The United States Golf Association (USGA) has announced the retirement of the U.S. Amateur Public Links (APL) and U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links (WAPL) championships, following the completion of the 2014 competitions. The decision follows an internal review which determined that the APL and WAPL championships no longer serve their original mission because of the widespread accessibility public-course golfers today enjoy in USGA championships.
The final WAPL will be held at The Home Course in DuPont, Wash. on July 14-19, 2014, and the final APL will be held at Sand Creek Station Golf Course in Newton, Kansas on July 14-19, 2014.
The U.S. Amateur Public Links was first played in 1922, and is the fourth-oldest championship conducted by the USGA. The APL was established to provide public golfers with access to a national championship because, at that time, the U.S. Amateur Championship was restricted to players from USGA Member Clubs. The U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links was established in 1977, for the same reason as the APL. In 1979, however, the USGA modified the entry requirements for the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Women’s Amateur championships to allow entry to public-course players.
"While our fondness for these championships made this decision a difficult one, we will continue to proudly celebrate the legacy and important role that the APL and WAPL have had on the game by forever honoring them in the USGA Museum, as well as in other appropriate ways," said John Bodenhamer, former executive director of the Pacific Northwest Golf Association (PNGA) and Washington State Golf Association (WSGA), who now is the senior managing director of Rules, Competitions & Equipment Standards for the USGA. "We also wish to express our heartfelt gratitude to all the champions, participants, host clubs, volunteers and benefactors who, over the years, helped build a strong legacy of public links competition." Before his departure for the USGA in 2011, Bodenhamer was the CEO of The Home Course, which in 2014 will be the host site of the final WAPL.
"While we were all surprised to hear the news about the WAPL and APL," said Troy Andrew, executive director of the PNGA and WSGA, and CEO of The Home Course, "John (Bodenhamer) explained to us the many reasons why the USGA made this decision and it became clear and understandable. Additionally, and on a very positive note, the USGA is dedicated and committed to making the 2014 championships a celebration of what will be 38 years for the WAPL and 90 years for the APL. As we work towards 2014, we feel it will be a special year, being the final time the championship is held, and The Home Course will be in the history books as one of the most memorable USGA championships ever held."
Over the course of their existence, the U.S. Amateur Public Links and U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links championships have assembled a rich history across the competitive golf landscape, and are part of the USGA’s long heritage of supporting public golf. The competitions boast an impressive lineup of champions including most recently: Billy Mayfair (1986); Tim Clark (1997); Trevor Immelman (1998); Ryan Moore (2002 and 2004); Brandt Snedeker (2003); Yani Tseng (2004); and T.J. Vogel and Kyung Kim (2012). These championships have also contributed to the USGA’s record books: Michelle Wie (2003) became the youngest champion in USGA history when she won the WAPL at age 13; Ryan Moore (2004) became the first golfer to win the APL and the U.S. Amateur in the same year, while Colt Knost matched the feat in 2007; and Pearl Sinn (1988) and Jennifer Song (2009) won both the WAPL and U.S. Women’s Amateur in the same year.
In conjunction with the retirement of the APL and the WAPL, the USGA also announced the introduction of two new championships, the first national championships to be added to the USGA’s competition roster in more than 25 years. The addition of the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship and the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship, which will be played annually between mid-March and late May with the inaugural events scheduled for 2015, reflects the Association’s continued commitment to supporting and growing amateur competition well into the future.
The last time the USGA added a national championship for individual golfers was in 1987 with the creation of the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship.
"We couldn’t be more excited about the creation of national four-ball championships, given the popularity and enjoyment of this competitive format at the amateur level," said USGA Vice President and Championship Committee Chairman Thomas J. O’Toole Jr. "Because the four-ball format lends itself to spirited team competition and aggressive risk-reward shotmaking, we are confident these championships will deliver exciting amateur golf to the national stage for both players and spectators alike."
Eligibility for both national four-ball championships will be limited to amateurs, with no age restrictions. Team partners will not be required to be from the same club, state or country, and substitution of partners will be permitted until the close of entries. Entry is limited to individuals with a USGA Handicap Index not to exceed 5.4 for men and 14.4 for women.
The USGA’s national amateur four-ball championships will begin with sectional qualifying at dozens of sites across the nation. The U.S. Amateur Four-Ball and U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball will consist of 128 and 64 two-player teams respectively, each playing their own ball throughout the round. Each team’s score will be determined using their better-ball score for each hole. After 36 holes of stroke-play competition, the field will be reduced to the low 32 teams for the match-play portion of the championship.
Four-ball has become a widely popular format for State and Regional Golf Associations across the United States. In 2012, more than 150 championships, either strictly four-ball or as part of a competition format, were conducted in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Host sites for the inaugural U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship and U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship will be announced by the USGA at a later date.
In addition to staging the U.S. Open Championship at public courses, the USGA continues to grow public golf, and support all golfers, through its various programs, including Rules of Golf education, Course Rating services and Turf Advisory Service visits. Through its partnership with national organizations such as The First Tee, LPGA-USGA Girls Golf, The PGA of America and the National Alliance for Accessible Golf, the USGA supports numerous programs that benefit junior golfers, beginning golfers and golfers with disabilities who play at America’s public golf courses. With the development of its new pace-of-play initiative, the USGA hopes to serve golfers by helping public courses identify ways to reduce the time it takes to play the game.