by Jim Riggs
April 16, 2005
Senior Tour Has Become Special Tour
Art Asquith is a 75-year-old avid golfer who had an idea that has become one of the most successful golfing ventures in the area. It’s called the Senior Tour.For years Asquith had been thinking about putting together golf outings for senior golfers, something more than a nine-hole league once a week at the same course. He was thinking about a weekly 18-hole tournament at a different course.
“There was no format for guys 60, 70, 80 years old,” he said. “There’s not much of a format for these guys unless they’re lucky and they have a group.”
So after years of thinking about it, last spring Asquith took action.
“Just on the spur of the moment all of a sudden I said, ‘Doggone it, I’m going to try it,’” he said.
Since Asquith, who retired from teaching at Cassadaga Valley Central School in 1992, has worked at Chautauqua Golf Club for nearly 25 years, he approached the course’s director of golf, Stan Marshaus, with his idea. His proposal was 18 holes of golf, with a cart, and a light meal for $22 on a Monday. Marshaus thought it sounded great and was willing to have his course host the event.
“I think it’s a super idea,” Marshaus said. “I think golf is a game that we can play forever and we’re very lucky that you can continue to play this into your senior years. So I had no doubt in my mind that it would be a very big success.”
So with that positive reply, Asquith contacted Rick Brown, a retired teacher from Southwestern who also works at Chautauqua who had been interested in the concept, and they took action.
First the golfers had to be found, which was accomplished with an article in both The Post-Journal and the Observer announcing the Senior Tour was seeking golfers 60 and older interested in playing weekly tournaments at different courses.
“I felt we couldn’t go to the pros unless I said I can guarantee you ‘X’ number guys,” Asquith said.
So that “X” was filled in.
“We started getting phone calls and then word of mouth and it became apparent I could guarantee them 48 guys,” he said. “And the 48 turned into 52 and the 52 turned into 60 and all of a sudden we had plenty of guys.”
So with the interested golfers, Asquith and Brown started contacting courses.
“Several courses kind of balked at it, but then all of a sudden they started doing their math,” he said about $22 from 60 golfers. “If you can promise $1,200 on a Monday, that’s not too bad.”
Asquith also noted that one of the first questions from a pro was, “Who else have you got?”
He noted that, “I was able to say Chautauqua immediately. That in itself got their attention. If Chautauqua is letting you (do this), they must not feel it’s a bad thing.”
Marshaus noted, “If you go to a golf course and say on a Monday we’re going to give this amount of money, they should jump at it.”
Soon there was a lineup of courses. In addition to Chautauqua, last year the Senior Tour played at Hillview, Maplehurst, Jackson Valley, Cardinal Hills, Green Meadows, South Hills, Holiday Valley, Cable Hollow, Elkdale, North Hills and Woodcrest.
“Stan said he would pick up any date we couldn’t fill,” Asquith said, so Chautauqua ended being a playing site three times. “Stan has been very supportive of projects like this. I can’t give enough credit.”
So for the first year of the Senior Tour, a tournament was held every Monday in June, July and August. And because of two rain dates, it even moved into September.
Because of the number of players, the Senior Tour had sought only 18-hole courses, but this year three nine-hole layouts, Bemus Point, Cassadaga and Chautauqua Point, are newcomers to the list along with the 18-hole layouts of Harbor Ridge, Peek’n Peak (Lower Course), Blueberry Hills and Pine Acres.
“One of the critical things about this whole deal is a guy has to establish himself as a regular or an alternate,” Asquith said. “If he’s a regular, I don’t worry about him. He’s going to show unless he calls me. If he’s an alternate, he has to wait for my call.”
Then he stressed, “If a guy’s a regular, he can’t start picking and choosing courses. For us to retain our integrity and respect, I have to say to a pro, ‘I’m bringing 60 guys.’”
And that hasn’t been a problem.
What has added to the Senior Tour’s success is the use of the Stableford Scoring System, which is used at The International on the PGA Tour. The Senior Tour’s modified version involves awarding one point for a bogey, two for a par, three for a birdie and four for an eagle.
“By using the Stableford System, Stan suggested that, we kind of accommodate golfers of all abilities,” Asquith said. “The Stableford System proved to be a pretty good way to go.”
Marshaus said, “It’s easier for them eventually, once they learn the system, and it’s a fairer system. Especially when you have higher handicap golfers that are making double bogeys and triple bogeys; there is no deduction for those. Plus if they know the system, they can move along a little faster. Once you get a double bogey, pick it up and go.
That system might be modified this year.
“What we’re doing seems to be working out pretty good,” Asquith said. “I found the better golfers had a harder time scoring points.”
So he may change it to four points for birdie instead of three and six points for eagle.
“I had probably seven or eight guys who were shooting in the 70s and we had a lot of guys shooting in the 80s,” Asquith said.
Last year the divisions were 60-64, 65-69, 70-74 and 75 and over. And there were two 83-year-old golfers who took part.
With the popularity of the Senior Tour last year, it should be bigger this year. Asquith said the fields might increase to 72 this year.
Last year’s regulars, plus anyone new interested in joining the Senior Tour, must register at a luncheon at the Lakewood Rod & Gun Club on April 25 at 11 a.m. The registration fee is $10 and the luncheon cost is $6.75. More information is available by contacting Asquith at 595-3185 or Brown at 763-1383.
And Asquith is expecting a lot of new faces after all the positives he heard about the inaugural season.
“The feedback I got is they love the comradery, they love the fun they had, they loved having something on their agenda and they loved the fact that they could be competitive, but it wasn’t necessary,” he said. “Everybody’s out there having fun and really that’s what it’s all about.”