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April 22, 2008

Harrison Frazar

J.J. Henry

D.A. Weibring


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: We're joined by D.A. Weibring along with player consultants Harrison Frazar and J.J. Henry. It's early in the week, but congratulations are in order. The reviews are in, and I think they've been overwhelmingly positive. Maybe some opening comments if we could start with D.A. about what a long process, and I'm sure you're excited this week is here and the players like the course so far.
D.A. WEIBRING: It's been 20 months since we were contacted by the TOUR to take a look at the project. It's been a long road, it's been a challenging one, but it is rewarding to hear the overwhelming feedback. We believed in our process. I can't say enough thanks to our team, Steve Wolfard, Josh Peters, Bill Kirkendall, Sam Swanson.
A lot of passion was brought to the table. We thought we had a good plan. We worked within the team. It's real important to understand this doesn't happen without teamwork. BentleyForbes, the new owner here, really stepped up to the table. They were committed to quality, along with the Four Seasons, you know, the Salesmanship Club, the PGA TOUR and EDS, those five groups. It wouldn't have worked if everyone would have splintered and gone a different direction.
We gave them a plan, we put a lot of hard work and time into it. We were challenged with the elements and the weather, but as I say, I can't say enough thank-yous to everybody because we had hoped we'd get to this tournament and we would get the reaction that we've gotten.
Now, we understand that not a ball has been hit in the tournament yet, but I'm very confident that the PGA TOUR officials feel good about it, in the setup, with how the weather comes. But for a first-year tournament, when we realized we overseeded some sod two weeks after it was laid to see the type of conditioning that's out there, John Cunningham, Paul Earnest and their entire staff here at the Four Seasons did an unbelievable job. But it's been that teamwork.
I think the whole thing was focused on paying respect to Mr. Nelson. As I've mentioned many times, he was very helpful to me. All of us who have played golf have that special story where he stepped aside and shared something with us or dropped us a note. He certainly helped my career and helped start our company.
It's our gratitude back to him, the passion that we brought. We try to bring passion to every project, but this was really special, right here in our backyard. I hope it kind of kicks forward a new opportunity for the tournament, for the membership and the entire facility.
HARRISON FRAZAR: Well, when D.A. first asked if I would be interested or first wanted to know if I had any time or would like to come out and kind of run through it and share some ideas with him, I have to admit that I was a little bit skeptical on what could be done on-site. It seemed cluttered, it seemed pretty much set that that was kind of how it was going to be.
From the first time we sat down and we saw the renderings in some of the drawings about what they wanted to do to some of the holes, we realized that their vision was different and their ability to see things was different than what most of us thought possible. It was very much of an honor to be asked.
I say this for myself and maybe from J.J., but I wish I could have given more. I wish I could have been involved more with it. But to have a chance to learn and watch these guys, to listen to the way they talked, to try to begin to understand the basis of good design, the way greens flow, the way fairways need to be graded, bunker design was a real treat. Knowing a lot of the people with the Salesmanship Club and knowing some people here at the Four Seasons and at Las Colinas, D.A. and his people are the only people that could have done it in this short a period of time. There was so many different things working, and not necessarily against us, but a lot of different factions, a lot of different interests, but the common theme was the tournament and Mr. Nelson.
The way that these guys embraced it and put their arms around it and hugged it, it was the only way it could have been done this quickly. So it was a real special effort.
J.J. HENRY: Well, I guess, really just to reiterate what both D.A. and Harrison said, I think as Harrison mentioned, too, it really was an honor to be part of something like this. This was my first venture, if you will, trying to really see the ins and outs. As a TOUR player you basically show up to each tournament and sometimes you take for granted almost what goes on on a weekly basis to try to get a golf course playable for arguably the best players in the world, and really to be out here on Saturday when Harrison and I first kind of kicked off at 8:00 a.m. and to see where we were even as early as last summer or as late as last summer for that matter, and to see this come full circle, I think, again, I don't think there's anybody -- I mean this -- I've always looked up to D.A. as a person and as a player, and his passion that he has to really make the best and very personal.
I read a great quote what D.A. said. For what we do and what I do off the golf course, a lot of it is business, but this was very personal and the fact that we all knew what Byron or Mr. Nelson meant to the game of golf and what he meant to each of us individually. I'd like to think that he's down smiling on what we've accomplished, both as a team and as a group here that we have something to be very proud of.
Again, it was just a small part that I had in being a part of the big picture, if you will, but it was something that I'm very grateful for, and as D.A. and Harrison both mentioned, I'm not going to reiterate it, but there was a lot of groups involved, and at times it wasn't always smooth sailing, if you will. But again, I think we're all very happy and enthused about what transpired, not only for PGA TOUR but for resort guests, for the casual member. It's a place that I think a lot of people would be proud to call home and an exciting place to watch the best players in the world come out and play.
D.A. WEIBRING: To follow up on that, on Harrison and J.J.'s contribution, when this first all came together and we were recommended and then we interviewed and were chosen, I felt very strongly that these were the two guys that I wanted working on our team. Most projects have a consultant, and I was given some potential names by the TOUR or possibilities, and I probed around, but I pretty much had my mind made up that I knew we had the right guys.
Harrison's association with Dallas and the Salesmanship Club and his passion for design and with this tournament, when I left the junior Tour and went to the Champions Tour, we handed off the junior clinic that we started years ago to Harrison and Justin, and they've done a great job with that. I also knew J.J. from when he first turned pro, and I thought we had the right blend, and they had credibility in the locker room. And I think that was important.
It was important to communicate to the players. We had that experience when we did TPC at Deere Run in 2000 and we got the players involved, got them engaged, got them on-site. They knew what we were trying to do, and the reviews were very, very good. And now we were doing a renovation, and there were a number of opinions. Jay Morris laid a wonderful foundation for this property, played since 1983, Ben Crenshaw, who I spent a lot of time talking with, and obviously Byron, and I just knew I had the right guys to complement.
I can't tell you the great job that Steve did leading our team and the time that was spent, but it came together, and I think we gradually gained momentum.
When I went and spoke at the Salesmanship Club I guess in June or whatever it was, there were some long faces. When I saw the members going in and out of the parking lot, I got some sneers. Everybody was pretty down and pretty sad, and we were dealt a tough hand. But it's been fun to look back and see how that momentum changed and how as the members began to see the product and the staff, and we started to get a little bit on top of it. And then now to see the players, come full circle because I don't think there's any question the PGA TOUR took a very conservative approach here. It wasn't up until March 10th that week when they approved it. So I think it was kind of undersold to the membership, but we were hoping to over-deliver.
And then the final commitment that the Four Seasons made and BentleyForbes by keeping the golf course closed the last month so there really wasn't a divot out there until these guys played -- I did hit a couple shots (laughter), but it was pristine. So when it all comes together, and we got a response the way we got yesterday, it's very rewarding. We spent some time with Peggy Nelson. She seems to be very happy, and that makes us all smile.

