Senior Open A Match Made in Husker Heaven July 13, 2013 By Greg Midland, USGA

NGA assistant executive director Justin Ahrens served as a walking Rules official at the Senior Open. (USGA/Fred Vuich)

OMAHA, Neb. – Craig Ames is the executive director of the Nebraska Golf Association, not a matchmaker. Yet he can’t help but allude to romance when discussing the NGA’s role in bringing the 2013 U.S. Senior Open to Omaha Country Club.

It was like setting two people up on a blind date, Ames said. We have a good relationship with the USGA and a good relationship with the club, so once we helped make that connection we kind of went away for a while. And now it’s like coming to the wedding.

Just like a typical wedding reception, U.S. Senior Open week in Omaha has been filled with smiles, kind words and applause. It has also allowed NGA volunteers and staff members – led by President Patrick Duffy, who also is the U.S. Senior Open chairman and a member of Omaha Country Club – to participate in all aspects of a national championship, an opportunity that, in Nebraska, doesn’t often present itself.

I think we’re starved for things like this, said Ames, who has worked at every U.S. Senior Open since 2006. It’s all about the community support; they just had to find a golf course that made it work.

Omaha Country Club fit the bill by providing an outstanding venue for the players  and spectators, and was well able to accommodate the thousands of volunteers and support staff who traveled from near and far to assist in the preparation and execution of the championship.

It was an all-hands-on-deck kind of week for the NGA, which is headquartered in Omaha and comprises nearly 170 member golf clubs and approximately 23,000 golfers. The association has a small staff, so in order to stage an event such as the Senior Open, it must rely on a cadre of volunteers and interns during the busy summer months.

I don’t think there’s anybody left in the office this week, quipped Ames.

Ames, who has been the NGA’s executive director since 2001, is Rules-certified and has served as a walking Rules official each day of the championship, as has the association’s assistant executive director, Justin Ahrens. They were joined by more than half of the 20-member Board of Directors, who serve on all manner of committees related to the championship.

Maddy Moser, who is in her first year as executive director of the Nebraska Women’s Golf Association, helped facilitate player interviews in and around the media center along with NGA seasonal intern Connor Stange.

It was a great experience to help out and see how the [USGA] staff and the players interact in a national championship, said Moser.

Stange, a journalism major and rising senior at the University of Nebraska, added, It was hectic at times, but it was fun to be involved.

As Ames surveyed the scene and saw people wearing NGA-logoed shirts walking around Omaha Country Club playing integral roles in the championship, he couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride and accomplishment.

I was very curious to see how the community would react, he said. Corporate [hospitality] set a new record, the crowds were out, the volunteers were golf-savvy. It’s been a great week.

Perhaps great enough that he decides to put his matchmaker hat back on and tries to bring more national championships to the Cornhusker State.

Greg Midland is the USGA’s director of editorial and multimedia content. Email him at gmidland@usga.org.