For more than four decades, 99-year-old Larry Packard has seen the world’s best golfers take on the devilish Copperhead layout he designed to test their prodigious skills.
Each time they walk away lugging black numbers, Packard’s smile grows a little wider.
An Innisbrook resident who designed all four of the resort’s golf courses, Packard was stationed in a skybox overlooking Copperhead’s 18th green during Sunday’s final round of the Transitions Championship.
"This course isn’t perfect … but it’s nearly perfect," said Packard, who has overseen more than 250 golf projects since 1947, including courses in South Korea, Venezuela, Guatemala and Egypt. "You’re trying to make these guys play every shot and use every club and I’ll put this up against any course out there."
Many of the golfers in this field continue to praise Packard’s 7,340-yard layout as one of their favorite courses on the PGA Tour.
When Packard hits the century mark in November, he’ll probably celebrate his birthday in Packard’s Steakhouse, the signature Innisbrook restaurant that bears his name.
"All these years later, I wouldn’t change very much about this golf course," said Packard, who completed the design of Copperhead in 1970. "It makes me very happy that so many of these golfers can’t break par here."
Scott Piercy began the final day eight strokes back, but a tournament-record 29 on the front side vaulted him into contention before the leaders had even teed off.
Piercy found himself in a zone Sunday with seven birdies on the front, including three putts from 20 feet or longer. He added two more birdies on the back side to finish with a bogey-free 62.
"Yesterday was terrible," said Piercy, who posted three bogeys Saturday en route to a 2-over 73. "I didn’t have a lot of expectations for today, but I was reading greens well and the greens were really smooth this morning."
In registering his only PGA Tour win, Piercy reeled off eight consecutive birdies in a third-round 61 last year as he topped the field at the Reno-Tahoe Open.
Quote of the day
"The PGA Tour is the best in the world by far. If I was playing in Europe, it probably would be good enough to win." — Jeff Overton, who shot a 66 Sunday to finish at 12-under 272, one stroke shy of joining the playoff
Shot of the day
Stewart Cink and Kris Blanks share the honor on the final day, with each recording a hole-in-one. Cink aced the 190-yard eighth hole with a 6-iron and Blanks used a 4-iron at No. 17 from 218 yards out.
Hole of the day
Charlie Wi won’t soon forget Copperhead’s No.5 hole, a 605-yard par-5. Wi was 1-over par for the tournament before disaster struck. After an errant drive into the rough, Wi was forced to take three drops before tapping in to finish off a 13, the biggest score on the Tour this season. Wi went on to shoot a 78, finishing last in the final field of 77 golfers at 8-over 292.