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MARION, Massachusetts – There was a feeling of delight and optimism at The Kittansett Club on Thursday, and much like its fabled wind gusts, it was swirling all around.
It’s been nearly 70 years in waiting, but a second national championship will at long last take place at The Kittansett Club next month. The 67th U.S. Senior Amateur is set for August 27-September 1 at Kittansett, the first national championship held there since the 1953 Walker Cup.
A top 100 golf course in the United States, The Kittansett Club is located at the end of Butler Point in Marion situated on a long point extending into Buzzards Bay. The course, designed in 1922 by William Flynn and Fredric Hood, features breathtaking coastal layouts, plus some inland, treelined holes. The par-3 3rd is one of the most unique in golf— an island green complete surrounded by sand.
On Thursday, Kittansett hosted a Media Day program, setting the stage for the historic event. The U.S. Senior Amateur is open to amateur golfers who have reached age 55 by the start of the championship and who have a Handicap Index not exceeding 7.4. The full field of 156 will play 36 holes of stroke play, followed by a cut to the low 64 scorers for match play.
“We have relished every single minute of it,” said Newcomb Cole, championship chairman of the U.S. Senior Amateur. “What we come back to is … our ability to give back to the game of golf.”
To get ready for what’s to come next month, here are some takeaways from Thursday’s U.S. Senior Amateur Media Day. For more local content on the U.S. Senior Amateur, be sure to visit MassGolf.org.
On Thursday, club officials frequently mentioned how fortunate they’ve been to have worked with legendary architect Gil Hanse for decades. As club president Duncan Gratton said, “Gil has been incredibly loyal to us.”
In the two years since Kittansett hosted the 2020 Mass Amateur Championship, there have been a number of changes to the course to improve playability for both competitive players and members alike.
The first notable difference is that the waste area that used to cross the 18th fairway and stretched out along the left side of the first tee has been grown over. The 18th fairway now has cross-rough, while beautifully grown fescue lines the side of the opening tee.
“They weren’t quite fitting the way [Hanse] thought so we’re letting them go back naturally to what they were,” said John Kelly, the superintendent at Kittansett. ”
But just as important has been a full scale bunker restoration, which was completed last spring. There was also a bunker added on the par-4 16th, which looks straight out at Buzzards Bay. It’s located on the right side of the fairway, and Hanse himself constructed it during the offseason, making it more challenging for players trying to play to the right and avoid the tall grass along the left side.
“That bunker really pulls it in,” Kelly said. “It doesn’t look as wide as it used to be.”
The rough for the championship is expected to be at 3 inches, a half inch thicker than it is currently. In the meantime, the club also continues to work on other features throughout the course.
“We’ve been expanding greens over the past five or six years that really make some interesting pin locations available that we didn’t have before,” Gratton said.
When it comes to playing the course, Honorary Chair Muffy Marlio, a 22-time Kittansett women’s club champion, said keeping it below the hole and managing the wind is most important.
“When the wind is blowing, it’s a huge factor,” said Marlio, who also won the Mass Women’s Amateur in 1982 and 1983. “It can be very tricky.”
Those who have been to The Kittansett Club are aware that parking is at a premium at The Kittansett Club. And with only one road leading to the club, that makes getting to the championship a challenge.
But similar to the U.S. Open, spectators will have access to shuttle buses that will run every 15 minutes, stopping both at the 10th tee and the clubhouse. Parking will be available at A&J Boat Corporation at 840 Point Rd., just 4 miles north of the club.
Whether it’s the excitement of the event, the excitement for the course, or both, the fact remains that this year’s U.S. Senior Amateur set a record with 2,865 entries accepted, more than 300 from the year prior. Aside from the 30-plus exempt players, those entries will have to advance through one of several qualifiers nationwide to make the field of 156.
This year, Mass Golf will host two qualifying events for the U.S. Senior Amateur. The first takes place July 18 at Captains Golf Course on Cape Cod, followed by another one July 25 at Charles River Country Club.
Currently no Mass Golf members are exempt in the field. However, there will very likely be some Bay State representation, especially after last year’s event. For the 2021 Championship Proper at Country Club of Detroit (MI), six players qualified for the championship: Darin Eddy (Marshfield Country Club), Dean Godek (Agawam Municipal Golf Course), Daniel Harding (Wellesley Country Club), Mike McKenna (Far Corner Golf Course), Keith Smith (Franklin Country Club), and Frank Vana, Jr. (Marlborough Country Club). Smith, the 2021 Mass Golf George M Cohen Senior Player of the Year, had the best performance, finishing 3-over in stroke play and winning his first round match to make it to the Round of 32.
Gratton is among a list of Kittansett members who will try to qualify, including Claude Hoopes and Don Anderson, who won the Super Senior Division of the Mass Senior Four-Ball Championship earlier this year.
Defending champion Gene Elliott, who also won the British Senior Amateur last year, is among the notable exempt players. This list also includes Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley (1975 U.S. Amateur champion); Nathaniel Crosby (1981 U.S. Amateur champion and son of the late Bing Crosby) Stewart “Buddy” Alexander (1986 U.S. Amateur champion). Crosby was also the U.S. Walker Cup captain in 2019 and 2021.
“This is an amazing field of a combination of generations coming together to compete,” said Greg Sanfilippo, tournament director for the U.S. Senior Amateur.
This event marks the 60th USGA® event held in Massachusetts, including this year’s U.S. Open at The Country Club and the 2021 U.S. Mid-Amateur at Sankaty Head Golf Club and Miacomet Golf Course on Nantucket.
Naturally, there’s some things with both USGA championships this year. Kittansett architect William Flynn also designed the 9-hole Primrose Course at The Country Club, which opened in 1929. Four holes from that course were used in this year’s U.S. Open, including Holes 1 and 2, which were combined for the par-4 13th. Hole 9 was the 9th hole and Hole 8 was the 14th.
Will Fulton, the tournament chairman for the U.S. Open, is also a member at The Kittansett Club. The Fultons hosted Matthew Fitzpatrick, who went on to win the U.S. Open.
The Mass Golf community has already stepped up en masse to volunteer for this year’s U.S. Senior Amateur. Gratton said Thursday that there are over 300 confirmed volunteers for this year’s championship proper. There are also individuals from out of state, including Ohio, who are coming out to assist with this event.
“To speak to the volunteer support that we have here in Massachusetts, it’s absolutely phenomenal,” Sanfilippo said.
Those who are interested in volunteering are encouraged to contact the club and Gene Lonergan, the Volunteer Chair of the event.
WATCH: HOLE BY HOLE FLYOVERS AT THE KITTANSETT CLUB (FROM 2020)
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