After the final putt falls Sunday in the RBC Heritage, national emphasis on golf in South Carolina will focus on the U.S. Women’s Open, and, general chairman Frank Ford III predicts, “the championship will be outstanding.”
Ford, a Hall of Fame golfer who competes on the highest amateur levels, speaks from experience. He knows more than a little bit about USGA championships, and staging the most prestigious tourney in women’s golf at the Country Club of Charleston is plum for the course and the city.
“This is going to be a big-time event,” Ford said in looking toward the May 30-June 2 championship. “The USGA tells me we’re ahead of schedule in getting the infrastructure in place. Ticket sales are good, and we want them great.”
Thirteen past champions and 47 of the world’s top 50 players are among the 100 full exempt competitors who have entered the tournament. Sectional qualifying to fill the remainder of the field begins this week.
“The (amateur) women playing at Augusta represented one of the best days in golf, and we will have players at the highest level here,” Ford said. “The women played fantastic golf (in the Augusta National Women’s Amateur) and I know the quality of golf here will be very special.”
The Country Club of Charleston, a Seth Raynor design, dates to 1925 and will play at more than 6,500 yards to par of 71. The club got a taste of staging big-time events with the 2013 U.S. Women’s Amateur, and the USGA couldn’t wait to return to the South Carolina Lowcountry.
The club’s board asked Ford if their course were worthy of a USGA event, and Ford went to work through connections made during his competitive play and national committee work.
“We got the 2013 Amateur on short notice, about 24 months, and knocked it out of the park,” he said. “The USGA saw what we had and wanted to come back.”
Ford figures the winning score for 72 holes with range between 4 and 8 under par, depending on the wind. He based his guess on Emma Talley’s performance in winning the 2013 Amateur that included 36 holes of stroke play before the players moved into match play.
“We’re on the water, and if the wind blows, the course gets hard in a hurry,” Ford said.
The final piece of the puzzle to be announced will be parking arrangements. Officials “had a couple of potholes” in setting up parking, Ford said, “but we had Plan B to fall back on, and we will make the announcement after finalizing everything with neighbors and city officials.”
Another challenge: some bridges on main arteries leading to the golf course open for boats on occasion, but Ford said, “We’re working through that. The main thing is, this is going to be all about golf, and the golf is going to be great.”
Ticket information is available online at www.usga.org.
Chip Shots: South Carolina junior Lois Kaye Go earned the SEC Women’s Golf Scholar-Athlete of the Year honor. A native of the Philippines, she fashioned one of the best season’s in the program’s history and compiled a 4.0 grade average as a finance/accounting major. . . . USC’s men continued their sizzling spring in winning the Southern Intercollegiate in Athens, Ga., and climbing to 13 in the Golfstat national rankings. Senior Will Miles led the individual competition and became only the fourth Gamecock to win two tournaments in the same season. The performance earned Miles the SEC men’s golfer of the week honor for the second time. . . . USC’s Go has been selected for the international team for the 2019 Arnold Palmer Cup. . . . The Gamecocks’ women’s team, ranked 11 by Golfstat, warmed up for the SEC championship tournament, which concludes Sunday in Birmingham, Ala., by winning the Liz Murphy Collegiate Classic in Athens, Ga. Emily Price received co-SEC freshman of the week honors after playing seventh in the individual competition and going 2-0-1 in match play. . . . The Gamecocks open play in the SEC men’s championship on Wednesday at St. Simons Island, Ga.