With the premier amateur tournament, the U.S. Amateur Championship, nearing completion at Cherry Hills Country Club in Colorado, here’s a look at five great amateur tournaments for the rest of us that offer either flighted play or net divisions. There are MANY more opportunities but this quintet—from a woman’s event to a pro-am—really stands out (visit amateurgolf.com for info on other tournaments).
January 6–9, 2013: The Harder Hall Women’s Invitational
Without a doubt, there is less competitive golf available for ladies, especially events worthy of travelling to. Each January, the Florida “Orange Blossom Women’s Tour” of three events features an interesting mixture of young LPGA Tour hopefuls and more experienced players who have been part of these events for years. The first of those events, The Harder Hall at Harder Hall Golf Club in Sebring, offers the Ben Roman division for women with handicaps between 7.0 and 24.4. (Players are flighted after two rounds.) You’ll compete from the forward tees, while mingling with some of the best young players who you might see on TV one day. The entry fee of $250 will leave you with a nice lodging budget.
February/March, 2013: The San Francisco City Championship
You don’t need to live in the City by the Bay to play in the oldest continuously-held city championship in the United States, a match-play tournament held at venerable Harding Park. There are a number of different divisions (women, senior) but the ultra-competitive “Open” Division is limited to the first 256 entries. Contestants for all divisions must play in an 18-hole qualifying round at Lincoln Park (entry fees range from $100 to $160). Flights of 32 players are based on qualifying score. There may be some time in between the qualifying round and first match, but what better chance to enjoy everything the Bay Area has to offer. Just be prepared to leave your heart there.
May 4–8, 2013: The 12th Annual amateurgolf.com Two Man Links Championship at Bandon Dunes
The last time amateurgolf.com surveyed avid golfers, Bandon Dunes was number one on their “destination wish list.” With four highly ranked true links courses (and a new 13-hole par three layout) on the Oregon Coast, it’s no wonder why. The only thing that could elevate the experience is playing in a tournament like the Two Man Links Championship with your best friend. The event attracts players from around the U.S., Canada, and England for a 72-hole best-ball format in Scratch, Senior-Scratch, or Net Divisions. (Total combined handicap in the Net Division should not exceed 32 with a max differential of 10.) Entry fees start at just over $2,000 per player double occupancy, including four rounds of golf, four nights lodging, two dinners, and prizes.
May 16–19, 2013 BMW Charity Pro-Am
Ever wondered what it’s like to play in front of a gallery? There are only a handful of PGA or Nationwide Tour events where an amateur can play all 72 holes as a partner with a touring pro. The privilege will cost a bit more than the typical golf vacation or tournament (starting at $8,500 per player) but the opportunity to mingle with pros and celebrities, and compete for a chance to play the final round (16 teams make it to Sunday) is bucket-list worthy. Who knows, you might even get some TV coverage? According to Director of Sales Mike Ivester, the tournament, played on three Greenville, S.C.-area courses (Carolina Country Club, Greenville Country Club, and Thornblade Club), has become a destination event for golfers, many of whom bring friends and wives. “Last year, we had players from 25 states and five countries,” said Ivester. “The balance of the amateurs are from the Carolinas.”
Late August, 2013: The Golf.com World Amateur Handicap Championship
Myrtle Beach has the most courses per square mile of any golf destination in the world, and they need it to run this huge tournament, with more than 3,000 golfers from all 50 states and 20 foreign countries. Players are flighted by handicap, and don’t even think about sandbagging—play is monitored closely by the Tournament Committee to ensure fairness. Each of the flight winners competes in the final round at Myrtle Beach National for a chance at the overall title. In addition to the tournament, fun activities include “The World’s Biggest 19th Hole”—a golf exhibition with food, equipment booths and demos, and discount equipment opportunities.
By: Pete Wlodkowski