All the numbers point in the direction that there is a current boom in women’s golf. At the professional level, the number of tournaments on the 2019 LPGA schedule is up by one over 2018, and the total purse in 2019 will feature an LPGA tour-record $70.55 million in total prize money, surpassing the 2018 record haul by $5.2 million.
At the beginner level, all across the country, enrollment in the LPGA-USGA Girls Golf program has increased with enticements and perks for participants including logoed golf merchandise and accessories, and free entry to LPGA, Symetra Tour, and USGA Championships. And in between, the AJGA, high school girl’s golf, collegiate golf and USGA tournaments for women are flourishing.
Shortly, the Royal Melbourne Country Club in Long Grove, Illinois, will host the 119th Women’s Western Amateur Championship on the dates of July 15-20, 2019. It could be proposed that the 2019 Women’s Western Amateur is riding the recent crest of momentum of women’s golf tournaments exhibited by the successes of the inaugural competition of the U.S. Senior Women’s Open and the Augusta National Women’s Amateur.
On the other hand, it could be proposed that the Women’s Western Amateur Championship was an initiator of women’s tournament golf competitions as the Women’s Western Amateur Championship has been held without interruption since its inception in 1901 and is among the oldest annual championships in women’s amateur golf. The list of past champions spans more than a century, from legendary stars Patty Berg (1938) and Louise Suggs (1946, 1947) to modern stars such as Nancy Lopez (1976), Cristie Kerr (1995), Grace Park (1998), Brittany Lang (2003), Stacy Lewis (2006) and Ariya Jutanugarn (2012).
There are two ‘firsts’ for the 119th Women’s Western Amateur Championship: 2019 marks the first time that Royal Melbourne will host a WWGA championship, and in 2019, for the first time, the Western Golf Association will conduct the event in partnership with the Women’s Western Golf Association.“We’re thrilled to be bringing the Women’s Western Amateur to Royal Melbourne,” said Vince Pellegrino, Western Golf Association senior vice president of tournaments. “These are the most talented amateur women in the game, and we look forward to seeing them challenge themselves on one of the toughest courses in the Chicago area.”
Josh Lesnik, KemperSports president, added “On behalf all of our members, it is an honor for us to host the best women amateurs from around the country at one of our flagship properties, Royal Melbourne Country Club.”
The 2019 Women’s Western Amateur field will be comprised of 120 players with a USGA Handicap of 5.4 or less. The tournament begins with 36 holes of stroke play, after which the field will be trimmed to 32 players for match play. The match play qualifiers are then seeded in a single-elimination bracket for three days of match play to determine the Women’s Western Amateur champion. All match-play competitions are over 18 holes, plus sudden death if necessary.
Designed by PGA TOUR legend Greg Norman, along with architect Ted Robinson and KemperSports designer Bob Spence, Royal Melbourne has, from its opening in 1992, made the most of its surrounding wetlands, ponds, prairies and trees to create a challenging test of golf for the club’s members and guests. Now, 27 years later, Norman’s championship layout will require the WWA contestants to execute a variety of shots, mixing shorter par 4s where accuracy is key, with long, difficult holes.
The undulating fairways create uneven lies and camouflage approach shots, a handful of which require forced carries to reach the green. The signature hole of Royal Melbourne’s front-9 is a beautiful par-3 with a forced carry over a large pond; should the summer wind blow from the west, players will be faced with a headwind, or, if originating from the south the air movement is left-to-right.
Forced carries into Royal Melbourne’s three finishing holes will make for serious crunch-time, be it for the conclusion of stroke-play or to decide a match-play round. The forced carries on the final trio of holes are: pond, wetland, bunkers. On hole #16, golfers must control a tee shot to stay left of the pond which borders the entire right side of the fairway, then be precise with an approach shot to the narrow hour-glass shaped green.
Continuing on to hole #17, second shot lay-ups to stay short of the wetland, will leave forced carries of 112 to 150 yards to reach the par-5 green on the third shot. Tall cattails growing up in the wetland can partially or fully obscure the view of the bunkers guarding this diagonally fixed green; near misses to the right of the green can roll across the cart path and into a penalty area.
On Royal Melbourne’s finishing hole, three greenside bunkers — two clearly visible frontal traps and one semi-hidden trap to the left of the green, require precision approaches to the sloping two-tiered final green. Correct placement in the fairway with the tee shot will greatly help reduce the angst for this decisive approach shot.
Superintendent David Groelle and his staff have the course in excellent condition for championship play and the viewing of same. Best news for all the spectators, admission is free.
Additional information can be found by visiting the Women’s Western Amateur web site.