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Tournament Time

Newport Beach Country Club continues to upgrade and put distance between itself and its former incarnation, the sometimes shabby Irvine Coast Country Club.

This year the country club has spent $300,000 with the lofty goal of making part of the course look like the home of the Masters.

The reconfiguration of the third, fourth and fifth holes was completed in January and Laguna Niguel-based golf architect Ted Robinson Sr. is pleased. “The vision was to make it the Augusta of the West,” Robinson said, “with lots of flowers and waterfalls and streams to make it like Rae’s Creek.”

Robinson’s only regret is that the flora is still too young to bloom. “It will take a while to reach its full potential,” he said.

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The most notable change is the waterfall and rock wall that were built in front of the fourth green, making the short par-three hole over a lake look longer than its 143 yards.

The area has been dubbed “Serenity Point” by the course, but defending champion Hale Irwin said “Surrender Point” would be more apt.

Irwin might be on to something. No. 5 starts a stretch of the toughest holes on the course. Nos. 5, 6, 8 and 9 all ranked among the top five most difficult to play in last year’s tournament.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

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Course Gets New Look

Top golfers on the Senior PGA Tour are in Newport Beach this week for the Toshiba Senior Classic. Who the contenders are and a look at the recently renovated portions of the Newport Beach Country Club, where tournament play begins Friday:

RENEWED CLASSIC

Portions of the 47-year-old course were redesigned recently to beautify it to make it more challenging. Here’s what changed:

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Holes 3 & 4

* Lake enlarged and reshaped to make it figure more prominently into play. Soil dug from the bottom of the lake to deepen it was used to form contours and mounding into what was previously flat terrain.

* Cart path between the two lakes was diverted to make way for a natural rock waterfall.

* Stands of palm trees planted to give area a more closed-in feel.

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* Golfers must now hit the ball over the waterfall and those who hit it short end up in the lake, those who hit it long end up in the bunkers, which were also redesigned and relocated.

Hole 5

* Tee complex relocated

* Contours and mounding added to previously flat terrain; area relandscaped with palms.

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THE ONES TO WATCH

Top golfers among the field of 78:

* Hale Irwin

Defending champion and two-time reigning Senior PGA Tour Player Of The Year.

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Driving distance: 252.8

Driving accuracy: 79.4%

Scoring average: 71.00

Putting average: 1.828

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* Allen Doyle

Won the GTE Classic in February. Placed first in the Senior PGA national qualifying tournament in 1998.

Driving distance: 252.3

Driving accuracy: 80.6%

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Scoring average: 70.42

Putting average: 1.807

* Larry Nelson

Ranks second on the money list with $396,883 for 1999. Won the GTE classic in February.

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Driving distance: 274.1

Driving accuracy: 71.5

Scoring average: 69.47

Putting average: 1.762

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* Gil Morgan

Finished second on the PGA Tour money list in the past two years, topping $2 million both times. Finished in the top five at the Toshiba Senior Classic in 1997 and 1998.

Driving distance: 278.0

Driving accuracy: 74.9%

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Scoring average: 71.33

Putting average: 1.869

* Jay Sigel

Finished second to Bob Murphy in a nine-hole playoff in 1997; tied for third in 1998.

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Driving distance: 275.1

Driving accuracy: 68.1

Scoring average: 72.67

Putting average: 1.842

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Last year’s Results

At Newport Beach Country Club - Par 71

*--*

Name Score Par Prize 1. Hale Irwin 200 --13 $165,000 2. Hubert Green 201 --12 $ 96,800 3. Mike McCullough 204 -- 9 $72,600 3. Jay Sigel 204 -- 9 $72,600

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*--*

1999 Tournament Information

Course: Newport Beach Country Club

Organizer/lead charity: Hoag Hospital Foundation

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Participants: 78

Purse: $1.2 million ($180,000 to the winner)

Dates: March 12-14

Tee-off: 8:00 a.m. Friday; 8:00 a.m. Saturday and 7:30 a.m. Sunday

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Parking: Free. See map for locations and shuttle information.

ESPN broadcast: Live from noon to 2 p.m. on Fri., Mar. 12; 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sat., Mar. 13; 2:30 to 4 p.m. Sun., Mar. 14.

TICKETS

* Information: (949) 515-4840

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Single-day tickets: $12 Monday through Thursday; $15 Friday through Sunday.

Multiple-day grounds pass: $45

Multiple-day grounds/clubhouse pass: $100

(Corporate rates available)

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GALLERY PROTOCOL

* No cameras, cell phones, coolers, radios, or signs. Lawn chairs are permitted, but must be attended at all times.

* Please observe silence throughout each shot.

* Do not move to next location until all contestants in each group have played or holed out.

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BEST VIEWING SPOTS

* 6th tee: A small hill provides clear views of players putting on holes 2,7, 11 and 5; tee shots on holes 3 and 6.

* 7th green: Watch golfers contend with one of the trickiest spots on the course and also catch the action at the 1st, 15th, 17th, and 18th holes.

Hole by Hole

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*--*

Hole Par Yards 1 4 339 2 4 390 3 5 532 4 3 143 5 4 430 6 4 418 7 4 368 8 3 203 9 4 407 10 4 416 11 4 344 12 4 373 13 3 170 14 4 397 15 5 492 16 4 437 17 3 190 18 5 510

*--*

Par total: 71

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Yards total: 6,559

Senior PGA Tour Facts

Eligibility: Nationally ranked players over 50

Tournaments: 45

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Total prize money: $49.5 million

Charitable donations: Exceeded $10.7 million in 1998.

Graphics reporting by JANICE JONES DODDS/Los Angeles Times

Source: Newport Beach Country Club, Toshiba Senior Classic, Times reports

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