Salem Country Club, site of one of the most successful US Senior Opens in the tournament’s 34-year history, has been picked to host the event again, in 2017.
The private club in Peabody, which dates to 1895 and features a well-respected course designed by Donald Ross, has hosted five national championships conducted by the US Golf Association, including the 2001 US Senior Open. A formal announcement of the 2017 US Senior Open is expected Wednesday.
It will be the second time this month that the 50-and-over Champions Tour disclosed plans to bring an elite tournament to the Boston area. On May 5, the tour announced it was taking its Senior Players Championship to Belmont Country Club in 2015.
Now the USGA has followed suit, set to bring its most prestigious senior tournament back to a region that held a Champions Tour event every year from 1981-2008, with the Bank of America Championship at Nashawtuc Country Club.
“The USGA is delighted to return to Salem Country Club and the New England region,” said Daniel Burton, a vice president and championship committee chairman with the organization. “We expect an enthusiastic setting for conducting a successful 2017 US Senior Open.”
When the tournament was held at Salem in 2001, it made history by selling out its entire ticket allotment — 25,000 daily — one year in advance. That had never happened before, and it hasn’t happened since. The USGA certainly didn’t forget about that kind of support.
“It was a pretty easy decision, for two reasons: The golf course, and the success we had there in 2001,” said Tim Flaherty, who has been the senior director for the US Senior Open for 18 years. “I think all golf in New England draws. The North Shore really supports events. We had a tremendous Senior Open there, a terrific leaderboard.”
Bruce Fleisher won the 2001 US Senior Open, shooting a final-round 68 at par-70 Salem to beat Isao Aoki and Gil Morgan by one shot. Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, and Gary Player also competed, with Nicklaus, Allen Doyle, and Jim Colbert finishing two shots back in a tie for fourth. At one point late in an exciting final round, five players were tied for the lead.
The fact that Fleisher finished 72 holes at even par (when the scorecard yardage was a relatively short 6,709 yards) speaks to the challenges players face at Salem, which opened its course in 1925. Despite the lack of low scores (the 36-hole cut came at 9 over, and there were only 28 under-par rounds all week), Flaherty said the player response was “tremendous.”
“It’s a great old Donald Ross course, and the membership has really done a wonderful job preserving the design,” Flaherty said. “Sometimes you go play a Ross course and you look around and say, ‘This is a Donald Ross?’ When you go to Salem, you look around and say, ‘This is Donald Ross.’ The beginning and end of this story is really the golf course.”
In addition to the 2001 US Senior Open, Salem hosted the 1932 US Women’s Amateur (won by Virginia Van Wie), 1954 US Women’s Open (Babe Zaharias, who won by 12 shots months after colon cancer surgery), 1977 US Senior Amateur (Dale Morey), and 1984 US Women’s Open (Hollis Stacy).
Because the USGA works on an invitation system with its championships — a course or club first needs to officially invite the organization to hold a tournament there — it was waiting to hear from Salem, which took that step nearly five years ago. Discussions since then have been ongoing, and now a tournament and a year have been agreed upon; the 2017 US Senior Open will be played at Salem from June 29-July 2.
“Salem Country Club is pleased and honored that the US Senior Open championship will return to our storied and challenging golf course in 2017,” said Bill Sheehan, a Salem member who will serve as the tournament’s general chairman.
“Our entire membership looks forward to welcoming many of the game’s greatest players, the tens of thousands of golf enthusiasts who will be in attendance, and the millions who will be watching on television.”
This year’s US Senior Open is July 10-13 at Oak Tree National in Edmond, Okla. The tournament will be played at Del Paso Country Club in Sacramento in 2015, and at Scioto Country Club in Columbus, Ohio, in 2016.
The 2017 US Senior Open will be the 57th USGA championship held in Massachusetts. Last year the US Amateur was held at The Country Club, and the 2016 US Senior Women’s Amateur is coming to Wellesley Country Club.
Who might be in the field?
Notable players (listed alphabetically) not on the Champions Tour now who will be eligible for the 2017 US Senior Open:
|Player||50th birthday||Tour wins||Majors|