Golf Tourney leaving South County?

Alexandre Rocha tees off at the 17th hole during the final round Sunday at the Open at CordeValle.

San Martin

A PG&E pipeline in east Morgan Hill has potentially derailed plans to keep the PGA Tour’s Open golf tournament in South County in 2014.

CordeValle Golf Club, the site that has hosted the tournament since 2010, is not currently under contract to be the home to the professional event after the 2013 tournament upcoming in October. The club signed an initial three-year contract with the tournament in 2010, and extended that contract for one more year to host the October 2013 event.

Tournament organizers hoped three years ago to move the Open to Fry’s Electronics owner John Fry’s private golf course, known as The Institute in Morgan Hill, by next year, but, while the golf course is ready, the grandiose building plans which include the golf clubhouse are stalled.  

“The delay in moving to The Institute is due to construction delays to the clubhouse. A magnificent structure is planned, but as of right now it is unfinished,” said Open tournament director Jeff Sanchez. “It’s definitely part of our plans. Our long-term plan is to move to the Institute.”

The site of the 2014 Open remains undetermined, Sanchez said. Meanwhile, Fry’s 7,360-yard championship course, designed by legendary golf course architect Robert Trent Jones Jr., has to wait its turn to test the world’s best golfers.

The planned clubhouse at The Institute, a 170,000-square-foot replica of the 14th-century Alhambra castle in Spain that will also serve as a headquarters for the American Institute of Mathematics, a nonprofit think tank and education foundation, is less than “unfinished.” It hasn’t even started, according to AIM Executive Director Brian Conrey.

Back in October 2012, AIM was ready to begin construction of the castle adjacent to the golf course on Fry’s 192-acre site at Foothill Avenue, Conrey said. But after Morgan Hill City Hall signed off on all the permits, the City wanted to make sure PG&E signed off on the project due to the proximity of two natural gas lines that run through the property, according to Conrey.

One of the pipes “runs across the property, a couple hundred feet above where the building is supposed to be,” Conrey said.

The pipeline is a gas transmission line, according to PG&E’s website.

Now seven months later, PG&E still hasn’t signed off on construction, Conrey said.

Conrey said he doesn’t know how the castle and clubhouse project might interfere with the gas pipes or vice versa.

“It’s at kind of an impasse,” Conrey said. “Everything was scheduled for October to pour the foundation, then this thing came up.”

A PG&E spokesman said the utility company has been working with the City of Morgan Hill and the developer to ensure the proposed structure and pipelines can safely coexist.

“Safety is the primary concern,” PG&E spokesman Jeff Smith said. “We’ve had these concerns (about the proximity of the pipelines) and we want to make sure it’s going to be engineered properly. We’re working with them on those plans, and to make sure the facility can be completed on time.”

Smith did not know how much longer that process might take. “Whatever timeline is required to ensure it’s built safely,” he said.

Conrey said there is a giant hole on the property where AIM contractors dug out a spot for the castle’s foundation.

Although Conrey is not a construction expert, he said it’s possible that the AIM headquarters could be built in phases, with the clubhouse portion constructed first.

But it’s “unlikely” even that can happen by October 2014, he said.

That leaves the Open without a possible home in South County next year, unless a contract extension can be negotiated with CordeValle. The tournament has previously been held in Las Vegas and Scottsdale, Ariz. before arriving in San Martin in 2010.

Morgan Hill City Manager Steve Rymer did not shed much light on the construction standstill.

“In the general sense, the plan was to make sure all the parties are comfortable with this so that Frys can move forward,” Rymer said.

The Open will be held at CordeValle from October 7-13 this year. Tournament organizers made significant progress over the years by drawing big names such as Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, Angel Cabrera, Justin Leonard and 2010 champion Rocco Mediate. Rocco Mediate won the first held at CordeValle, taking home a $900,000 purse in 2010. While the winner’s share remained the same, the winning golfer has changed with Bryce Molder victorious in 2011 and Sweden’s Jonas Blixt in 2012.

In the 2012 tournament, more than 130 professional golfers competed for more than $5 million in prizes, about 100 members of the media attended and about 1,200 tournament volunteers helped conduct the event, organizers said.

Some of the proceeds from previous Open events have gone toward area nonprofits such AIM, Adoption Services of Santa Clara County, a local chapter of First Tee Foundation started to give youths more access to golf, and the El Toro Youth Center in Morgan Hill.

“Having any PGA tour event is very beneficial (to the host site). It’s a great reputation builder for a course,” said Jake Kubie, a CordeValle spokesman.

CordeValle Vice President and General Manager Alan Campey was unavailable for comment.

Sanchez said Open organizers have enjoyed holding the PGA event in San Martin.

“We love being at CordeValle. It’s a beautiful resort and we love being in Silicon Valley,” Sanchez said. “We’re evaluating our options for 2014, and as of today we’re undetermined.” Open is the title sponsor for a PGA event through 2016, regardless of where it’s hosted.

“We’re constantly looking across the country (for future tournament sites). Certainly we’d love to return to Northern California,” said Mike Scanlan, Director of Communications for the LPGA.

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