When the final putt fell at Cherry Hills Country Club on Sunday — an 18-foot birdie by Steven Fox that won him the US Amateur — the US Golf Association figuratively passed the baton, putting The Country Club in Brookline officially on the clock.
Twelve months from now, the 113th US Amateur champion will be crowned in the Boston suburb of Brookline, joining a list of championship winners at The Country Club that includes Francis Ouimet, Curtis Strange, and the 1999 US Ryder Cup team.
Already three years in the making, the 2013 US Amateur will be Aug. 12-18 at two area private clubs. Each of the 312 participants will play 18-hole stroke-play rounds at The Country Club and Charles River Country Club, with the lowest 64 advancing to match play. Every match, from the 32 in the first round to the 36-hole championship, will be played at The Country Club.
While it won’t be a tournament as large as the US Open or Ryder Cup, the 2013 US Amateur will certainly be a global gathering. This year’s qualifiers came from 43 states and 20 countries, a diverse field worthy of golf’s most prestigious amateur championship.
That next year’s will be held at The Country Club, with its deep ties to the USGA (it is one of the five founding clubs) and on the 100-year anniversary of Ouimet’s stunning US Open win there when he was a 20-year-old amateur living across the street, seems appropriate.
“The club highly values its place in the history of golf, and this is another chapter in that history,” said Sandy Tierney, a member at The Country Club and the general chairman of the 2013 US Amateur. “We feel we’re on track, and we’ll be ready when those competitors show up in August 2013.”
Tierney led a group of more than 30 people from The Country Club and Charles River who attended last week’s Amateur at Cherry Hills, near Denver, a dress rehearsal that gave them a close look at any tournament-related issues, what worked, what didn’t, what they’ll want in place when next year’s event arrives.
What the 312 competitors will find next August is a course that’s much different from 1982, the last time The Country Club hosted the US Amateur. Work to the composite course actually began before the announcement was made that the Amateur was coming, in an effort to enhance the facility for the membership. Under the direction of consulting architect Gil Hanse, who is designing the venue for the 2016 Olympics, the course maintenance staff at The Country Club has given it a cleaner look by removing nearly 2,000 trees, and a new short-game practice area has been built near the first tee. Following USGA requests, a handful of fairways will be pinched roughly 5 yards, and five tee boxes have been built — on Nos. 1, 5, 10, 12, and 15 — stretching the championship course some 300 yards; the scorecard yardage for the Amateur is expected to be 7,380.
After the new, enlarged practice area, it’s the tree removal that is most noticeable.
“I’m in my 28th year, and it’s like I work at a new place,” said greens superintendent Bill Spence. “Old photos of the club reveal that’s what it was, a big, grand, open space with a sweeping landscape. Now, you’re seeing some beautiful mounds that were back in the woods and overgrown, you’re seeing the Skate Pond from different angles, you’re looking across the golf course in ways that you couldn’t. We’re starting to get it back to a manageable facility that really fits what the original intention had been.”
Attendance at Cherry Hills was between 4,000 and 5,000 for each of the tournament’s last two days, numbers Tierney said he’s hoping to improve on. Tickets aren’t available yet, but daily tickets (likely in the $25 to $30 range) and a weekly admission (in the $80 to $100 range) will be offered.
The Amateur won’t look like a typical professional event. There will be corporate hospitality available and sponsors to help offset the cost — Tierney said the club’s financial goal is to break even, with any excess profits being directed to charity — but the only company logo visible to spectators will be for the medical provider (Partners HealthCare), for health and safety reasons.
The tournament will also need approximately 1,000 volunteers, to assist with everything from working as a gallery marshal and selling merchandise to driving players, their families, caddies, and USGA officials to and from the Park Plaza Hotel. A website (www.2013usamateur.com ) is expected to launch next month that will provide information and also registration for those interested in volunteering.
Before the amateur golf world descends on Boston, though, there’s a lot left to do. Qualifying, for those hoping to play. Preparing and fine-tuning, for those hosting. But one year out, nearly everything is exactly where Tierney and his team at The Country Club and Charles River want them to be.
“Yes, that’s a fair statement,” Tierney said. “We’ll continue to work on the condition of the course over the next year, but it’s in terrific shape, it’s been in terrific shape this year. We hope that Mother Nature will cooperate like she has the last couple of winters. That said, if the tournament were held today, the course is ready.
“We’ll continue to make the focus of the championship the quality of the experience for the players. And we hope that we’ll get a good number of spectators to come out and be able to watch and appreciate the skill that these players have.”