(Photo – USGA President Glen Nager)
Listen to USGA Vice President – Tom O’Toole on The Back Nine Radio Show
The United States Golf Association is making a change effective 2015 to their annual championship schedule. USGA Vice President and Championship Committee Chairman, Tom O’Toole Jr. alongside John Bodenhamer, Managing Director of Rules, Competitions and Equipment Standards appeared on Golf Channel’s Morning Drive to announce the introduction of a U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship.
Championships will be contested for both Men and Women with the handicap requirement for the Men established at 5.4 and 14.4 for the Women. Two-Player teams will qualify at various Sectional Qualifying sites throughout the country to determine a field size of 128 Men’s teams and 64 Women’s teams. The low 32 teams in both the Men’s and Women’s championships will advance to Match Play after 36 holes of Stroke Play Qualifying at the National Championship.
Also unique for the USGA will be the timing of when the Four-Ball Championships will be conducted. John Bodenhamer commented on Golf Channel, “The plan is to conduct the championships in the spring, anywhere from late March to late May. “We’re excited to expand our championship calendar into the spring season which we think will appeal to a new demographic of players.”
If hosted in the period of late March until late May, the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship will likely discourage the top collegiate players from participating. The NCAA has strict rules around players competing for teams, other than their college program, during the competitive golf season. A recent trend at the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Amateur Public Links has been the influx of top college players dominating the field. True lifelong amateur golfers quickly became the minority in these two USGA National Champinoships.
Regional Amateur Associations across the country have experienced success in hosting Four-Ball Championships. The Missouri Golf Association has hosted a Four-Ball Championship since 1989. Interestingly enough, current Walker Cup Captain, Jim Holtgrieve and Bridgestone Golf Representative Jim Mason captured the title at Bogey Hills Country Club. Holtgrieve and Mason would repeat as champions in 1990 when the competition was hosted in Springfield, MO at Hickory Hills Country Club. University of Missouri’s Jace Long and Nick Wilson teamed together to win the 2012 MGA Four-Ball Championship at Silo Ridge.