Today kicks off an important and inspiring annual chapter in the game, as thousands of U.S. Open hopefuls begin their journey to this year’s championship at Pebble Beach (Calif.) Golf Links. For 8,602 golfers, local qualifying is the first of two major hurdles to reach their ultimate destination. Qualifying also continues for the upcoming 2nd U.S. Senior Women’s Open Championship at Pine Needles Resort & Lodge and the 74th U.S. Women’s Open Championship at the Country Club of Charleston.
As those professionals and amateurs focus on achieving their goal, other championship entrants are already there. Match play will begin with the Round of 32 in the 5th U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship at Timuquana Country Club in Jacksonville, Fla., and the two-player side to emerge victorious on Wednesday will be the first USGA champions of 2019.
With so many balls in the air, here are three things to watch in the golf world this week:
Golf Goes to Washington
On Wednesday, May 1, the USGA will again play a major part as many in the golf industry descend on Capitol Hill for National Golf Day. The message to our nation’s leaders: The game is important through economic impact, environmental benefits and core values, and there is significant data to back it up.
Here are some of the statistics that will be brought before Congress:
- The game generates $84.1 billion for the economy
- Since 2012, philanthropic efforts from the game helps produce $4 billion annually to charitable causes
- The game supports 2 million jobs
- On the environmental front, fewer than 15 percent of golf facilities utilize municipal water supplies, and almost 80 percent use hand-watering techniques to decrease waste
- Golf is a wonderful form of exercise, as walking 18 holes can burn up to 2,000 calories
- While many play the game on a traditional golf course, 9.3 million people last year went to alternative destinations such as a driving range, indoor simulator or a Topgolf facility
- The game continues to grow among the junior ranks. In 2017, there were 2.7 million junior golfers (ages 6-17), up from the 2.4 million in 2011
Unlike the other three major championships, the U.S. Open provides a forum for “anyone” to tee it up among the world’s best players at Pebble Beach (Calif.) Golf Links. Granted, the opportunity exists for those with extreme skill – a player must be a professional or an amateur with a 1.4 Handicap Index to register – but for those who have the competitive chops, all it takes is 54 holes of stellar golf to earn a starting time along the likes of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, or two-time defending champion Brooks Koepka.
This week, 18 local qualifiers will take place, beginning on Monday in Georgia, Hawaii and Texas. By May 13, 500 golfers will have advanced from the 110 sites to the sectional qualifying stage. Sectional qualifying, over 36 holes, is scheduled for 12 sites – nine in the U.S. and three internationally – between May 20 and June 3 to determine the last spots in this year’s 156-player field. Generally, about half the field comes via qualifying.
Only two players in the last 60 years have survived both local and sectional qualifying to etch their name on the trophy: Ken Venturi (1964) and Orville Moody (1969).
But that’s the beauty of this process – everyone has a chance to fulfill a dream.
Crowning a Champion
On the same day that our nation’s political leaders will hear about the wonderful virtues of the game, the USGA’s first national champion of 2019 will be crowned. Thirty-two sides begin match play on Monday at Timuquana C.C. at the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship. Barring any weather issues, the field will have been trimmed to the final two sides by Wednesday afternoon for the 18-hole final.
Their names will be permanently etched on the trophy, and by year’s end they will be a part of the 2019 class of champions that is commemorated on a panel inside the USGA Museum in Liberty Corner, N.J.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.