Arnold Palmer -- The King and The Governor Make History at Bay Creek

By Jeffrey A. Rendall, Photos By Jeff Janas

CAPE CHARLES, VA -- Probably not since Colonial times has the King and Virginia's Governor been together in the same place at the same time -- so it'd take a mighty special occasion to bring them to meet once again in the first part of the 21st century.

Arnold Palmer with longtime design partner Ed Seay. Before each grand opening, the two put on a golf clinic that is as humorous as it is informative.

Luckily, there was such an event on July 16th (2001) as the King--Arnold Palmer, and Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore arrived in their respective helicopters to officially kick off the opening of Virginia's newest golf course masterpiece, Bay Creek Golf Club.

Bay Creek Golf Club opened for public play on June 1st, but this special event marked its Grand Opening. A crowd of approximately 500 spectators gathered to watch Arnie give a half hour golf clinic (with several speeches by notables in the project and good natured commentary by Ed Seay on Arnie's golfing technique), followed by a walk along with Palmer and Governor Gilmore as they played a ceremonial nine holes on what may one day be known as the finest opening stretch of golf holes in the state.

Upon completing the front nine, Palmer addressed the press and the crowd, and even took a few questions from journalists. The event was exquisitely planned, as Palmer was able to perform his ceremonial duties flawlessly and still maintain his busy schedule -- and just about every minute is accounted for in an event such as this. Special commendation is given to the event's planners for pulling things off without a hitch.

The King and then Governor Jim Gilmore. Gilmore wasn't nearly the golfer, but played the good sport in teeing it from the tips with Arnie.

Throughout the day, it was clear that Arnie and long-time design partner Ed Seay took considerable pride in the layout that sprouted from their inspiration. And why shouldn't they be pleased? Bay Creek's destined to leap into the rankings of Virginia's finest courses. Check out the separate course review for particular details on the layout.

Virginia's first golfer also showed considerable dignity and courage as he played alongside the King. Gilmore probably didn't break 50, but shouldn't be ashamed of the effort -- playing from the tips with crowds of noisy spectators looking on. After playing the layout later in the day, my respect for the Governor's performance increased -- it's a tough course, and I didn't have to worry about hitting someone with an errant tee shot, as he must've been constantly wary of (that'd be one less vote next time he runs for office!). The greens were also pretty fast -- and a good majority of both participants' strokes came on and around the greens.

At the press conference, Palmer gave some thoughts on Bay Creek, and the golf course design profession in general.

Arnie with Bay Creek's owner, Dick Foster, Vicki Martz (project architect at Bay Creek) and Ed Seay.

After addressing several specific questions on the layout, he remarked, "After creating the course, the real pleasure comes from playing it and seeing what you've done. Bay Creek is a fantastic layout, one that you'd never get tired of playing -- and that's the true measure of a great golf course."

Arnie also touched on some of his general design philosophies. "We like to design courses where the average golfer can come out and spend a day with his family and have a good time enjoying the game of golf. Sure, we want to make it difficult enough where good players will be challenged, but our main focus is on the average golfer."

"We're also careful when dealing with sites like Bay Creek -- to preserve the natural beauty of the place. We don't look at it as taking away from the environment, but more like giving something back."

Arnie's seen his share of microphones in his day. He patiently answered questions for the media in a press conference after his ceremonial nine holes with Governor Gilmore.

Palmer's group is set to open up a second Southeastern Virginia layout in September -- The Signature at West Neck in Virginia Beach. West Neck brings together the same team as with Bay Creek -- Baymark Construction's Dick Foster as owner and visionary, Tom Stevenson as Director of Golf, and the Palmer Design Associates as course architects. Needless to say, there are high expectations going into this much-anticipated opening -- but I doubt anyone will be disappointed.

We'll have to wait until some time later, however, before the King makes his official visit to kick off the Grand Opening of The Signature at West Neck. That will have to do -- as it's a pretty special occasion in the first place when he makes a visit to our neck of the woods. I just hope we won't have to wait another two centuries for another chance to bring the King and the Governor together again!

Bay Creek Golf Club
1 Clubhouse Way
Cape Charles, VA 23310

Phone: (757) 331-9000
FAX: (757) 331-1685


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