Birch Ridge golf course sees earliest ever opening

Birch Ridge golf course sees earliest ever opening

Reminiscing recently about some of the big stars that have graced the fairways at the Birch Ridge golf course, Pat Cowan recalled one of the PGA’s finest who visited in 1997.

Billy Casper, a PGA Tour legend who owns 51 tour wins including the 1970 Masters, passed away in February at age 83. Casper won the Birch Ridge annual skins game in that summer of ‘97. While playing the ninth and final hole, Casper caught a whiff of ribs that were being barbecued nearby, and promptly chipped his ball onto the green, just inches away from the pin.

“He really wanted to get done so he could eat,” Cowan said with a chuckle.

With that wistful memory surfacing just months after Casper’s passing and during the week of the 79th Masters tournament, Cowan, owner of Birch Ridge, has a lot to be pleased with right now.

For the first time ever, local golfers broke out their set of clubs for a season-opening round at Birch Ridge before the first week of April was up.

Taking full advantage of the early spring weather, players took to the nine-hole course in Soldotna beginning Monday, the earliest ever opening day for Birch Ridge, according to Cowan.

Instead of sitting inside watching the prestigious Masters tournament at Augusta National, as is typical this time of year in Alaska, Cowan and Birch Ridge general manager Nolan Rose have been busy getting the course and course accessories ready for summer 2015. Cowan said the previous record for earliest opening for the course was April 11 in 2003.

This year, the course was dry enough by April 6 to walk on without even getting your feet wet.

“Any tee time before May 1 is a bonus,” Rose said.

Rose said he and Cowan have seen about 15 to 20 golfers play through in the first three days, with more expected. Cowan added that the only restriction at the moment is the use of carts, which are not allowed quite yet to preserve the soft fairways. Cowan said he hopes to bring the carts out by April 18, but that is totally dependent on the condition of the course.

“We were out there on the (putting) greens pulling the rebar out of the ground with our hands,” Cowan said. “Usually we use tools for that.”

Rose said the wettest parts of the course are the green on hole two and the tee box on hole six. One of the lowest areas — hole four — is actually one of the driest, as the steep incline that characterizes the fairway allows a great meltwater runoff.

Birch Ridge’s main competition, the Kenai and Bird Homestead golf courses, are not yet open, giving Birch Ridge an early advantage in attracting customers. Of the roughly 20 players that have arrived thus far for early action, Rose said the majority are not necessarily season pass members. The course regulars usually start later in the season once the greens are in perfect condition, as they get in more time during the main summer swing.

Birch Ridge will be hosting what was originally called a “preseason” open house tomorrow, but Rose and Cowan this year will be the first in which the opening precedes the open house event.

The first actual competition will be the 12th annual BRGA Junior Golf Championship, slated for June 18. Other major events include the Wells Fargo Pro-Am skins game July 13, the Soldotna Junior Masters July 20 and 21, the Alaska State Junior Championship Aug. 3 and 4, and the fifth annual Kenai Peninsula Open Sept. 5 and 6.

Open until mid-October, Birch Ridge is slated to see over six months of action in 2015, a long run by Alaskan standards.

More in Sports

Kenai Central High School and Nikiski Middle/High School’s Super Smash Bros. Ultimate teams stand together for a photo after the first in-person match by Kenai Peninsula Borough School District teams on Monday, March 27, 2023 at Nikiski Middle/High School in Nikiski, Alaska. In the back from left to right is Koen Pace, Cody Good, Kage Adkins, Levi Kimbell, Lincoln Kimbell and Taisei Horiyasu. In front is Silas Thibodeau. (Photo provided by Kenai Central Esports)
Peninsula has 1st in-person esports match

Only one week remains for the regular esports season, and local teams… Continue reading

Snow falls on a fog-covered Beluga Lake on Thursday<ins>, March 30, 2023 in Homer, Alaska</ins>. (Photo by Delcenia Cosman/Homer News)
Out of the Office: Sometimes snow is not so bad

It’s nearly April, and with every two-or-more-day stretch of clear weather, I… Continue reading

Cook Inlet Academy sophomore Ian McGarry battles for a rebound against Birchwood Christian on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023, at Cook Inlet Academy just outside of Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
CIA’s Ian McGarry gets 1A boys Player of Year

Cook Inlet Academy sophomore Ian McGarry was named the Class 1A boys… Continue reading

The Kenai Central cheerleading team. Back row, left to right: Caitlyn Martin, Sylvia McGraw, Ayla Tallent, Sarah Baisden, Genesis Trevino, Malena Grieme, Maya Montague, Taya Swick and Cali Holmes. Front row, left to right: Ella Romero, Brooklynn Reed and Makenize Harden. (Photo provided)
Kenai cheerleaders win 3rd straight state title

The Kenai Central cheerleading squad won its third straight Division II March… Continue reading

Kenai River Brown Bears goalie Nils Wallstrom celebrates winning a shootout over the Fairbanks Ice Dogs on Saturday, March 25, 2023, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Brown Bears sweep Ice Dogs, move into 3rd place

The Kenai River Brown Bears earned a two-game sweep over the Fairbanks… Continue reading

Bears top Dogs, move into 4th place

The Kenai River Brown Bears defeated the Fairbanks Ice Dogs 4-3 on… Continue reading

Kenai girls take 4th, Kenai boys take 6th at state

The Kenai Central girls basketball team took fourth place and the Kardinals… Continue reading

Chad Anderson of Kasilof and Allie Ostrander guide Everett Anderson, 3, to the finish line Wednesday, July 19, 2017, at the Salmon Run Series at Tsalteshi Trails. Getting the free ride on Chad’s shoulders is Ben Anderson, 2. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Ostrander, Gemmell make Alaska High School Hall of Fame

Allie Ostrander, a 2015 graduate of Kenai Central High School, and Joshua… Continue reading

Kenai Central High School esports players participate in a practice match of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate ahead of a scheduled game at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Esports Week 6: Nikiski is 1st local team to earn playoff spot

Each of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District’s esports teams had a… Continue reading

Most Read