The United States Golf Association steps into unchartered waters this summer with its Men’s and Women’s Open scheduled for back-to-back weeks on the same course – Pinehurst No. 2 – and executive director Mike Davis will meet with LPGA players on Tuesday to provide assurances.
“This is all about comparing the world’s best men and the world’s best women,” Davis said during the USGA’s annual meeting in February at Pinehurst, N.C. “It’s really to showcase women’s golf, because I’m a big believer – and I know others within the USGA are huge believers – that the women’s just don’t get enough credit.”
The reason the women will play the second week boils down to agronomics.
“Our experts feel we have a much better chance of getting the golf course right for both championships and how we want to set it up with the men going first and the women going second,” Davis said. “It really does down to the putting greens. They’re going to be the same speed both weeks, but the first week, if Mother Nature cooperates, they’re going to be slightly firmer.
“To go from very firm greens to slightly – underscore ‘slightly’ – less firm greens the second week is agronomically much easier to do that the reverse.”
Pinehurst No. 2 will be set up at about 7,500 yards for the men and 6,700 for the women with a goal of the players hitting the same shots into the greens. “If the men are hitting drivers, we want the women to be hitting drivers,” he said. “If the men are hitting 6-irons for their approach shots, that’s what we want to see the women do.”
Davis said at Pinehurst that at his meeting with the LPGA players he will assure the women that they will be welcome the week before. Practice facilities will be available in advance, and the range will be open to the women after the men finish on Sunday.
He can envision some of top women players visiting the television booth during the men’s event.
“I really believe we will have more people following the Women’s Open than we normally do, and that’s a great thing,” Davis said. “I think people will have watched the men and say, ‘I’m really curious how the women will play (the same course) the following week.’
“There were a lot of people questioning why (the USGA) would put the women on Oakmont in 2010, and (critics) said, ‘They will never be able to play it.’ You know what? We set up the golf course the same way, relatively speaking, and with the same green speeds we had for the men (in 2007), and the women handled it beautifully.”
A Monday playoff for men, weather and perhaps divots could create potential problems, but Davis noted, “When you do innovative things, there’re always risks, and we know that. Nevertheless, we think there are so many more potential upsides. . . . We’re looking at this as one big event.”
USC women’s team is ranked eighth by Golfstat, 12th by Golf World and 13th by Golfweek. Clemson’s women are 10th in the Golf World survey, 11 in Golfstat and 15th in Golfweek. ... The press release from the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame on Happ Lathrop’s credentials shortchanged the South Carolina Junior Golf Foundation’s contributions. Updated statistics: The foundation has given scholarships valued at more than $750,000 to about 100 youngsters and since 1995 has contributed over $2.4 million to youth programs centered around golf. ... Clemson freshman Ashlan Ramsey, named to the U.S. Curtis Cup team this week, will compete in the LPGA Kraft Nabisco Championship in April on a sponsor’s exemption. As a high school senior, she finished 48th in the event last year. ... Age-group winners in the SCJGA Pee Wee Championship at Columbia CC: Logan Biggers, Lexington (boys’ 10-12), Adam Hunt, Columbia (boys’ 8-9), Jalen Castle, West Columbia (girls’ 10-12) and Abby Franks, Roebuck (girls’ 8-9). ... The USGA will conduct a handicap seminar April 3 at Orangeburg Country Club. Cost is $40 and includes light breakfast, lunch and materials. Go to usga.org or call (908) 326-1865 for information. Registration closes March 24.