Golf

CHEESEBURGER IN PARADISE? IT'S JUST NO. 17

When Robert Trent Jones designed the par-3 17th hole on Crestview Country Club's North course, he probably wasn't thinking about cheeseburgers.

But in the last few years, fans of the Preferred Health Systems Wichita Open have seen the 202-yard beast become — with a nod to Jimmy Buffett — a cheeseburger paradise.

Inspired by the party-like atmosphere at TPC Scottsdale's 16th hole each year during the PGA Tour's FBR Open, Wichita Open tournament director Roy Turner began his quest to create a spirited atmosphere around Crestview's penultimate hole.

With corporate boxes flanking the green and a promotional deal with Walt's Sports Bar & Grill owner Larry Doss that rewards free burgers for birdies, Turner had his formula for fun.

"I think it's just great," said Kevin Johnson, the 2006 Wichita Open champion. "They're really pulling for you. And they're so close to you in those grandstands — like a couple of feet off the green — it's like they can almost reach out and touch you."

Brad Elder, a typically stoic golfer who won his second Wichita Open title in 2007, grinned broadly as he recounted the birdie he made at No. 17 in the final round en route to his four-shot victory. Fans chanted, "Cheeseburger, cheeseburger," before he stepped to the tee.

"That was a lot of fun," said Elder, who rolled in a 15-foot putt. "I won the fans a cheeseburger, so that was cool.

"They do a great job on that hole and it was exciting. More tournaments should do stuff like that."

If Elder helped create the buzz about Crestview's 17th, the 2008 field cemented its legend. Champion Scott Piercy birdied the hole in three of his four rounds, including a 20-foot putt on Sunday. That same day, Piercy's three closest pursuers, Daniel Summerhays, Hunter Haas and Spencer Levin, also birdied the hole on their way to a second-place tie.

Piercy's final birdie of the tournament came right after Levin, his playing partner in the final group, rolled in a 45-footer.

"Spencer made that putt — a bomb — it was a huge putt for him," Piercy said after the round. "For me to make it on top of him, it takes all the wind from his sails."

It put plenty of life into the greenside crowd, some of whose enthusiasm was aided by the available refreshment options in their boxes.

"It'd be nice to have that on all 18 holes," said Haas, a two-time winner of the Knoxville Open, which awarded $1 beverages for 30 minutes after each birdie at its par-3 16th hole last month. "Anything to get people partaking in the product we're trying to sell.

Turner plans to add three corporate boxes at No. 17 for this year's tournament. The cheeseburger promotion will return for the third and final rounds. During the first two rounds, Wendy's will give away Frostys for each birdie.

"A lot of players I've talked to think it's the best hole on the tour," Turner said. "The tour has told us don't change a thing. They told me, 'We'll tell you if there's something wrong down there.' "

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