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Saturday, February 7, 2015

What's New at USGA?

Tom O'Toole, Jr., USGA President
USGA President Tom O'Toole, Jr., today took the microphone at the organization's annual meeting to outline several forward-looking developments.  Following is a partial transcript of his remarks:

You will hear the words “new” and “first” repeatedly from us in 2015:

We will bring the U.S. Open Championship to the Pacific Northwest for the first time in our history, at the magnificent Chambers Bay Golf Course in Washington State. This is the first time we will conduct the championship on an all fine-fescue golf course.

We will introduce our new U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championships in May, first with the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball at the Olympic Club, and then the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball at Bandon Dunes the following week.  Our commitment to providing championship excellence to all players remains a high priority with this organization.

On May 27, we will also open our newest addition to our USGA Museum, celebrating the significant contributions of one of golf’s greatest legends, Jack Nicklaus. Two weeks later, at the U.S. Open Championship, we will bestow the Bob Jones Award, our greatest honor, to Barbara Nicklaus.

We have likewise dedicated significant resources to introduce new technology this year, including the launch of a new usga.org and usopen.com this spring, to better inform, educate and inspire our members and fans.  This includes a new Rules education module to our website, as we respond to our community’s need for advanced tools they can quickly access.

New technology and new imagery will also be delivered via our partnership with Fox Sports, which began earlier this year with the airing of “Nicklaus: The Making of a Champion.”

In addition, our new pace-of-play flagstick tool will be introduced in field testing this year. Designed to help golf facilities accurately measure pace and develop solutions to accelerate the time it takes to play, it is one of the many ways we continue to devote energy to support the long-term viability, or health, of golf.

And as active participants in a strong worldwide golf community, we will provide strength and support to our allied golf organizations in matters critical to golf’s future: namely, leadership in promoting a sustainable game, both environmentally and economically  – and in this connection, we are convinced that focusing solely on participation numbers underestimates the opportunity for the golf community.

We are also committed to the exploration of a worldwide handicapping system, and a thoughtful, collaborative approach to simplify the Rules of Golf.

We will also give back to the game through allied programs such as the Latin America Amateur Championship, opening the game to a new generation and audience of golfers.

However, the primary reason we are here today is to celebrate a great milestone – we are proud to announce the formation of the U.S. Senior Women’s Open Championship.

The opportunity to extend the inspiration of championships to this important part of golf’s family is something we approach with great humility and a sense of duty. Simply, the time is right. Support of the women’s game is at an all-time high, as we clearly experienced at Pinehurst. It serves a population of our golf community that is hungry to compete for a national title.

Moreover, interest in this particular championship has steadily increased since we began investigating its viability more than 20 years ago. Seven of the last 10 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur Championships have recorded more than 500 entries, with a record 554 in 2014 alone. So many women have worked hard to take their games, their fitness, their commitment, and their service to golf to new heights. They deserve a championship of the highest quality.

The facts we share with you today are as follows:

We will conduct this championship beginning in 2018.
We will mirror our U.S. Senior Open format, in conducting a 72-hole stroke-play event over four days, with a cut after 36 holes of play.
This will be a walking championship, intended for players age 50 and over.

In making this announcement today, we reinforce our passion and commitment to promote a game that is welcoming and accessible to all.  It is the right message to send to the golf industry, as we support a game that can be played for a lifetime, as both a recreational and competitive sport.

As we introduce all of these modern advances to the game – new championships, new tools and ideation in Rules education, supporting a healthy game and growing a strong golf community - we will not forget what we learned last year.  The celebration of the back-to-back U.S. Open Championships at Pinehurst clearly showed men and women can play at the same competitive level on the same course.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

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