Newport Beach Country Club turned 50 this year and with the Toshiba Senior Classic at the forefront of a lot of golf enthusiast's radars this week and next comes questions and comparisons of how just good are these Champions Tour players that will make a stop here compared with the amateur golfer?
The tournament and the timing of the club's 50th anniversary, recognized during a weekend ceremony last month, also warrants a look at the lowest rounds, both during Toshiba and the other 51 weeks of the year.
Chuck Loos, an NBCC member since 1997 and former managing editor of the Daily Pilot, graciously researched these feats and should gain much of the credit.
Hale Irwin, the only two-time winner of the Toshiba Senior Classic, which celebrates its 10th birthday this year, came back from five strokes down in the final round of the 1998 tournament to shoot a 62, eclipsing Hubert Green by one stroke. Irwin carded 31s on both the front and back nines playing with Lee Trevino and Jim Colbert to set the men's course record in tournament play.
Irwin's round included the famous "rake incident" on the par-3 17th hole. His tee shot landed short of the green and began rolling toward the lake that fronts the green, but a rake prevented the ball from rolling into the water. Tournament rules called for bunker rakes to be placed outside of bunkers, not inside, which is the normal procedure at NBCC.
Theo "Ted" Norby, a teaching pro at the Aviara Golf Academy in Carlsbad, carded a 61 on June 28, 2000, the lowest score in a non-tournament round on the current course.
Norby, a former Corona del Mar High and UC Irvine golfer, was playing a friendly round with Dave Donnellan, then an assistant pro at NBCC, and Eric Woods, a fellow pro and longtime club member.
Woods shot a 66 that day and said Norby's round was "the most fantastic round of golf I have ever seen. I hit my tee shot within three feet on the par-3 eighth hole and Norby hit his within a foot."
Norby birdied 11 holes, including the first and last four, with just one bogey.
"I remember going out there that day, not expecting anything really, and I just started hitting it close early," Norby said at the time.
The low round for a women's tournament at the club isn't held by a member, but a familiar face in golfing circles around here — Marianne Towersey.
The heralded Towersey, a 19-time women's club champion at Santa Ana Country Club and five-time winner of the annual Tea Cup Classic, shot a 68 on Aug. 8, 2002, during the Seahorse Classic, the annual women's member-guest tournament. Towersey, winner of many amateur titles and golf coach at Newport Harbor High, broke eight-time club champion Debbie Albright's amateur course record of 70.
Her playing partner, Sandi Coffer, a former NBCC women's club champion, said, "It was great fun watching a perfect round of golf. Marianne made no mistakes, no bogies, and just made it look really easy."
Pam Higgins, a former LPGA Tour player who has been a teaching pro at NBCC since 1984, put Towersey's round in perspective.
"Marianne Towersey's 68 has to be considered the record for women on the course as it's configured today," Higgins said.
Higgins should know, since she holds the lowest score (65) for a woman when the club was known as the Irvine Coast Country Club. Higgins set the mark during her first pro-am victory in 1972.
The Pilot's Laurie Beckland reported that Higgins "made seven birdies and sank a 20-foot putt for eagle on the 16th hole to come up eight-under-par."
Beckland added that Higgins hadn't ever completed 18 holes without making a bogey.
"As far as anyone can remember, no one, man or woman, has come near the 65 since the course underwent major remodeling last year (1971)."
Of course, history has proven otherwise, but the pros aren't the only ones who have turned in memorable rounds.
They just do it when everyone is watching.
Venue for greatness
Newport Beach Country Club has seen some memorable rounds in its 50 years and they don't all belong to pros
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