CASTLE ROCK, Colorado (CBS4) – The solitude at Castle Pines has never been so good. But not too long ago, the quiet alleys of Colorado lined with their namesake were home to one of the PGA Tour’s most exciting tournaments.
The course and the tournament were Colorado businessman Jack Vickers’ dream.
“I think his hope was to introduce something new back then,” Castle Pines Golf Club vice president Keith Schneider said. “And I think he did that.”
In 1986, The International was born and it was an instant success.
Early winners like Greg Norman, Davis Love III and Phil Mickelson gave the tournament credibility by taking advantage of the unique scoring system that awarded points for birdies and rewarded aggressive play.
“If you played aggressively and got it right, you got a big payoff,” said 2002 international champion Rich Beem. “It’s a golf course where it’s party or famine.
The International has also taken hospitality to a different level. The players loved the way they were treated and the tournament quickly became a tour fixture.
“You just felt like everything you wanted, wished or asked for was there and you felt a little embarrassed to ask for things that were a little bit weird, but listen they went out of their way for you, that was awesome “Beem added.
“If I felt right at home,” said 2000 international champion Ernie Els. “I actually considered buying a house along the 10th fairway for a little while. “
Els finally won their home game in 2000. But the Big Easy victory was not the crowning glory of the tournament. It happened 2 years later. 1994 champion Steve Lowery had a memorable run for leader Rich Beem and a second international title. Not only did Lowery hit the 14th hole, but he hit a double-eagle on the 17th.
“I’ve had 20 holes in a row in my career, which is a lot because I’ve always hit the iron on the spit and played aggressively, but it’s the best part of golf of my career.” , Lowery said.
“You’re off the 18th tee with a 9 point lead and that’s the best scenario you can have,” Beem said. “But by the time I hit my second shot, I’m just one point ahead. You can’t imagine a darker feeling than this.
Lowery’s furious comeback stalled on the last green when his win-or-lose putt narrowly missed.
“As of this day and I’ve seen some of the video, I have no idea how that bullet stayed out, but luckily it does,” Beem said.
“We saw each other at the airport that night and he (Beem) told me maybe I would have won, but everyone will remember you,” Lowery said.
While the Lowery-Beem duel was the best international, the most popular tournaments were those where Tiger Woods played. The tiger mania occurred in 1998 and 99.
His best result was 4th when he recorded a hole-in-one on the 7th hole before the TV cameras rolled.
“Myself, I personally thought Tiger was great, but I thought what the problem was? Schneider said. “He made the Ace on # 7 then he goes to # 13 and rolls a 2 and this place was buzzing and I was like ‘Now I get it.'”
1999 was Tiger’s last appearance at The International. His absence affected ratings and ultimately The International’s status as one of the best events on the tour.
“There is no other tournament but maybe one or two is at our level,” Jack Vickers told CBS4 in 2007. “I will not be the proud owner of the 2nd best tournament in golf.”
And with that, a proud Jack Vickers made the unpopular decision to end the tournament.
“Everyone was really sad and we were sad for Mr. Vickers,” recalls Schneider. “He put his heart and soul into this tournament. “
“When I heard about it, I was hot,” Beem recalls. “And I made my voice very famous.”
“They were absolutely devastated that the tournament was canceled,” Els said. “I even called the then commissioner (Tim) Finchem to see what I could do to save him.”
Unfortunately, there was no saving the International.
And now? Will Castle Pines ever return to professional golf? There are rumors the club are in line to host a Fed Ex Cup playoff event and possibly even a Ryder Cup.
“Let me answer it this way, ‘Yeah, we’ve had conversations,’” Schneider admitted. “I think there is an interest on our part and I think there is an interest on their part. I’m not going to sit here and lie about it and say we didn’t talk to them – we did.