By Richard Oliver
Considering its history, it seemed fitting that Saturday morning's grand opening of the golf courses at TPC San Antonio was delayed by nasty weather.
After more than a decade of oft-stormy wrangling with the public and politicians over the project, in all its evolutions, developer John Pierret looked out over a windswept, cold landscape and smiled.
“It's been 10 years, seven months, 11 days and a couple of hours,” Pierret, executive vice president of Forestar Real Estate Group, said before playing in a fundraising tournament at the JW Marriott Grand Opening Salute. “But who the hell is counting?”
On Saturday, finally, all that was being tallied was strokes and the amount of money raised for three groups, including Fisher House and the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, both military-service organizations.
In the first official showcase of the AT&T Oaks and AT&T Canyons courses, adjacent to the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort and Spa, nearly 250 players took part in a scramble-format tournament. Officials said the event raised $902,300 for the organizations.
The opening ceremony, forced inside the TPC San Antonio clubhouse because of the inclement conditions, included PGA Tour officials and professionals, World Golf Hall of Fame architect Pete Dye and retired Gen. Richard Myers, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem spoke Saturday night at an exclusive gala.
David Pillsbury, president of PGA Tour Golf Course Properties, said the finished products ranked as impressive entries to the lineup of tour-managed TPC layouts.
“I remember coming out here on the old roads saying, ‘Are you kidding me?'” Pillsbury said of his initial tour of the acreage in far north Bexar County. “It's a culmination of so many people and so much focus and dedication in making something like this happen. To see it actually come to fruition is amazing and gives you goose bumps.”
While Saturday's focus was on fundraising for the military, the AT&T Oaks course will be in a different spotlight in May when it hosts the PGA Tour's Valero Texas Open. The city's Champions Tour stop, the AT&T Championship, likely will shift from Oak Hills Country Club to AT&T Canyons in 2011.
“I can't even tell you how much of an upgrade this is for the tour and for the Texas Open,” said New Braunfels resident David Ogrin, a Champions Tour competitor who captured the Open at the Resort Course at La Cantera in 1996. “It's a venue built for the tour and for the players, and over the course of time, it'll become one of the elite places.”
Of the Greg Norman-designed AT&T Oaks, he added: “This is a course that, if it had been 14 years ago when Tiger (Woods) was coming out and he had played it, he would have said, ‘This is someplace I'd come back to.'”
Champions Tour player Bruce Leitzke, a consultant on the AT&T Canyons blueprint, said he believes the Dye-designed layout will have a similar impact.
“It's amazing to me that just a couple of years after there was nothing but trees and deer blinds and more rock than I've seen anywhere in my life, we're now getting ready to play golf,” said Leitzke, who has more than 20 wins on the PGA and Champions tours. “It blows me away. I can't get used to it.”
The praise pleased Pierret, in particular. Before construction began on the project, he recalled being photographed on the undeveloped property, hitting a golf ball off a cow pattie.
“There aren't any out there now,” he said.
"Holidays, birthdays & anniversaries have been celebrated with tears and smiles with people who truly understand what the other person is experiencing."
- Kamryn Jaroszewski