Q. D.A., other than some comments you've heard and I've heard about 18, any other comments about the fairways and things?
D.A. WEIBRING: There really aren't. We had a lot of communication with the PGA TOUR rules staff on width of fairways. As a matter of fact, I asked them to send me some widths of fairways at Colonial and Sawgrass and different places, so we saw those. They were pretty narrow. So we tried to find that medium size.
We kind of felt that 18 fairway was a little narrow possibly, but then we also chose, and Paul and I talked about it, Kyle Roth was committed to mild rough this year. We heard some feedback from some of the players on the three- and four-inch rough and they have to chop it out; it's tough on their hands. We've got a golf course that's going to bounce a little bit and play around the greens, so we've kept the rough pretty modest. They're actually topping the rough inside the ropes today and tomorrow before the tournament.
So we've heard 18 fairway is a little narrow. We actually went to adjust that three or four weeks ago and they were concerned we might scalp it. They didn't want to do that on 18.
We've heard 15 is kind of long; it is, when the wind is blowing in your face. We've heard the greens are a little firm but pristine. We're trying to keep them in a 10 to 10.5 range for young greens.
I've been asking -- I ask every hole. I try to be as visible as I can be just to say hello to people. We're hearing wonderful things. CBS seems to be excited about it. I heard today they're going to show it in 209 countries over the weekend, so Four Seasons is going to get a little brand touch. I hope they have good weather to play the championship.

