Remember those spotty, brown-tinged greens that ruined the look of the 2007 EDS Byron Nelson Championship?
They're only a memory these days at the Four Seasons Resort in Irving. And a distant memory, at that.
They've been replaced by acres of fresh fairways and smooth, new greens as part of a $10 million overhaul of the TPC Las Colinas course. D.A. Weibring, the architect who oversaw the redesign project, unveiled his handiwork today for public consumption.
Tournament officials offered across-the-board kudos for Weibring's efforts. So did J.J. Henry, a PGA Tour participant from Fort Worth who attended the news conference. The compliments are deserved, especially when you consider that Weibring achieved his grand makeover in just 10 months, despite some weather-related complications along the way.
How different is the refurbished TPC? Every hole was impacted, and some changes are dramatic -- notably the four-lake, cascading water feature at No. 18. But the course primarily has a fresher, cleaner look and feel to it. Square tees. More defined bunkers, strategically placed and filled with white sand. Some softening of spectator mounds. Smaller greens, many of them re-contoured to make them more challenging for the touring pros.
The bottom line, said 2008 Nelson tournament chairman John Nolan, is that Weibring's efforts "exceeded everything we thought would happen."
Henry predicted peers would be "blown away" when they arrive for the April 24-27 event and see how much has changed since last year.
During the project, a total of 165 trees were moved to other locations to help frame target areas or landing areas. Several new bunker complexes have been added.
Ideally, Nelson officials hope the redesigned layout will cause more elite players to return to their event. They acknowledge that is unlikely to happen this year, in part because of a difficult date (two weeks after the Masters, two weeks before The Players Championship) that falls within a span when most elite players take time off to recharge their mental batteries.
Nolan calls this "a building block year" for the Nelson, one in which tournament officials hope to bridge the gap to bigger things in 2009, when the PGA Tour's projected calendar has D-FW's tour events -- the Nelson (May 21-24, 2009) and the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial (May 28-31, 2009) -- slated to fall in back-to-back weeks. Those dates are not final, however, and could change in the months ahead.
The bottom line, at this stage, is making efforts toward restoring the luster of Byron Nelson's namesake event after a dismal experience in 2007. Consider the first step in that direction taken Tuesday.
Because of his long relationship with Nelson, who died in 2006, Weibring said this project has been more "personal" than most. Henry, one of two player consultants involved with the project, suggested that Lord Byron would approve of Weibring's handiwork.
"I think he's up there (in heaven), smiling down on us now for what we've accomplished," Henry said.
_ Jimmy Burch