Summer shuffle tilts amateur tournament lineup

Nathan Smith, of Pennsylvania, has been an annual competitor at both the Porter Cup and the Sunnehanna.

Nathan Smith, of Pennsylvania, has been an annual competitor at both the Porter Cup and the Sunnehanna.

For top amateur golfers, compiling a summer schedule can be challenging. So many tournaments, so few weeks.

Next summer, the choices will be even tougher.

Two of the nation’s top amateur tournaments are moving their playing dates. The Sunnehanna Amateur will be played a week later than its normal early June slot as the first major summer event, and the Porter Cup will move up a week in July.

That, coupled with the U.S. Amateur moving up a week starting next summer, means some high-profile tournaments will conflict with one another.

“It’s a different landscape now for the independent national amateur tournaments,” said Steve Denn, tournament director of the Porter Cup.

The Sunnehanna, traditionally held during the second week of June, shortly after the NCAA Men’s Division I Championship, moves to June 14-17 at Sunnehanna Country Club in Johnstown, Pa.

The reason? The Palmer Cup.

It pits the top college players from the U.S. and Europe in an international team competition and alternates annually between the U.S. and Europe. When held in America, it follows the NCAAs and conflicts with the Sunnehanna. When staged in Europe, it’s held just before or just after the British Amateur.

“When (Palmer Cup) is played in the States, we lose a lot of very good players,” said Joe Shorto, the head professional at Sunnehanna CC. “Also, we talked to some players and they told us they were very tired after the NCAA and the college season, and a week break would be welcome.”

However, in moving, the Sunnehanna will overlap the Monroe Invitational (June 13-16), Southeastern (June 13-16), Southwestern (June 12-15) and affect travel to the British Amateur (June 18-23). Plus, it’s U.S. Open week.

“The guys who qualify for the U.S. Open don’t usually play our event,” Shorto said, “and (going against the other amateur tournaments) I don’t think it will hurt us that much.”

The move certainly could hurt the Monroe Invitational as a number of players compete in both events in back-to-back weeks.

“We were pretty disappointed, to say the least,” said Jim Mrva, the head professional at Monroe Country Club in Rochester, N.Y., after hearing of Sunnehanna’s move. “We don’t always get a lot of top-20 players, but we do get plenty of very outstanding players. And I’d guess we probably get 12-15 players who play Sunnehanna and then play Monroe.”

Mrva said he looked for another date, and at first thought of switching to Sunnehanna’s former week.

“But that wasn’t going to work,” he said. “There’s a big event at Rochester Country Club that week, and they get a lot of the young guys to play. We definitely didn’t wanted to step on the toes of one of our good neighbors.

“We looked at other possible dates, even as far as August, but really just couldn’t find anything,” Mrva said. “I guess we’ll just have to see what happens.”

The Porter Cup’s move from the fourth week in July to the third (July 18-21) falls right on top of the Southern Amateur. The Porter Cup is played at Niagara Falls Country Club near Buffalo, N.Y. The Southern Am, which rotates sites, will be played at Chenel Country Club in Little Rock, Ark.

Denn, the Porter Cup’s director, said his tournament is moving in hopes of attracting the top college players. The event had been played the week after the Nationwide Tour’s Children’s Hospital Invitational, which gives sponsor exemptions to 10 first- and second-team All-Americans, who often take the next week off, Denn said.

“If we know we are not going to get the first-team or some second-team All-Americans, well, that’s not what we’re all about,” Denn said. “We pride ourselves on getting the best and strongest field possible.

“It was a tough decision (changing dates), but we’ve kind of been at their (Nationwide Tour) mercy. I’m definitely not crazy about going against the Southern, because it’s such a great tournament, but I just don’t know any way around it. We’re just trying to protect our own deal,” Denn said.

Buford McCarty, executive secretary of the Southern Golf Association, called the sudden competition for the Southern Amateur’s dates “unfortunate.”

“Now you have two of the best, strongest and tradition-rich tournaments in the country going against each other,” he said. “The Southern has been held in the same time spot for more than 50 years, so we didn’t feel it right for us to try to change. I hope both of us can continue to be successful. We’ll just have to see how it all plays out.”

The USGA moved the U.S. Amateur up a week so as not to conflict with the start of classes at college and universities operating under the semester system.

In doing so, there will be only a one-week break -- instead of two -- from the end of the Western Amateur and start of the U.S. Amateur. However, traditionally during that two-week time frame the Canadian Amateur, Cardinal Amateur and Scratch Players Championship have been held. Now, they’ll be crammed into the same week.

“They (Nationwide Tour, USGA and Golf Coaches Association of America, which runs the Palmer Cup) are doing what they feel is in their best interest,” Denn said. “Unfortunately, the independent summer amateur tournaments are the victims.”

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