By Clay Horning
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — It is the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links and it begins Monday at the Jimmie Austin OU Golf Club and you should really check it out.
It is a big, big deal.
It is the tournament that put 12-year-old Michelle Wie on the map, when she won it back in 2003, and it’s the tournament that put former world No. 1 and now world No. 4 Ya-Ni Seng on the map when she beat Wie 1 up in the 36-hole championship match a year later.
It is the tournament that, this year, will feature 10-year old Lucy Li, who shot a 76 at Painted Desert Golf Club in Las Vegas to qualify. And would you believe it, she’s the third 10-year old to do it, the first being Wie in 2000.
Anyway, it’s a really cool thing and it’s happening in Norman just four years after the men had their turn on the golf course some old-timers still lovingly call “University” at the 2009 U.S. Amateur Public Links, won by Brad Benjamin, who, according to Wikipedia, remains an amateur and who hasn’t done too much since his Publinx triumph, though he did make the cut at the 2011 U.S. Open.
It’s great watching, it’s bound to produce great stories and it ought to be a lot of fun. So, take it in while you can, for soon it will be gone.
The 2014 women’s public links is scheduled for The Home Course, in Dupont, Was. The 2014 men’s public links (though women may enter as Wie was once memorably in the field) will be played next summer at Sand Creek Station Golf Course in Newton, Kan.
After that, it’s over.
Replacing them in 2015 will be the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship and the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship.
Don’t you love it when golf becomes too smart for itself? Like the USGA was sitting around and thinking, how can we become more relevant, and decided why not put on a national championship as gimmicky as something so many state golf associations, or singular courses put on.
It almost makes you wonder if the USGA had a U.S. Amateur Member-Guest on the table, or U.S. Amateur Skins Game, or a national championship in which you’re only allowed one club.
It’s a little bit tragic.
No longer will there be national amateur championships for players who did not grow up with the advantage of club privileges. The whole idea behind the Publinx model was to make a statement about the game belonging to everybody, not merely the deep-pocketed class. The USGA may simply not understand that the Public Links concept is very meaningful to many golfers.
Perhaps the writing was on the wall back in 2009 when the men’s event came to Norman, when the Public Links was played at the course once called “University” but that had since renamed itself a “Club.”
Everybody wants to be exclusive. Everybody but Westwood Park, and maybe that’s why the place fills up every Fourth of July Weekend.
It’s a thought.
At least there’s this year and next.
The OU course has been a fantastic track forever. Perry Maxwell designed it. Years later it was built.
Though hardly ever too green for most of its life, the result of a lack of irrigation until 1996, the course remained a classic. Then, with Bob Cupp’s redesign 17 years ago, it became a whole lot greener and, one must begrudgingly admit, an even better course.
If the plan was to get great tournaments to come to it, it’s happened in the form of NCAA regionals and national public-course championships. It’s too bad it costs a comparative fortune to play against what it cost in the old days and that it calls itself a club, but it’s still a wonderful 18 holes.
The price of progress.
Beginning Monday, it will be a showcase. A showcase that, after one more run next summer in Washington state, will die.
So come out and watch a great tournament on a great course, an event that deserves to live on forever and ever, even though the USGA disagrees.
Follow me @clayhorning