Only four times in the long history of the United States Golf Association has one state hosted both the U.S. Amateur Championship and the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship in the same year. Next week, Oklahoma will add its name to that elite list when the U.S. Amateur returns to Tulsa's Southern Hills Country Club for the first time since 1965.
Just last month, golfers from around the world descended on Norman's Jimmie Austin University of Oklahoma Golf Club, where the 89th edition of the Publinks Championship played out in the heat and humidity of an Oklahoma summer. That event was deemed a major success by players and tournament officials alike, and more of the same is expected Monday through Aug. 30 " including the irrepressible heat.
Oklahoma, which seems to fly under the general public's golfing radar much of the time, is certainly no stranger to hosting USGA events. Over the years, there have been 19 USGA championships take place at various courses across the state, including nearby Oak Tree National and Oklahoma City Golf and Country Club.
To host two of the biggest men's amateur events over the course of a single summer is significant in a number of ways, including the potential economic impact and the amount of national exposure soaked up by state's golf environment.
"I believe it says a great deal about the state of golf in this state when two of the most prestigious amateur tournaments are played here in the same year. That certainly doesn't happen very often," said Rodney Young, director of golf at the OU Golf Club. "The truth is, Oklahoma has a great golfing tradition, having hosted some historic events over the years. Getting to see both the Publinks and the Amateur played just a few weeks apart in the same state is pretty special."
While the U.S. Publinks was the first USGA event ever hosted by The Jimmie in Norman, historic Southern Hills long ago established itself as one of the most sought-after venues in the country, thanks to its track record of hosting major events. Besides the 1965 U.S. Amateur, Southern Hills has been the site of three U.S. Opens and four PGA Championships over the years.
"You rarely see what is going on this summer with two great amateur golf tournaments being played in the same state. I think it shows how serious Oklahoma is about its golf," said OU men's golf coach Ryan Hybl. "There are some great golf courses in this state, and having the opportunity to host the Public Links back in July and now the U.S. Amateur at Southern Hills gives us a chance to show that off a little bit."
The Amateur is set to begin Monday with first- and second-round stroke play unfolding at both Southern Hills and nearby Cedar Ridge Country Club. The format switches to match play on Aug. 26 after the top 64 players have been determined, and all matches will be played on the rolling 7,093-yard, par-70 Southern Hills layout.
Up for grabs is not only the title of U.S. Amateur champion, but two spots in the 2010 Masters, which go to the winner and runner-up. For more information, call (918) 494-0001. "Jay C. Upchurch