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Roberts on his field of dreams.

Byline: Paul Jarvey

COLUMN: PAUL JARVEY

CONCORD - Loren Roberts knows grass the way Ronald McDonald knows hamburgers.

And the "Boss of the Moss" - that's Roberts, not Ronnie - likes the turf at Nashawtuc Country Club where he's playing this week for the first time. It reminds him of Pleasant Valley CC in Sutton, site of one of his eight PGA Tour victories.

He won the next-to-the-last CVS Charity Classic at PV in 1997, and has fond memories of the place.

Roberts, who holds a one-shot lead in the Bank of America Championship after shooting a 6-under-par 66 yesterday, has heard a rumor that PV might get a Champions Tour event.

Hmmm.

The BOA is looking for a new sponsor, putting the future of the tournament in doubt at Nashawtuc - where it has been held since 1984.

PV hosted PGA tournaments for more than 30 years and had a track record for attracting large crowds, often without getting the best of fields. It's centrally located and has good highway access.

So, why not?

Ted Mingolla, owner of Pleasant Valley, just happened to be at Nashawtuc yesterday catching up with some of the alumni of his tournaments, guys like Roberts, Bobby Wadkins, Joey Sindelar and John Cook, all of whom are high on the BOA leaderboard after two rounds.

He said it was enjoyable reminiscing about the glory days at PV, but he hadn't heard the rumor about a Champions Tour event at his course until Roberts asked him about it.

He said he certainly isn't pushing for it.

Mingolla was critical of the PGA when it pulled the plug on PV, but that was 10 years ago - long enough, perhaps, to soothe any ruffled feathers.

The PGA decided after the 1998 tournament that it no longer needed PV, a stop that was popular with players and the community, but never generated the level of corporate involvement the Tour was moving toward.

A Champions Tour event might be a good fit.

The Bank of America announced last year that this event would be its last as primary sponsor. Tournament director Tracy West said yesterday that she's negotiating with two companies to take over and hopes to have an announcement by later this summer.

A new sponsor could decide to move the tournament, and Pleasant Valley would be an attractive option.

The Champions Tour is loaded with guys who used to play at PV, and fans still have a fondness for them.

"You can't believe the number of people that said, `I remember you from Pleasant Valley,'" Roberts said. "It's a great sports town when people remember that sort of thing."

That sort of reaction made for an enjoyable afternoon. Seven birdies and an eagle didn't hurt, either. Roberts even reached two par-5s in two yesterday, something he almost never does.

He turned the first one into an eagle when he drained a six-foot putt on the fifth hole. His second shot on the 18th stopped 22 feet in front of the hole, and he two-putted for birdie to take the lead.

He said the eagle was the key to his round, making up for the double bogey he made on the par-5 ninth. He was just 146 yards from the hole in two when things started going haywire.

Roberts three-putted from 10 feet, something he seldom does.

Putting, of course, is his game and the reason for his nickname. He putted just 29 times yesterday, giving him 54 in two rounds.

Still, that three-putt bothered him.

"I've done it before," he said. "I can't remember the last time I did it - especially to do it on a par 5. It's one thing to make a six, but to make a seven, it just makes you sick."

He was proud of the way he responded after the double, making birdie on the 10th and going 3 under on the back nine.

Roberts' only regret was that he waited so long to play Nashawtuc. He said scheduling conflicts had kept him from the BOA since he joined the Champions Tour in 2005.

"It just fits my eye," he said. "This is a good golf course the way it turns around the bunkers. The greens are framed real well. You can see how you have to play the hole. Guys like golf courses like that and that's what I like. It tells you what kind of shot you have to hit before you hit it."

He said courses in the Northeast have the best turf. He includes Pleasant Valley in that group.

"I think there's a little more elevation change at Sutton, but it's the same kind of grass, same kind of bunkering," Roberts said.

If there's anything to his rumor, maybe he'll be back.

Paul Jarvey can be contacted by e-mail at pjarvey@telegram.com.
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Title Annotation:SPORTS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jun 22, 2008
Words:800
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