2001: Our Opinion - USGA could ease amateurs’ logistical woes
Brock Mulder is still miffed by the circumstances that deprived him of an opportunity to qualify for the U.S. Amateur Championship.
Mulder is a 20-year-old Iowan who plays golf for Southern Methodist University. He won his hometown Waterloo Open last month, forfeiting the $25,000 first prize. Mulder was slated to play in an Aug. 7 Amateur qualifier at Fort Worth, Texas, but received word from the U.S. Golf Association July 25 that his entry had been switched to a July 30 qualifier at DeSoto, Texas.
The problem is Mulder, who lives in Dallas, already had committed to compete in the Western Amateur, which began Aug. 1. His plans were set, including a nonrefundable airline ticket to Michigan – departing July 30. Mulder made it to the first round of match play at the Western, but he was left out in the cold as far as the U.S. Amateur is concerned.
Bubba Dickerson, who returns to national champion Florida for his junior year, faced a similar dilemma. Although already in Michigan, he considered withdrawing after learning he had been reassigned to an Aug. 6 slot in an Amateur qualifier at Eustis, Fla.
“But I played a practice round at (Western Amateur site) Point O’ Woods and fell in love with it,” Dickerson said. “So I decided to stay.”
Good thing. He won the tournament.
Mulder and Dickerson were only two of several players who faced difficult choices with regard to the Western Amateur and the U.S. Amateur, the two oldest and most prestigious amateur tournaments in America. It doesn’t have to be that way.
The U.S. Golf Association should take the cue from the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, Scotland, which addressed a similar problem with logistics and travel earlier this summer. The R&A, with cooperation from the PGA Tour and the Western Golf Association, revamped its qualifying procedure for the British Open to include the Western Open as a qualifying venue in the United States. Joe Ogilvie, who tied for 25th at the British Open, made it to Royal Lytham & St. Annes via the Western Open, where he garnered the final slot.
A similar arrangement could turn the Western Amateur, which consistently attracts the game’s best players, into a mutually beneficial joint venture between the USGA and WGA. The Western’s unique format – 72 holes of stroke play over three days, with a cut after 36 holes and the top 16 after four rounds qualifying for match play – is perfectly suited for this purpose.
Instead of going 18-18-36 on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, respectively, the Western’s 36-hole day could be moved to Wednesday and serve as a U.S. Amateur qualifier as well. The top 50 and ties would advance in the Western; the top 10 (unless otherwise exempt) would earn berths in the Amateur.
As the game grows domestically and globally, our top amateurs are faced with increasingly tough choices as they organize their competitive schedules. A little cooperation among tournament officials would go a long way toward alleviating the problem – also ensuring two of our most storied amateur championships the best fields possible.