, “Okay, who’s your favorite American?”

And Hiroshi said, “John Wayne.”

And Joe said, “Okay, John’s no good. So now you’re ‘Duke.’”

And Duke it was.

Concannon told me the story, and Duke confirmed it. He liked Joe a lot.

“I don’t think either of them considered ‘Joe” for a name,” Marino added in his freely volunteered, no-payment-expected e-mail. “It just doesn’t have the same ring to it as ‘Duke.’”

Hillcrest CC 2nd hole

The second hole at the former Hillcrest Country Club is a welcome sight for victims of the notoriously difficult par-3 first. (John Garrity)

Top 50 on TV: Nothing this week, but a press release informs us that 45th-ranked Hillcrest Country Club of Kansas City, Mo., a classic Donald Ross design, is being re-branded as The Heartland Golf Club. Operating under new management, the former PGA Tour venue will re-open on March 30 with new membership options. “We’re excited to start the process of re-creating the former Hillcrest site into a multi-purpose facility,” says Heartland general manager Kurt Everett. “Our first step is to get the golf course back into play, and we’re busy now with turf and green improvements and an updated pro shop.”

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