The Bluffs will host Dakotas Professional championship

The Bluffs will host Dakotas Professional championship by David Lias The Bluffs Golf Course in Vermillion has been named the final stop of the Dakotas Professional Golf Tour.

�It�s the level right below the Tour (formerly the Nike Golf Tour),� said Kirk Hogen, PGA head pro at The Bluffs. �We�re really fortunate to have this coming to our course.�

The Bluffs will play host to the final week of the tour this year that will decide the event�s champion.

�The golfers are scheduled to be here right at the very tail end of the tour,� Hogen said.

The three-day championship play of the tour is always scheduled for the weekend after Labor Day, he added. That means golfers will be flocking to Vermillion to compete Sept. 8, 9 and 10.

Hogen is expecting 80 professional golfers and 80 amateur golfers to participate in the Dakota Tour Championship here.

If tradition holds true, some of the nation�s best future professional golfers will be teeing off at The Bluffs this September.

�Some of the past participants in the Dakotas Tour include Jeff Sluman, Jim Dent, Tom and Curt Byrum and Tom Lehman,� Hogen said.

Last year, the 14th annual Dakotas Professional Golf Tour began July 17 and ended Sept. 16. It included eight major events in nine weeks, plus four two-day events and six one-day events.

Last year, golfers played for a total of $428,000 in 62 days.

Hogen said participants will likely arrive in Vermillion a few days early so they can play practice rounds on The Bluffs.

�And since we�re hosting the championship, that means that golfers who participant get a chance to pick up some bonus points, which will pay them more cash,� he said. �Those people close to being to the top aren�t going to miss this one.�

The pro golfer who claims the championship trophy at The Bluffs this September will win approximately $9,000.

�That�s based on 80 pros and 80 amateurs participating,� Hogen said. �The level of the prize money is going to be enough to bring some of those really good, competitive golfers in to Vermillion.�

The confirmation last week that The Bluffs will be home to the Dakotas Professional Golf Tour is the latest feather in the caps of local city planners, golf course employees and members of the Vermillion community that have helped the relatively new course rise to prominence in the state.

Last April, Golf Digest, in its evaluations of the 100 greatest golf courses in America, ranked The Bluffs as the fourth best golf course in South Dakota.

The criteria for rating a golf course by Golf Digest as listed in the article are: 1. Shot values, 2. Resistance to scoring, 3. Design variety, 4. Memorability, 5. Esthetics, 6. Conditioning, 7. Tradition (bonus) and 8. Walking (bonus). Accessibility to the public is also given consideration.

This year will mark The Bluffs� fourth full year of operation. The announcement that the Dakotas Tour Championship is coming to Vermillion is just the latest in a string of positive developments at The Bluffs, which is still in its infancy.

�They (the tour officials) actually approached us,� Hogen said. �We�re very fortunate, because what we have here is a very good facility. We�ve been approached by the Dakotas Tour, and the golf course and community should feel proud of what we have.�

The Bluffs have filled a unique niche in just its last three years of full operation, he said. The course is designed to accommodate local people who enjoy the game. The 18-hole course is also challenging enough to attract some of the best golfers from across the nation.

�We�re doing something right here at the golf course,� Hogen said, giving credit for the excellent condition of the links to Head Superintendent Mark Clark and Assistant Superintendent Kelly Knudson and their crews.

The Bluffs is also home to an excellent golf instruction program, thanks to Assistant PGA Professional Rusty Jensen, he said.

�But good things like this wouldn�t be possible at the course if it weren�t for the strong support of the Vermillion community,� Hogen said.

He is appreciative to boost given to the event by The University of South Dakota. The Coyotes have a home game scheduled for that weekend. �USD officials promised us it would be a night football game, so it won�t be an event that will conflict with championship play,� Hogen said.

The public will be welcome to come out to The Bluffs and watch the golfers in action without paying an admission fee.

�We want people to come and watch, and we�re going to need volunteers,� Hogen said.

He will also be looking for sponsorships.

Hogen pictures the possibility of setting up bleachers around the final hole, and offering food and cold drinks for spectators.

�That�s the kind of atmosphere I hope we can generate here,� Hogen said. �Some of these guys that we�ll get a chance to watch will be making it on the big tour here shortly.�

Even though it will be several months before the championship is played here, everyone associated with The Bluffs remains enthusiastic.

�We�re just excited to have the championship,� Hogen said. �It really is something pretty neat to happen in the fourth year that we�re open. We�re actually honored to be hosting something like this.�

Last year, the Dakotas Professional Golf Tour was played at the Spencer Golf and Country Club, Spencer, IA; Elmwood Golf Club, Sioux Falls; Aberdeen Links Golf Course, Aberdeen; Olive Grove Golf Course, Groton; Moccasin Creek Country Club, Aberdeen; Pine Hills Golf Club, Milbank; Prairie Winds Golf Club, Watertown; Fox Run Golf Club, Yankton; Hillcrest Golf and Country Club, Yankton; Arrowhead Country Club, Rapid City; The Links of North Dakota, Ray, ND; Minot Country Club, Burlington, ND; Wildflower at Fair Hills, Detroit Lakes, MN; Oxbow Country Club, Oxbow, ND; and the Fargo Country Club, Fargo, ND.

The 1999 Dakotas Tour Championship was played at the Prairie Green Golf Club, Sioux Falls.

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