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BC Open ready for final chapter

Jason Bohn qualified for the British Open, but he's staying stateside.

Instead of competing in the major on the other side of the Atlantic, Bohn is defending his B.C. Open title. The fact this is the final year for the tournament after more than three decades on the PGA Tour was key to a difficult decision.

"I really wanted to try and support the B.C. Open," said Bohn, who shot a record 24-under 264 last year for his only win on the PGA Tour after bouncing around for years on mini tours and the Canadian Tour. "I wanted to come back and say thanks to the people who put it on, let them know that they changed my life forever.

"I know there will be another British Open, so I felt like this was the right thing for me to do," said Bohn, who ranks 51st on the money list with just under $900,000.

Normally, a defending champion would have a bit of an edge. Not so this year. For the first time since the B.C. Open became a regular tour stop in 1972, it won't be played in Broome County at En-Joie Golf Club in Endicott.

Flooding in late June on the Susquehanna River inundated En-Joie and forced PGA Tour officials to move the tournament about 90 miles northeast to the Oneida Indian Nation's Turning Stone Resort.

For Alex Alexander, switching the B.C. Open to Turning Stone's Atunyote Golf Club was a bittersweet development. It was Alexander who founded the tournament and convinced the PGA Tour it could meet the demands of a regular stop.

"This isn't the way that I thought we would go out," Alexander said Wednesday. "But these people were nice enough to offer us a place to play, and that's good. I'm happy about that. They've been very cooperative."

The quaint, small-town feel that has been the charm of the B.C. Open was an anomaly on a circuit dominated by big-money corporate sponsors and network television contracts.

The B.C. Open, which has raised over $8 million for charity, never had a corporate sponsor to underwrite tournament costs and bolster its smallest-on-tour purse, which this year amounts to $3 million. And since 2003, it has been staged opposite the British Open, which assured it would be dominated by players at the lower reaches of the PGA money list or from the minor leagues of professional golf.

Still, the demise of a unique community event is a sad moment for many in this weekend's field of 132.

"All the people in the Broome County area have put so much effort into it," said 1993 B.C. Open champ Blaine McCallister, who in a little over two years will turn 50 and be eligible for the Champions Tour. "Time has just gone by it -- the old car got put in for a new car -- and I think it's unfortunate. They've always been battling to keep in the game and they've always succeeded at it.

"To say goodbye is the hardest thing to do because of the fact that we have so many friends there. I keep confident that maybe we'll come back."

So does Alexander. He remained optimistic En-Joie could replace the B.C. Open with a stop on the Champions Tour and said a decision was imminent.

"When I quiz Alex about it, there's still a slight twinkle in his eye," said Joey Sindelar, who along with Brad Faxon is one of the two players to win the B.C. Open twice. "If he's still kicking, I'm happy."



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