Bring 'em on!

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 6:46 AM ET

There isn't any prize money on the line, or championship hanging in the balance. In simplest terms, it's just an opportunity for Blackhawk Golf Club to show off.

Primp the fairways, manicure the greens, put up the ropes and get everything just so for the most important guests of the course's young life.

After all, it's not just any company coming to town. It's some of golf's most colourful and popular names in Fred Couples, Craig Stadler, Peter Jacobsen and Stephen Ames.

AN EXCITING TIME

"It's obviously a very exciting time for the golf course," said Al Prokop, managing partner at Blackhawk and one of the driving forces behind today's Tour Challenge.

"We've been at it for a few days with special preparations, getting the mowing heights down to what these guys are used to.

"We've also been in preparation for the last six weeks with different fertilizer applications - you're timing it so everything is popping and jumping at the right time with the extra growth.

"We wanted it to look as nice as possible and it shows good right now. The only unknown is how the golf course will handle that many people, having never done this before."

In an effort to keep the 18-hole exhibition intimate, rather than gridlocked, Blackhawk limited the gallery to 2,000 tickets at $99 each and 160 VIP passes for $1,250, all of which were sold out long ago.

After that it was just a matter of getting the 6,777-yard Rod Whitman design as close to mint as possible. They're hoping the Tour Challenge can give Blackhawk the same kind of exposure the Alberta Open gave its sister course, Wolf Creek.

"It was a little nervewracking about a week ago with all the cold, but everything came together," said Prokop. "We want everything to be perfect and I think we're pretty close."

The field not only boasts some of the game's most popular players, it's also stocked with championships. The foursome has 36 PGA wins, 10 senior titles, two Masters championships and three Champions Tour majors to its credit.

- Couples has 15 PGA wins, including the 1992 Masters, and hold, the longest active cut streak at Augusta National (20 straight years, including nine top-10 finishes). His most recent win is the 2003 Shell Houston Open, and he has three top 10s this year, including a second-place finish at The Memorial and a T3 at the British Open.

- Jacobsen has seven wins on the PGA Tour and two on the Champions Tour, both of them majors (2005 Senior Players Championship and the 2004 U.S. Senior Open). He also finished T15 at the 2005 U.S. Open at Pinehurst, where he made a hole-in-one on No. 9.

- Stadler has 13 PGA wins, including the 1982 Masters in a playoff over Dan Pohl, and eight Champions Tour wins to his credit, five of them last season. He won the 2003 Senior Players Championship and then the PGA's B.C. Open, joining Ray Floyd as the only players to win on both tours in the same season.

- Ames had 11 top-10 finishes in 27 events last season, including a Western Open victory. A model of consistency, he finished eighth on the money list. His best finish this year is a T6 at the MCI Heritage.

The format for the exhibition round is a two-man total score, Couples and Jacobsen versus Stadler and Ames.

"I think the people are going to have a great time," said Prokop, adding that the pre-event clinic will be the highlight of the day.

"People will be 20 or 30 feet away and get to see these guys relax and really have some fun."

The gates open at 9:30. The clinic begins at 11. The round is set to begin at 12:15.

They're already getting to work on next year's Challenge, with names like Mike Weir and Michelle Wie on the wish list of potential guests.


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