Bears at Baltusrol
When the Ivy League was looking for a venue to host its men's and women's golf championship, Brown alumni Jim Noonan '58 and Dennis Buchart P'03 stepped up to the plate with a championship course beyond the wildest imagination of the league, its coaches and players.
Baltusrol Golf Club is considered one of the country's premier golf clubs, with its two 18-hole championship courses, the Lower and Upper, hosting 16 previous national championships, including seven United States Open Championships, four United States Amateur Championships, two United States Women's Open Championships, two United States Women's Amateur Championships and one PGA Championship. The 2016 PGA Championship is also scheduled at Baltusrol.
Noonan and Buchart took the Ivy Golf Championship proposal to the Baltusrol Board of Governor's for approval, and within a short period of time, the Ivy Championship was scheduled on its pristine links.
The dream came to fruition for both the Brown men's and women's golf teams and their Ivy brethren, April 23-25, with the 54-hole Ivy Championship being played at the golf course that sits at the base of Baltusrol Mountain in northern New Jersey, only a stone's throw from New York City.
Upon arrival at the course, Brown head men's golf coach Mike Hughes knew immediately that the Ivy League had hit a home run with Baltusrol.
"My immediate reaction to the course was 'this is a big boy's test,'" said Hughes. "Walking the grounds of the course, one gets the sense of the important people associated with the course; designer AJ Tillinghast, players who have captured major events including arguably the two greatest golfers of all time, Mickey Wright and Jack Nicklaus. Simply put, it's the finest track I've ever been on."
"One of my fondest memories of Baltusrol was walking off the first tee of the Upper Course on the first day of play," said Bears' junior captain Susan Restrepo. "I picked up my bag and began one of the most beautiful walks I have ever had the privilege of taking. My only thought was: wow."
From the moment the tournament started, Baltusrol and its members embraced the Ivy Championship. Two Brown graduates, Rod Macrae and John Crosby '67 worked behind the scenes to make the championship a success, Macrae as the club's tournament director, and Crosby gathering scores on the course.
"The Baltusrol members immensely enjoyed hosting the Ivy Championship," said Noonan, the President of the Friends of Brown Golf for over 20 years. "This was a complete team effort, from the club officials, to the president of the club, and alumni of other Ivy league schools."
"I was blown away by the hospitality that the members showed us - it seemed as if everyone we saw in the locker rooms, on the practice areas, or on the course went out of their way to introduce themselves and wish us good luck,' said Bears' senior captain John Giannuzzi, who shot 78, 77 in his first two rounds.
"We were lucky to have many Brown alumni that are members at the club watching us play and supporting both teams," said Brown women's golf coach Danielle Griffiths, whose team finished fifth at the championship. "They were responsible for the Ivy League Championship being held at their beautiful golf course. We so enjoyed the experience and hope to have the opportunity next year!"
"It was so special to have the alumni, former athletes, and parents with us at Baltusrol," said Brown junior Megan Tuohy. "The way the alumni felt so deeply connected to Brown really impacted me. They were such gracious hosts and genuinely excited to see Brown compete."
A true championship course is the stiffest test of golf, rewarding good shots, but being punitive with a poor shot. "Baltusrol is a course where poor shots were always punished, and in order to score well, constant focus and attention was required throughout the round - the way championship golf is meant to be played" said Giannuzzi.
"It was a great experience to compete on a championship golf course such as Baltusrol," said junior Michael Amato, next year's Brown men's golf captain. "You knew when stepping on the first tee that this wasn't going to be an ordinary experience and although it played tough it never felt unfair. It was a great test."
The success of the Ivy Championship and the support of the club's membership bodes well for the return of the championship in the future. While Giannuzzi's Brown golfing career is over, he cherished the experience of playing at Baltusrol.
"Even in the rain on Sunday," said Giannuzzi, "I remember thinking that there is nothing else that I would rather be doing at that time than playing the course I was on. I could not have imagined a better venue to conclude my college golf career."