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U.S. Senior Open coming to Orion

September 21, 2011 - Golf's best senior players will converge on Lake Orion next July 9-15, to play the Old Course at Indianwood Country Club in the thirty-third U.S. Senior Open Championship.

This will be the fourth major championship held at Indianwood. The club also hosted the 1930 Western Open and 1989 and 1994 Women's U.S. Open tournaments.

Since being awarded the Senior Open Championship in 2007, Tournament Director Keith Aldridge and his team have been planning how to make next year's tournament at Indianwood one of the best ever.

Course construction to help it play "fairer" began about two-and-a-half years ago, he said, and it is now almost complete.

Key changes include adjusting the slope of the fairway on hole No. 2 to improve the landing area after a drive down the middle. A number of fairway bunkers have been moved down range on several holes and tee boxes have been moved on some to increase the yardage of the Old Course.

Aldridge said he is pleased with the updates and thinks they add to Indianwood's mystique. "We moved the tees on No. 12 and now the hole plays 495 yards," he said. "I think it is now one of the top par 4 holes in the state."

In addition, Indianwood is remodeling its driving range for the tournament, including changes to the tees and practice areas. Aldridge said Larry Mullins, owner of Mullins Contracting Co. in Lake Orion, and Building Official Tom Berger from Orion Township have been "fantastic" to work with in updating the range.

Preparations for the U.S. Senior Open will kick into high gear next spring. This includes sprucing up the grounds, lengthening the rough and hardening greens to USGA standards.

"Our members will like that," Aldridge quipped.

On a serious note, the director said he has been pleasantly surprised with how excited members are for the event. "It's nice to see them fired up," he said.

An estimated 2,700 volunteers will be needed during the week of the tournament, which is expected to draw 125,000-plus people to the Lake Orion area. Volunteers will act as course marshals, as well as handle a variety of hospitality activities.

So far, about 1,000 have signed up, including a large number of Indianwood members. Aldridge is hoping even more people in the community will want to get involved and donate their time. Persons can sign up to volunteer at www.2012ussenioropen.com.

Not only will the U.S. Senior Open spotlight Indianwood, but Aldridge hopes the exposure sheds a positive light on Lake Orion and southeast Michigan, in general. (The tournament will be broadcast live on ESPN and NBC that week.)

The USGA says the tournament will pump up to $35 million into the local economy and Aldridge is looking for ways to promote local restaurants, bars and other businesses among visiting golf fans. The golf association will allow area establishments to run "party buses" on the official spectator bus route to bring fans to their establishments before and after visiting the tournament. Businesses interested in this opportunity should contact the director to make arrangements.

Related to this effort is the Orion Area Chamber of Commerce's tentative plan to host a "Taste of Orion" event for media, involving local eateries, said President Bill Kokenos. The goal is to generate positive advance publicity to entice visitors to eat here, he said. People are encouraged to join the OACC committee being formed to organize the event.

"We look forward to working with Keith and his staff, and getting every business in our community involved in the golf tournament in some way," Kokenos said. "We want to capture as many dollars from visitors however we can."

Aldridge also wants to arrange as many local vendors as possible to support the needs of the tournament. Indianwood is close to completing a deal for a Detroit Three automaker to provide all tournament vehicles. Andiamo will be the U.S. Senior Open's official concessioner and caterer. Aldridge said he is talking to many other local vendors, as well.

There also are corporate hospitality opportunities still available, he added. These include "upscale" tickets that provide guests with access to the clubhouse; private tables in the mixed grill with a view of the 18th green; tents on the 18th fairway and 13th green; and one room left in the clubhouse. Companies interested in these should contact Aldridge.

Orion Township resident and avid golfer Cory Woityra thinks it is good that the local economy will receive a boost from the tournament, although he would like to see the regular PGA tour visit Indianwood someday.

"This state loves the sport," he said. "I watch a lot of golf and they should bring the younger players back to Michigan."

Indianwood Golf and Country Club opened in the 1920s. It was purchased by Aldridge's father, Stan, in 1981.

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