Turning Stone prepares for PGA Tour event.


By Sarah Moses -- Today staff

VERONA, N.Y. - In the summer of 2006, the Turning Stone Resort and Casino had only a few weeks to put together a complete PGA Tour event, a nearly impossible task that the resort completed with flying colors.

The resort was so successful in hosting the B.C. Open after flood waters damaged the En-Joie Golf Club in Endicott that PGA Tour officials granted the Oneida Indian Nation of New York's Turning Stone their own tournament and the honor of becoming the first Indian-owned venue to host a PGA Tour event.

With Notah Begay III, half-Navajo, one-quarter San Felipe and one-quarter Isleta, endorsing the Turning Stone Resort Championship, which will be held Sept. 17 - 23 at the resort's Atunyote golf course, expectations for the tournament are very high.

''I've embraced it as an opportunity to expose people to the event and to what Turning Stone Resort has to offer,'' Begay told Indian Country Today while he was taking a break from his European Tour events. ''I think upstate New York is ready for a PGA Tour event, and it's happening at a peak time of year in terms of weather.''

Begay, a participant in the B.C. Open and in the championship, said he is excited to get a chance to talk about his experience in last year's tournament as well as telling people about the Turning Stone Resort Championship, where golfers will play for a $6 million purse.

''I think it is fantastic Notah is endorsing the tournament,'' said Ann Spencer, assistant tournament director. ''He is a great guy to represent the Turning Stone championship. It's really good to have someone who's been here and experienced the course, and can talk to his peers about his experience here.''

Begay, who has been playing on the European Tour this spring, said his duties as ambassador have been going well.

''I've been using my time in Europe to see if there is an opportunity for some of the premier European players to come over for the event,'' he said.

''We're trying to get the best players possible for the event. And I know once they see the event and see how it is run and enjoy the amenities of the resort; I know they will want to come back.''

Turning Stone has an agreement with the PGA to host the tournament for the next six years. Currently, Spencer has been working with a team of resort employees in preparation for the event.

''The first thing I did when I first came was activating the departments within the resort and their involvement within the event,'' Spencer said.

The resort, which announced the tournament in August 2006, had a total of 13 months to prepare for the championship, a year longer than they had for the B.C. Open.

''Most people only see it for that one week, including the players, and they don't see the preparation that goes into it, but it really does take a year to put all that together,'' Spencer said.

She said the resort is still in the planning phase for the event.

''We're out getting bids for all of the different needs that we have for that week, different vendors and subcontractors. As well, this is a big sales time for us.''

Spencer said they are also getting the local community involved with in the tournament. The business community can get involved with the sponsorship standpoint and the local community can also volunteer at the event. They will be accepting new volunteers, but those that had volunteered in the past will have first preference for volunteering, she said

Spencer said golfers don't start looking at their fall schedules until summer, but that the resort will be pursuing the top golfers in order make the tournament the best it can be.

The local community, as well as rest of the country, can be a spectator at the event through buying tickets, which are currently on sale. Ticket prices range between $25 and $35 and are available by calling the Turning Stone box office at (315) 361-SHOW or online at ticketmaster.com.

''We're on our way and we have a little bit of time still left, but we're still working to try and improve the event,'' Begay said. ''I'm working hand in hand with [OIN Representative and CEO of Nation Enterprises Ray] Halbritter to make sure we are putting on the best event possible so that people know there are great golf courses and nice hotels in upstate New York.''