Olympic Club, Bandon lend 'wow factor' for first 4-balls

The third hole of The Olympic Club's Lake Course in San Francisco, Calif. as seen on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2011.

The third hole of The Olympic Club's Lake Course in San Francisco, Calif. as seen on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2011.

The Olympic Club in San Francisco and Bandon (Ore.) Dunes Golf Resort will play host to the inaugural men’s and women’s national four-ball tournaments, respectively, April 30-May 6, 2015, the U.S. Golf Association announced Monday.

In 2016, the men will play at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, N.Y., and the women at newly designed Streamsong (Fla.) Resort on May 19-25.

The U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship and the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship were announced on Feb. 11 and are replacing the respective men’s and women’s U.S. Amateur Public Links, which will conclude in 2014. They are the first new USGA events since the State Team Championships in 1995.

In selecting the inaugural sites, the USGA achieved its goal of delivering a “wow factor and buzz in the golf community,” said John Bodenhamer, USGA senior managing director.

Olympic Club’s Lake Coure has hosted nine USGA events, including five U.S. Opens in 1955, ’66, ’87, ’98 and 2012. Three U.S. Amateurs (1958, ’81 and 2007) and a U.S. Junior Amateur (2004) also have been played there. The scenic Bandon resort, a five-course complex on the Oregon coast dating to 1999, has hosted four USGA championships: 2006 Curtis Cup, ’07 U.S. Mid-Amateur and ’11 men’s and women’s U.S. Amateur Public Links. Winged Foot has hosted 11 USGA events, including five U.S.Opens, with another coming in 2020, on its West course.

Olympic’s Lake and Ocean courses will host the 36-hole stroke-play qualifying, with match play on the Lake. In Oregon, the women will play both formats on the Bandon Dunes course.

The next year, stroke-play qualifying will be held on both Winged Foot courses, with the East Course, being renovated by Gil Hanse, handling match play. (The East has held two U.S. Women’s Opens and the first U.S. Senior Open, in 1980.) The women will play both segments on the Tom Doak-designed Blue Course at 36-hole Streamsong.

“This could be possibly the most popular tournament for amateurs in the country,” said two-time major champion Johnny Miller, the longtime NBC golf analyst who grew up playing at Olympic. After saying on the conference call that he has talked “about the choke factor more than anybody in history,” Miller added that players who don’t want pressure of playing their own ball can free-wheel it “psychologically” in four-ball and “play some great golf.”

Eligibility is limited to amateurs with a USGA handicap index not exceeding 5.4 for men and 14.4 for women. Eighteen-hole sectional qualifying will be held at dozens of sites – starting as early as next August at northern venues for weather reasons and the remainder in early 2015. The national events will take 128 two-player teams for men and 64 for women. After the 36 holes of stroke-playing qualifying, each field will be reduced to the low 32 teams for match play.

The USGA plans on course setups with fast and firm turf, significant rough and, on some holes, risk-reward options, Bodenhamer said.

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