After US Women’s Open success, ‘lots of possibilities’ ahead for Charleston course

Almost six months later, the sweet aroma of success still lingers around the Country Club of Charleston. Staging an event that earns almost universal accolades — in this case, the 2019 U.S. Women’s Open — creates that atmosphere.

“Basking in the glow,” Frank Ford III, general chairman of the most prestigious championship in women’s golf, says now. “I don’t think the tournament could have gone any better.”

The ingredients — a classic Seth Raynor golf course that dates to 1925, the best women’s golfers in the golf, 10 minutes from downtown Charleston — provided the opportunity for the May 30-June 2 tournament.

The record book will show that Jeongeun Lee6, a native of the Republic of Korea, earned the title with a score of 6-under-par 278, but the list of winners included the United States Golf Association, club members and both city and state leaders. Executing their plans turned opportunity into a bonanza.

The Open introduced the golf world to the notorious par-3 11th hole, which deserves and will receive a more detailed report in coming weeks. The tournament provided a stage for the players to illustrate their marvelous skills. And the championship showed classic courses like Charleston, which played at about 6,500 yards, can hold their own against today’s technology.

“Our golf course has been underrated,” said Ford, a world-class amateur who knows what makes a quality layout. “The USGA might have played a couple of holes shorter than I would have, but the proof is on the scoreboard. Best players in the world and six under par over 72 holes wins by two. ... That’s a challenging golf course.”

Memorable shots? Ford remembers Lexi Thompson’s driver-4 iron onto the green on the 535-yard ninth hole. “It’s been a long time since I’ve done that,” he said and laughed. “And on the last hole in the last round, Lexi’s second shot from 185-190 yards hit the hole and spun out. The players made shots like those for four days.”

The USGA had removed the infrastructure and restored the course by Aug. 1, and activities returned to normal. But an unanswered question remains: What can the club and its membership do for an encore?

The club earned rave reviews for the 2013 U.S. Women’s Amateur, and USGA officials, in perhaps a breech of etiquette, asked, “When are you going to have us back?” The 2019 Open was the answer.

Now, the same question begs for an answer.

“There’s nothing imminent,” Ford said. “The USGA loved the course and tournament, but we’re going to sit back and rest for a little bit.” He paused, then added, “From a length perspective, we can hold any tournament the USGA has to offer except the U.S. Open and the U.S. Amateur. We’re not restricted to women’s events.”

Indeed, Ford can see strengthening the course here and there, adding a little length and, in due time, wonders what might happen. The U.S. Senior Open? The U.S. Four-Balls?

“Lots of possibilities,” he said. “But we’re enjoying the Open for now.”

The sweet aroma still lingers. And the USGA is only a phone call away.

Chip shots. South Carolina’s men placed fifth and Clemson finished ninth in the Ka’anapali Collegiate Classic in Hawaii. Sophomore Ryan Hall led the Gamecocks with a 13-under-par 200 and took third individually. Senior Jamie Wilson (t-12) and freshman Jack Wall (t-18) also posted top-20 finishes. Turk Pettit and Kyle Cottam shared 25th to pace the Tigers. Clemson’s Zack Gordon, playing as an individual and not counting in the team score, finished fourth. . . . In the SCJGA’s Fall Challenges. Gene Zeigler (Florence) earned the boys’ title at Cheraw State Park, and Chloe Holder (Williamston) capture the girls’ championship at the Links at Stoney Point in Greenwood. . . . Television personality David Feherty, a former tour pro and Ryder Cup player, will bring his “Feherty Off Tour” show to the Koger Center on April 6, the Monday of Masters week. Presale of tickets is set for 10 a.m.-10 p.m. on Thursday (Nov. 14) with a password SCGOLF. Public sale begins Friday (Nov. 15)

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Director of Sports and Visuals at The State in Columbia, South Carolina. I’m a fan of my family, naps and the Boston Celtics. I’m part of the award-winning Sports staff that includes our work on GoGamecocks.