Fast Track to Recognition

Sam Laskaris
1/13/11

It certainly didn’t take the Seneca Hickory Stick Golf Course long to gain national recognition. GOLF Magazine, one of the sport’s most respected publications, listed Seneca Hickory Stick at No. 6 in its annual compilation of Best New Courses in America.

The course, located in Lewiston, was the only one from New York to crack the Top 10 list. And it was one of four courses from the East Coast that made the grade.

“We didn’t expect this,” said Fran Roach, Seneca Hickory Stick’s general manager, adding he was uncertain whether the course would be in the running for any awards since it only opened in July for what officials called a preview season. “But we’re quite honored that the magazine recognized us this early.” Topping the list of best new courses was The Old Macdonald at Bandon Dunes Resort, located in
Bandon, Ore.

The Top 10 list was compiled following input from various panelists and the magazine’s editors. The complete list is available in the magazine’s January 2011 edition. Or it can also be viewed at www.golf.com.

The Seneca Hickory Stick course is owned by the Seneca Nation of Indians. And it was developed by the Seneca Gaming Corporation, whose other properties include the Seneca Niagara Casino and Hotel.

“The (golf) project itself was meant to be an additional amenity for the hotel and casino,” Roach said. But the course, named for the rare Shellbark Hickory trees located throughout its site, is expected to rack up its share of accolades in the coming years.

Officials with the course had been raving about it even prior to its opening. The par-72 championship course was designed by Robert Trent Jones II, one of the sport’s leading architects, who has worked on more than 270 courses around the world.

“It’s our first award which is quite an honor for the property,” Roach said. “We’re extremely satisfied. Obviously we’d like to be a bit higher but we’re happy (with our placing). It’s very challenging to get on this list.”

Seneca Hickory Stick, located on 250 acres, has a picturesque layout and features various lakes and ponds as well as native plants and grasses. Large mature trees also surround the course.

Even prior to its opening, course officials were predicting Seneca Hickory Stick would be well-received. The course is just a 20-minute drive from world-renowned Niagara Falls. And officials were confident the course would not only appeal to golfers from the state of New York and the neighboring Canadian province of Ontario but also to golfers from various other northeastern states.

The course also has an added aboriginal connection. The course superintendent is Gerry Doolittle, a member of Minnesota’s Ojibwe Fond du Lac Reservation.

Doolittle, who previously worked on courses in Minnesota and Virginia, has been in the golf business since 1999, when he retired following a 22-year career in the U.S. Navy.

Seneca Hickory Stick officials are not resting on their laurels. They’re busily preparing now for the 2011 season, which will include the opening of its 4,500-square-foot clubhouse.

Since it was not completed, the course’s clubhouse simply consisted of a temporary trailer. A new state-of-the-art clubhouse will undoubtedly enhance a golf outing at Seneca Hickory Stick.

“Our intention all the time is to provide a memorable golfing experience every day,” Roach said.

This year the course was open to the public from July 2 until late November.

“We were pretty lucky (with the weather),” Roach said. “The course was open until a day or two before Thanksgiving.”

Roach is anxiously anticipating Seneca Hickory Stick’s second season. “The golf course is in great condition for being such a young golf course.”

Roach also believes – thanks to some terrific maintenance – the course will be even better in 2011. Course maintenance includes covering the course’s greens during the winter to prevent ice damage.

If Mother Nature cooperates, Roach is hoping Seneca Hickory Stick will open for its second season in April.

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