Note: This story originally appeared in the April 2020 issue of PGA Magazine.

The Omni Barton Creek Resort & Spa – which includes four 18-hole championship golf courses – has hosted numerous professional events since its inception on Sept. 5, 1987, when former First Lady of the United States Lady Bird Johnson was present at the grand opening ceremony in Austin, Texas. It famously hosted the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf on the Champions Tour, and was a favorite retreat of former Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.

But Omni Barton Creek has never hosted an event of the scope, breadth and depth of the 2020 PGA Professional Championship presented by Club Car and OMEGA. From July 19–22, Omni Barton Creek will roll out the red carpet for 312 PGA Professionals competing in the 72-hole event, and for PGA Director of Golf Operations Spencer Cody, the 53rd PGA Professional Championship represents a golden opportunity —- both to showcase the multiple amenities of Omni Barton Creek Resort & Spa, while welcoming a major golf championship for the first time in several years.

A Large Undertaking

“The facility has hosted a number of high-end professional events in the past, but this will be the first time we have hosted a championship with 312 players that will be nationally televised on Golf Channel,” notes Cody, a native of Ontario, Oregon, who oversees a staff of nearly 120. “The timing is great since the property has been revitalized on all fronts. It is truly an honor to have been asked to host this major event, both for our professional staff and members.”

The Omni Barton Creek PGA staff, which includes PGA General Manager Jerry Eye; PGA Director of Golf Membership Phillip Marburger; Fazio Foothills PGA Head Professional Greg Slosson, Coore Crenshaw Cliffside PGA Head Professional Rufus Brijalba and GCSAA Superintendent Tony Miller have been working tirelessly to prepare for the PGA Professional Championship.

PGA Professionals who competed at Omni Barton Creek in the PGA Cup last September, and the Women’s PGA Cup and Senior PGA Professional Championship, in October have raved about course conditions on the Fazio Foothills and Coore Crenshaw Cliffs layouts, the two courses that will be utilized for the 2020 PGA Professional Championship. And Cody says the two courses at Omni Barton Creek will be in tip-top shape..

“Our agronomy team is dedicated to providing world-class conditions on a daily basis, but we are certainly excited to have the courses in peak condition come late April,” says the 37-year-old Cody, who was elected to PGA membership in 2011. “No major design changes have been made to our courses, but our agronomy team is making constant improvements and are specifically focused on restoring the experience to Fazio’s original design (on the Foothills Course). We look forward to hosting.”

Cody compares the scenic Fazio Foothills Course to a rollercoaster ride through Texas Hill Country with its dramatic elevation changes, undulating fairways and limestone waterfalls. He notes the two courses have different characteristics and call for different strategies to succeed.

“The Foothills’ greens are smaller, averaging around 4,000 square feet, but feature unique tiers and shelves that require accurate approach shots,” explains Cody. “The eighth, 11th and 16th holes highlight the need for precise approach shots and distance control. Ball striking and accuracy are paramount on the Foothills Course, while short game and putting are paramount on the Coore Crenshaw Cliffside Course.

“The par 3s on Foothills are scoreable, averaging less than 200 yards. In fact, the eventual Champion will be under par on the 3s. The Coore Crenshaw Cliffside Course uniquely features five par 3s, all of which are challenging.”

Most Challenging Holes

After playing the four courses at Omni Barton Creek many times and witnessing some dramatic shots over the years, Cody has drafted a short list of “most challenging holes” for the Fazio Foothills and Coore Crenshaw Cliffside Course that will host the 2020 PGA Professional Championship.

“On the Foothills, No. 8 is a long par 4 that requires an accurate tee shot followed by a mid to long iron into a sloping green,” he says. “There’s a penalty area short, so the approach shot will need to be precise. It’s a great hole. Then, No. 9 is a gorgeous, but dangerous, par 3 with limestone waterfalls left of the green just waiting to gobble up a slight pull. Best play is off the bank on the right hand side, but that leaves a nearly impossible up and down if it stays up there.”

Cody adds that the 18th hole on the Foothills Course is a true risk-reward par 5 requiring a long tee shot that leaves a mid to long iron into a green that plays as many as three-to-four clubs uphill.

“Of course, the penalty area in front of the green makes you think twice about automatically going for it in two. Bob Sowards’ hole-out for eagle on the final hole of his PGA Cup singles match was the recovery shot of a lifetime,” recalls Cody.

Cody’s top three holes on the Coore Crenshaw Cliffside Course begins with the second hole, a long par 4 that can wreak havoc.

“You can’t fall asleep around the green on No. 2, with a green depth of 40-plus yards that can easily leave yourself with a three-putt bogey after reaching the green in regulation,” he says.

“The 12th hole is a dramatic dogleg left par 5 highlighted by a massive Oak tree and bunker that conceal a shortcut leaving a shorter and better angle to the green. But beware as the deep bunker left will cost you at least one shot. The 17th hole on the course is the shortest of the five par 3s, but with a green depth of less than 10 yards and a deep ravine short, club choice is paramount. A wrong club selection can result in a big number.”

What does Cody project the winning 72-hole score might be at Omni Barton Creek in the 53rd PGA Professional Championship?

“My guess is the winner will certainly be double digits under-par, given normal weather conditions,” he says. “The winner of the Senior PGA Professional Championship was 270 (16-under par), and I expect a similar result for the PGA Professional Championship.”

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