Original Designer: Ernie Smith
The PGA Tour plays very few tournaments at municipally-owned golf courses, and just one event in a small upstate New York village. But since 1971, En-Joie Golf Course in Endicott has been home to the B.C. Open. Originally called the Broome County Open (for the county it resides in), it later became associated with the cartoon character B.C. The caveman and his friends were created by a local resident, Johnny Hart, who cares so much about his community he has allowed them to use his cartoon likenesses to symbolize and support the tournament.
The pro golfers loved the laid-back, old-time feel and hospitality of the B.C. Open, and for many it carried special meaning as the first tour event to which they were given a sponsor’s exemption to enter. It's fair to say most tour golfers loved the tournament despite the small purse and somewhat funky golf course, a layout over which the adjacent Susquehenna River would flood a couple of times a year, depositing silt, logs and debris across fairways and greens.
The moving force behind the tournament is longtime Endicott resident Alex Alexander. Alex got a grant to improve the course and hired Hurdzan/Fry to do the work. A major problem was that the work could not begin until after the tournament ended in late September, and had to be complete before winter, which sometimes came as early as November 1. So we had to remodel an old course, on small acreage with established tree lines, do it in two phases of about four weeks each over two separate seasons, and do it on a limited budget. We quickly saw it as a major challenge. Especially when flood levels can get high enough to almost cover the shelter houses on the course.
The first thing we did was map the flood water and try to find a way to raise the greens and tees out of the flood way, and then try to contain the rest of the flood to unimportant non-play areas. We were quite proud of our engineering, for the course has been flooded on several occasions since completion of the job without serious results after our improvements.
I must admit our feelings were hurt after the first phase of improvements when some tour players were openly critical of our work during the following B.C. Open. I talked with many of them on Sunday after their round. That cooled things down, once they understood the plan. After the second phase of improvements, many of these same guys actually apologized and said they were learning to like the course. I think a big part of the grumbling was because the pros knew the old course so well. All they had to do before the remodeling was execute shots without taking into account much strategy. To score low on the new course requires lots of forethought about risk and reward. The same guys who gush about the 17th hole at TPC at Sawgrass complained about the new 16th at En-Joie. It's now a 321-yard par-4, where it's possible to drive the green and have a putt at an eagle, or lay up and go for a birdie. This devilish little hole has been pivotal in determining the B.C. winner several times.
While we'd like to please everybody, we can’t, so we don’t worry too much about it. For every one armchair critic, there are dozens of regular golfers who think the new En-Joie is a great public golf course. Not only can you play where the pros play, you can do it at a very modest green fee. We are proud to be associated with the Village of Endicott, the En-Joie course, the B.C. tournament and especially Alex.