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#STINGDAILY: Prepping for the Big Show

Sept. 20, 2012

By Matt Winkeljohn
Sting Daily

The NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championships will be in Atlanta for the first time next spring, and Bob Covington can tell you nearly everything about it – right down to how the course will be set up.

What he does not yet know, the Capital City Club’s tournament chairman hopes to discover in a few days.

The NCAAs will be at the CCC’s Crabapple course in Alpharetta from May 28-June 2, and long before that – Sunday through Tuesday, in fact – the PING/Golfweek Preview Invitational will be played over the same track.

Call the Preview – which will include Georgia Tech and 14 more of the nation’s top programs – a preview, a dry run.

“The course set up . . . as far as the logistical part of it, it’s not dissimiliar,” said Convington. “But [the NCAAs] will be double the number of teams on a bigger national stage, more press. The food needs will be greater. There will be ticket sales to be done; the NCAA requires ticket sales.”

The PING/Golfweek Preview does not. Admission will be free with rounds beginning at 9 a.m. Each day.

Covington and Capital City Club are not new to this. There was an NCAA regional there in 2010, there have been myriad America Junior Golf Association events there, and even a PGA event – the 2003 WGC/American Express Championship.

There have been changes at Crabapple since then. It will play to 7,246 yards next week, and a par of 70.

Since 1989, the PING/Golfweek Preview has featured 15 top contenders at the venue for that year’s Division I championship.

Tech, which was ranked No. 4 in the preseason, will be joined by No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 California, No. 3 Texas, No. 5 UCLA, No. 6 Washington, No. 7 Arkansas, No. 9 Texas A&M, and No. 17 Georgia, among others.

Coach Bruce Heppler’s squad will look for significant improvement over their season-opening effort a couple weeks ago in the Carpet Capital Collegiate. They’ve been working hard.

Covington’s been working hard as well.

He and the CCC have known for a few years that the NCAAs were coming after Heppler and Tech put in the bid to be the host school.

“I know exactly how it’s going to be,” he said. “I know where the pencil sharpeners are going to be placed. We’ve known for over two years, and I’ve been to the last three NCAA events to observe. There was a team this past year that went to [Riviera] California. I’ve been studying where things go, and tweaking.”

The NCAA provides some money to prepare for the national championships, and seeks to recover that through ticket sales and the like. The Capital City Club will not profit from the nationals.

This is considerably different than, for example, the AJGA’s Rolex Tournament of Champions this past summer.

“The difference is the AJGA stages 95 events a year and you can rely on them – and they pay for all of it,” Covington said. “The NCAA gives us some money, but we have raised most of the money from among our membership. PING pays for the Preview.

“We’ll never do another PGA event. They just sort of take your golf course for a year. We like the amateur stuff. It takes away from the club, but it’s the right thing to do to give to the sport.”

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