When the U.S. Golf Association postponed the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur, one of only three remaining championships for the 2017 season, it did so site unseen. After Hurricane Irma blew through Naples, Fla., the USGA knew there would be more on residents’ minds than the playability of Quail Creek Country Club. Here’s a championship played by women with day jobs and other priorities, and in this case, the USGA knew exactly its audience. The postponement came with ample time for planning.
“It’s another challenge, they have real-world jobs and families,” said Rachel Sadowski, Championship Director. “That’s the reason why we want to get this announcement out as soon as we can.”
Sadowski was supposed to be in Naples this week on a routine site visit, but her flight there was cancelled because of the storm. She, and the USGA, had to rely on information from club members and personnel to make a judgment call. Ultimately, it led to the postponement announcement on Sept. 12. The event was scheduled for Oct. 7-12, and new tournament dates have not been announced.
What goes into the decision about course fitness when a major championship is on the line? Quail Creek contacts reported major course flooding and debris. One of those conversations took place in the final minutes before the Naples resident lost cell phone power. Sadowski still hasn’t been able to contact the host hotel for lack of power in the area.
Damage is one thing, but priorities are another. A championship of this caliber requires a functional clubhouse, a volunteer base and a fair amount of golf course-based manpower. There is rebuilding to do among team members and personnel before Quail Creek becomes a real priority. The USGA sent a message of long-term health for the club and its members. Even though Sadowksi did not have new dates for the championship, she says the USGA is not pinned in by the calendar as 2017 slips away.
“It’s the 31st Women’s Mid-Amateur, and if the 31st ends up being at the beginning of 2018, so be it,” she said.
Twice before, in the 1990s, scheduled USGA championship sites have been moved because of weather conditions. In 1992, Hurricane Iniki damaged the Wailua Golf Course in Lihue, Hawaii, causing the USGA to move the 1995 U.S. Amateur Public Links (a now defunct championship) to Stow Acres Country Club in Stowe, Mass., which had been selected to host in 1996. Similarly, a severe drought in 1993 caused Northgate Golf Club in Reno, Nev., to give up the 1994 Public Links. It was played instead at Eagle Bend Golf Course in Bigfork, Mont.
Never before, however, has a natural disaster damaged a USGA venue to this extent, this close to the championship. Considering the number of events the USGA runs, it’s surprising.
“Ultimately we want the golf course in championship condition,” Sadowski said. “There are certain things that we want the golf course to challenge the players and the shot-making.”
The Women’s Mid-Am was the first USGA event scheduled for the Naples area, and it was met with enthusiasm – 427 women applied to play the event (which is roughly 100 players short of the record set in 2000). Here’s hoping the 132 qualifiers get the chance.