There was never a doubt, says Robert Trent Jones, Jr., golf course architect for Blessings Golf Club, that a premier national championship would be played at the stern test he designed near Fayetteville, Ark., for owner John Tyson, the chairman of Tyson Foods, Inc.
“What John always wanted was to have a major tournament on his golf course and I am so happy for him,” said Jones, whose original design and strategic elements that debuted in 2004 remain mostly intact. “John is one of the great patrons of the game of golf and I hope the NCAA Championships are the first of many world-class events on his premier course.”
Blessings, home course of the University of Arkansas golf teams, will challenge the nation’s best collegiate teams for the 2019 Division I NCAA Golf Championships, to be held May 17-22 (women’s) and May 24-29 (men’s).
While Jones’ name is on the original design, he credits Tyson for much of the input on its creation – and all of the credit for ongoing alterations that have earned a 153 slope for the par 72 from the back tees (7,527 yards). By comparison, Bethpage Black in New York, host of this week’s PGA Championship, is rated a 155 slope from 7,468 yards.
“Blessings is John’s passion and he has tinkered with the golf course through the years, much the same way Arnold Palmer would always tinker with his golf clubs,” says Jones, Chairman and Master Architect for Robert Trent Jones II Golf Course Architects. “I am happy that we were part of the original process and have nothing but respect for what John has done with the golf course through the years.”
Jones, who competed for the Yale University golf team in the NCAA Championships in 1959 at Eugene Country Club and 1960 at The Broadmoor – both golf courses he would later help redesign – expects the nation’s best collegiate teams are in for a tough week.
“It was always John’s desire to have an ultimate test of golf,” Jones said, “and The Blessings certainly is that. It is a strict, strong golf course.”
When the women’s Southeast Conference Championship was held in 2012, the winning team score was 52-over par. When Blessings hosted an NCAA men’s regional in 2013, Illinois won at 1-under par, but the fifth team qualifier shot 28-over.
“John always said it was a blessing to play golf, which is how the course got its name,” Jones notes. “But it can be so difficult, people have joked that it should be named The Curse, not The Blessings.”
Follow the NCAA Championships at www.golfstat.com