Basking in the glow of a highly successful U.S. Women's Amateur Championship, the Country Club of Charleston is already pondering the possibilities of what might come next.
Was the tournament a one-time occurrence or a dress rehearsal for something bigger? Perhaps a U.S. Women's Open or U.S. Men's Senior Open is in the club's future.
As accolades were being paid to the club during Sunday's awards presentation, a member of the U.S. Golf Association staff said she would love to return. Whether that referenced a future USGA event or was a remark made on a more personal level was not clear.
Country Club of Charleston president Dr. Thomas Croffead said the tournament, televised by The Golf Channel, was a benefit not only for the club but for the community as a whole
“Everyone I've talked to just loves the course,” Croffead said. “It just makes you so proud of this club, to be able to give something back to golf.”
Shannon Rouillard of the USGA was predictably non-committal when asked about a future event.
“I think it certainly posed a wonderful site for the Women's Amateur,” she said. “It definitely would be another wonderful venue for a USGA championship, which one I'm not so sure. I think (the Women's Amateur) has gone tremendously well. The club has gone above and beyond what is required of them to host this championship. They've done it with such grace, such poise, such love for the game.”
David Humphreys was the club president in 2011 when the USGA first approached the Country Club of Charleston about holding the U.S. Women's Amateur. Humphreys, who has chaired the club's Azalea Invitational, was enthusiastic about the idea but knew it would be a huge undertaking. The club was told it would need to raise in the neighborhood of $400,000 in less than two years to put on the tournament.
“It's been very rewarding to see how the club has gotten behind it. I had some doubts at first because our members love to play golf and would have to give up the golf course for 12 days,” Humphreys said.
The “113 Club” was started to raise funds for the 113th Women's Amateur. Members were asked to pledge $1,000 each. Humphreys said Stephanie Atkinson chaired the drive and raised more than $160,000.
Club member Frank Ford III, who chaired the Women's Amateur along with Libby Metzler, said the club ended up raising more than $500,000. The cities of Charleston, North Charleston and Mount Pleasant, along with Boeing, stepped up. More than 400 people, many of them club members and many from outside the club, volunteered.
“It was a cooperative effort by the whole community,” Ford said.
Country Club's legacy
Ford said he thought the club's contributions to amateur golf were helpful in landing the Women's Amateur. The Country Club of Charleston was one of the founding members of the Carolinas Golf Association in 1909.
“We've had the Azalea for 65 years, 30 Senior Azaleas and 60 or so Junior Azaleas,” Ford said. “One club and three kinds of major amateur tournaments for different ages every year. That resonates. We do it because we love it. This club has always been a competitive club. The guys that started the CGA did it for one reason, to have a tournament, to have a championship. This club has been about golf, competitive golf. That's our legacy.”
Ford said two World Golf Hall of Fame members also helped the club's cause. The late Henry Picard, who won the 1938 Masters and 1939 PGA Championship, was a professional at the Country Club of Charleston. And Beth Daniel, a two-time Women's Amateur champion, learned to play at the Country Club of Charleston and each year hosts the Beth Daniel Junior Azalea.
Rouillard said the Country Club of Charleston course certainly lived up to USGA expectations. She said the staffs of superintendent Paul Corder and director of golf Hart Brown did outstanding jobs in advance and during the Women's Amateur.
One of the biggest questions is whether the course is long enough to hold a Women's Open or Senior Open. Designed by Seth Raynor and opened in 1925, it measures approximately 6,800 yards and plays to a par of 71 from the back tees with little room for expansion. Sebonack in Southampton, N.Y., site of the 2013 U.S. Women's Open, measured 6,658 yards with a par of 71. Omaha (Neb.) Country Club, where the 2013 U.S. Senior Open was contested, was played at 6,711 yards with a par of 70.
Daniel said she thought the Country Club of Charleston course offers enough length and challenge to hold a Women's Open or Senior Open.
“The Azalea (a men's amateur tournament) every year, that's a good indication of how good the golf course is,” Daniel said. “The greens are what make it tough. It's a second-shot golf course. It's the greens, putting and chipping around the greens.”
Down the road
Rouillard said the USGA uses what is called a future sites process.
“The bottom line is that the USGA does not go anywhere we are not invited, so to speak,” Rouillard said. “We get letters from clubs every year that are interested in hosting a USGA championship, and then we go through a very well thought-out procedure in learning and finding out more about the club and determining what is the best championship for that club to host. That's not to say every club that expresses an interest gets an invitation, but a lot of them do.”
Sites for the Women's Open have been announced through 2017, and U.S. Senior Open sites have been determined through 2016. Will the Country Club of Charleston make an offer for one of those events?
“Not in the next couple of weeks. Maybe in a couple of years if it's something the USGA wants. We would love to be able to host another USGA event,” Croffead said.
Humphreys said he would like to see it happen, but he can't speak for the club's membership. He said it probably would need to be at least five years down the road.
“I think a foundation has been laid, a reputation made that if we want to go to another level or additional USGA event then certainly we have a history and that's important,” Humphreys said.