Q. 17, what's the best way to set that hole up? Is that a shorter tee or anything like that? Do you need a lot of birdies there to make that a spectacular --
D.A. WEIBRING: These guys have played the last two days so I don't want to give you my opinion.
J.J. HENRY: I think one of the biggest features, we thought a lot of times is when that pin is front right on a traditional Sunday is a lot of guys actually aim toward the fat side of the green and basically try to hit it right in the middle, and you don't see a lot of pars and not a lot of drama. So we tried to contour the green so that a marginal shot that's working toward that area of the green, the front right, hopefully it'll start funneling down toward some of those pin placements. We tried to create a little bit of a drama.
I don't think you can compare 16 in Phoenix, if you will, more of a theater, but as the players walk under the tunnel from 16 to 17 tee and you walk through and you see the corporate skyboxes on each side, and I'm sure there already quite a few people on the hillside around the green there. But again, we just thought that was -- it's always been more of a signature-type hole out here. It's a hole that always attracts a lot of people and a lot of excitement, especially on the weekend, and we wanted to try to incorporate that a little bit to add a little bit more drama. As well as 16, I don't know if you got a chance to see the 16th green, to try to fit in more of a -- where an eagle could be made to try to work it into those right pin placements there.
So hopefully it creates a little bit more drama and excitement, and the roars will kind of echo through the rest of the golf course. Even as a player, when you hear roars out there, you might be three or four holes away, but it's kind of neat. It really kind of fires you up, and I think it excites everybody.
HARRISON FRAZAR: I think the main thing about 17 is if you were coming down the stretch there and you had a lead or -- like I know it happened to me in '99 or '98, you watch a disaster happen right in front of you, you get -- it's a hold-onto-your-hats hole when you're in that position. You play with a lot of fear.
The problem is with that right pin on Sunday, which we're picking on that pin, but with that pin you never felt like you were one or two behind, you could stuff it in there and hit a good shot. Everything bounced away from you. Now if you really decide to stand there and hit a good shot, you're going to get rewarded for it. If you've got the guts to stand up there and hit it, go ahead. All the pins are that way, the left one, also. Before it used to work away from you and kind of turn. You couldn't get it in there very easily, not even easily, almost impossible. Now you can hit a nice draw if you're willing to challenge that bunker and you can take it off the slope and feed it down to the hole. So a good shot is going to be rewarded. You're not always waiting for the train wreck to make up some ground.
D.A. WEIBRING: I think what we really try to do is invite the player in and let them visually see their options to work the ball to the corner. There's a few pins out there that you may play safe to. We've got a few areas around the green, 16 is one of them, that will not be fairway cut this year because of young turf. But that's our goal is to have the ball move and chase and play a variety of shots.
Some of the feedback that I've gotten is that guys are going to look. Like 11 today, all the players said on the survey, risk-reward, drivable. Well, to have a real good one there's got to be a little controversy. It's got to have a little something that gets in your eye.
We've got two different tees, and I heard guys say yesterday, I don't like that middle bunker. Today that middle bunker is right out in play. So what are conditions and where's the pin and what angle? They're going to think a little bit more about the golf course before they get out there. It's going to be a game plan golf course, and they're going to be looking over where it is.
I think that's going to make it also fun for the members as well as the fans who watch on TV and watch here on-site. So there's going to be a little drama.

