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Riggs Memorial Champions heads to Cable Hollow GC

Pictured is the newest hole at Cable Hollow Golf Course in Russell, Pa. where the Riggs Memorial Champions will be held on Sunday. The No. 5 is a par 3 modeled after the No. 16 at Augusta National Golf Club. OBSERVER Photo by Christian Storms

RUSSELL, Pa. — The reigning club champion golfers from the OBSERVER, Times Observer and The Post-Journal coverage areas will tee off on Sunday in the 34th Jim Riggs Memorial Champions at Cable Hollow Golf Course.

The field is made up of last season’s men’s scratch club champions and previous winners of the tournament, which traces its origins to the late Jim Riggs. The Post-Journal sports editor from 1979-2014, Riggs held the first event in 1990 and it has been held annually ever since.

The return to Cable Hollow GC, which last hosted the Riggs Memorial Champions in 2019, will feature a few new surprises. In fact, since Arthur Stewart purchased Cable Hollow GC from the Bortz family in late 2022, several renovations have been done to the facility, including the pavilion, but most importantly the course itself.

The Riggs Memorial Champions players, including last year’s winner, Nick Giambrone of Russell, will experience two new holes — one on the front nine and another on the back nine.

There have also been modifications to two holes, one on the front and another on the back.

Pictured is the finish of the par-5 No. 6 at Cable Hollow Golf Course in Russell, Pa. The hole just went through an update which elevated the green above its previous position below the two bunkers. The competitors in the Jim Riggs Memorial Champions will be challenged with the 511-yard hole starting Sunday morning at 9:30. OBSERVER Photo by Christian Storms

“Getting to know new holes at a local course is pretty unique around here,” said tournament director Nolan Swanson, who is the co-owner of Pinehurst Golf Club in Westfield. “There haven’t been a lot of courses that change their course or put a lot of effort into making their place better and I know they want to showcase that and see some decent players play their new holes.”

The first, and in my opinion, most exciting update is on No. 5 which remains a 182-yard par 3 from the black tees, but is modeled after one of the most famous holes in the world.

When arriving at the course one of the first things you will notice is the large pond with a fountain running in the middle of it and along that water golfers will be challenged with a hole modeled after No. 16 at Augusta National Golf Club.

Then, on the course’s second par 3, the beautiful No. 5, the curve of the pond makes for a difficult water hazard from the white tees and beyond. Even if you can manage to land your shot on the green, there is not an easy putt to be had and with my beginner golf skills I have yet to find a line to the cup I have loved.

If you send your shot to the left of the green, you could find yourself in a bunker, and if you go long your ball could be lost to the tall grass beyond the green.

Having frequently visited Cable Hollow Golf Course in the past year, No. 5 went from my least favorite hole on the course as just another short par 3 to one that I look forward to playing.

Immediately after one of the course’s shortest holes, golfers then experience the first par 5 which has received a makeover that has moved the pin uphill with a pair of bunkers on separate levels below the green. While it is the shortest par 5 at 511 yards, the elevated green makes for a difficult finish.

The front 9 finishes with consecutive par 4s and the longest hole on the course, the 546-yard par 5 on No. 9. After the turn, it doesn’t take long to experience something new as No. 11 has a much different look.

While remaining a par 3, instead of being a mirror image of No. 2 going down the hill, golfers will take the longer trip to where No. 12 used to be located going over the large pond. At a distance of 155 yards from the black tees, there is no room for error as golfers must clear the water to reach the green. In my experiences of low-stakes golf with my brother, we usually sacrifice a ball or two to the golf gods in the water before playing it safer by over swinging in an effort to reach solid ground.

After the shortest and easiest hole on the course, according to the stroke index, golfers will play the hardest and longest of the back 9 in a 535-yard par 5 before facing the final new hole at No. 13.

The next new hole is another par 3, but it comes in at 220 yards from the black tees and arrives at another very challenging green. Playing between the trees, golfers will need to stay straight to reach their final destination on what I think is the second-most aesthetically pleasing hole on the course.

With the movement of No. 11 taking the place of the former par-4 No. 12 and the addition of No. 13 there are now three par 3s on the back 9 making for a par-71 course on Sunday. The total distance on the course from the black tees is 6,572 yards.

For many of the area’s best golfers, Sunday’s stroke-play tournament will be a great showcase of the challenges Cable Hollow’s recent makeover provides. While the new additions may steal the show, the course still has some of my favorite holes I have played in the area.

On the front 9, my favorite is No. 8, the 355-yard from the black and blue tees par 4, but I usually play at the 340-yard gold tees. As a right-handed golfer with a wicked slice, the dogleg left challenges me to stay true on the fairway about 200 yards before turning slightly left and going downhill the rest of the way to the green. While the black tees and the blue tees are at the same distance — located to the left — the black tees must avoid the trees that would stand in the way of a straight shot toward the pin.

Then, on the back 9, I share a favorite with my brother on No. 16 that is a 395-yard par 4 from the black tees and 375 from blue tees. This is another dogleg left, but comes out of the trees with the green visible from the tee boxes. It is nearly a 310-yard shot to get into the opening towards the right on the fairway, but is favorable for my slice to avoid the trees and open a clear shot at the hole.

While I usually hack away with mulligans and ball drops, the Jim Riggs Memorial Champions field will make it look much better on Sunday. Returning for a title defense is Giambrone, the 2022 and 2023 Cable Hollow Golf Course Club champion and 2023 Riggs Memorial Champion at the Lake Course at Chautauqua Golf Club, who fired a 69 last year to claim a four-shot win.

“We’re happy to keep this tournament going,” Swanson added. “It’s nice to continue it and have an amateur scratch tournament in the county. It’s nice that this one continues for local golfers to vie for a championship in the region. Some people really look forward to those things and we want to give those people that opportunity.”

The first tee time is at 9:30 a.m. Sunday with the trio of Steve Anderson as the South Hills Country Club champion, Greg Winter a past champion and Chad Swan as the Maplehurst Country Club champion. Following at 9:40 are Nolan Ditcher as a past champion, Darien Swanson, the Pinehurst Golf Club champion, and Jordan Marsh as a past champion. Up at 9:50 are Josh Lindquist, the Breezewood Links champion, Dan Smith, the Elkdale Country Club champion, and Nolan Swanson as a past champion. At 10 a.m., are Ryan Nord, the Conewango Country Club champion, Josh Harrington as a past champion and TJ Gronquist as a past champion. The final tee time as of Thursday evening, hitting off at 10:10 a.m. includes Jason Stronz as the Moon Brook Country Club champion, Jeff Eaton the Blueberry Hill Golf Course champion, Brenton Wilcox the Cassadaga Country Club champion and Giambrone as the reigning tournament champion and Cable Hollow Golf Course champion.

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