The winner of the 40th Mid-Amateur tournament will earn spots in the 2022 Masters and US Open.
The others get a weekend on Nantucket.
For the first time, courses on the island will host a USGA championship whensome of the nation’s top amateur golfers take to Sankaty Head Golf Club and Miacomet Golf Course beginning Saturday.
A record number attempted to qualify — 5,339, beating the record of 5,271 set in 1997, which tournament general chairman Richard Durkes chalks up to the unique location.
The 264 qualifiers begin with stroke play on both courses Saturday and Sunday. The top 64 advance to match play at Sankaty, where they’ll compete for three days as the field is whittled to two. T finalists will play 36 holes Thursday to crown a winner.
Organizers have been planning the event for more than three years, Durkes said.
Durkes, who was on the USGA’s Mid-Amateur committee and part of its rules committee for a decade, approached then-USGA CEO Mike Davis about Nantucket hosting the event.
The USGA was eager to bring the event to the links-style course, but they had their concerns about getting the golfers there. Travel can be upended at a moment’s notice if the weather turns inclement, but Durkes said the weather has cooperated so far.
And hosting a tournament on Nantucket offers its unusual challenges. For starters, “we have no Holiday Inns,” Durkes said.
It is prime wedding season — 25 are scheduled to take place this weekend — and lodging and transportation can be hard to come by. Organizers are relying on more than 350 local volunteers (a large number that can be difficult to wrangle with the island’s population) and leaning on hosts who will house the golfers throughout the event.
“We got everybody here, the weather’s terrific right now and I think everybody’s having a lot of fun,” Durkes said this week.
Sankaty Head, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, is a 6,652-yard course on the eastern end of the island in the village of Siasconset. The lighthouse that is the course’s namesake sits right off the tee of the fifth hole, and Patriots coach Bill Belichick is among the notable members.
“Sankaty Head is not the most difficult course in the world, but there’s a lot of wind. It’s got its own character,” Durkes said.
Its proximity to the bluff facing the Atlantic Ocean means the greens can be unpredictable depending on the gusts. Durkes believes that will make for some fun golf, especially once match play begins.
“It’s going to be very interesting for them because all of a sudden, what seemed like a really easy hole goes downwind and now it’s blowing 30 in your face and it’s different,” he said.
The field includes a former Division 1 football player, Air Force veterans, and an NHL referee. To be eligible, a golfer must be over the age of 25 and have a handicap no higher than 3.4. A total of 65 sites around the country hosted qualifying this summer.
Players with local ties include Haverhill’s Nick Maccario, the 2020 Massachusetts Golf Association player of the year, who will participate in his second Mid-Amateur. Doug Clapp, a 54-year-old from Walpole who played in the 2021 US Senior Open, will try to advance to match play for the sixth time in nine Mid-Amateur starts. And Matt Parziale of Brockton, who won the 2017 Mid-Am and became the first player to earn the US Open and Masters exemptions, will try to match his success on Nantucket.
Durkes is looking forward to seeing what the golfers think of the island’s courses and their time on Nantucket.
“I want to have those 264 players shaking their heads saying, ‘God, what a great experience,” he said. “... You know, we’re never going to have a US Open here. It just doesn’t work. This is kind of a one-off situation, and the enthusiasm is terrific, and the vibe is good.”
Saturday: First round, stroke play (Sankaty Head Golf Club, Miacomet Golf Course)
Sunday: Second round, stroke play (Sankaty, Miacomet)
Monday: First round, match play (Sankaty)
Tuesday: Second round, match play (Sankaty)
Wednesday: Quarterfinal and semifinal rounds, match play (Sankaty)
Thursday: Championship match, 36 holes (Sankaty)