Q. Harrison, you talked earlier this year about the admiration you've gotten for architects. Now that the project is finished, do either of you have any desire to do this?
HARRISON FRAZAR: I do. Seeing it now -- I've always had a fascination with it, always been interested in it. But I learned some pretty valuable lessons during this process, from Steve, about design and drainage, and from Josh, trees and agronomy reasons, things like that, and D.A., how to handle yourself a little bit better about things like this. He got on me a couple times about just doing better things or being more available, being more -- voicemail. I had to get voicemail.
D.A. WEIBRING: Got to have access (laughing).
HARRISON FRAZAR: Some other things like that. But I think I would love to be able to take a dive into golf course architecture at some point in time. I'm still playing full-time, though. I don't think the time is right for me to try that, but sometime here in the near future I'd love to have a lot of opportunities. It's a fascinating thing to be able to watch.
Something very interesting, and I don't mean to run on, but one of the main things I learned is a good architect, somebody that's building a golf course the right way who cares, is there. These guys were there every day and every slope, every bunker, every tree wasn't just set, put over here in this spot. Where exactly and why, and what are we trying to do. Is this bunker going to be here because we want to -- do we want this to be a death bunker? Do we want them to be able to play? What kind of shot do we want them to play out of this thing? There was a lot of care and compassion.
I think if I do get a chance to do courses later, I hope that I'll be able to carry that into what I do.
D.A. WEIBRING: They both have passion, they both have ability, and they both need to keep playing full-time obviously. But as they go forward and get other opportunities -- what I feel like I do is I get a feel as more of a designer. Steve is the architect. Steve does the plans, does the drainage and whatever, and I try to complement that. We've got a wonderful partnership that we try to fight for every inch. I think they saw that when I was trying to communicate to him and whatever and what was going on because I wanted them to be part of that process. But I knew that we were on such a deadline that we had to keep going.
There's a number of things that they both worked together. See, I also had the ability of hearing a guy who plays left to right and a guy who plays right to left. We didn't want to build a golf course that was going to favor a long hitter or a short hitter or left to right or right to left. We wanted to invite everybody in. We wanted the golf course to talk to you, one of my favorite Chip Beck quotes. We want the golf course to talk to you, and I think it's doing some talking.
HARRISON FRAZAR: No. 3 today, I heard a player tell me, "How much did you have to do with it?" I said, "Well, I was involved." He said, "Yeah, I don't know if I really like the positioning of the bunkers on 3." I said, "Well, why not?" He said, "Well, the left bunker, you can't fly it over it. If it's into the wind it's in play, the far bunker you're trying to aim for the right side. It's in play no matter where we are and there's no place that's easier or wider or narrower." He was complaining, and I said, "Thank you."
One of the main things is how do we get guys to have to think no matter what the conditions are. If you put something there that makes them not like it, there's a reason. It's because it's where they want to go. Make them think. Make them go around it.
D.A. WEIBRING: An intriguing thing in the game of golf, both these guys are pretty long. A lot of the top players are pretty long. We have some precision players and whatever. But we try to get the driver back in their hands here. They used to hit 3-wood at 3 because it necked a little bit and the landing area tilted to the left and the ball would work through, and the hole is 480. Now it's even longer but now they're hitting drivers, and they're hitting driver, 7-iron and 8-iron and 6-iron downwind. Now, if the wind turns around we've got different tees. But I think there's more drivers in your hand right now, and that's good. The top players in the game will like that.
I got feedback this morning through the Tiger Woods camp, and he likes the fact that it seems to be the players think it's a little tougher. Tiger likes that.
I mean, we tried to be inclusive. We tried to start with the world's No. 1 and work all the way through the member. But we're gaining momentum. And through the work of all the different team members, we're real pleased to be at the finish line.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Gentlemen, thank you very much.

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