Bridgehampton, N.Y. – Hosting a USGA championship is no easy task. Besides offering an outstanding golf course, many other intangibles come into play in the effort to ensure that players and host club and visiting officials have an enjoyable experience.
Now try achieving that in a region where the membership is seasonal and accommodations are at a premium.
That was the challenge facing the organizing committee for the 2010 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship at Atlantic Golf Club on the far eastern end of Long Island.
It starts with proper organization and General Chairman Dennis Suskind and Executive Director Karen Kooi have managed to create a plan that they are hoping will make the field of 264 competitors feel like members.
Someone asked me the other day, ‘Why are you the general chairman of this [championship]?’ said Suskind, an original Atlantic member and a longtime Southampton resident. It’s a tremendous amount of work. But it’s two reasons: I’ve been out here a long time. I’ve been a local councilman and I love the South Fork. And I want to show it off whenever I can. And two, I want to show off the Atlantic Golf Club with its hospitality, with its food and most importantly, with its golf course.
Suskind brought in Kooi, who had previously worked at Atlantic for six years as an assistant manager before moving over to nearby Sebonack Golf Club to be its general manager.
The club invited me back [in 2008] to put together the Mid-Am Championship, said Kooi.
Because the Mid-Amateur is played in late September when most of Atlantic’s members aren’t around, Kooi and Suskind had to recruit outside volunteers. They went to Southampton Golf Club, which has a local membership. They visited with community-service clubs like the Rotary. They went to golf associations such as the Long Island Women’s Golf Association, Long Island Golf Association, the Executive Women’s Golf Association and the Metropolitan Golf Association. With the 2009 U.S. Open having been contested on Long Island at Bethpage State Park, Kooi and Suskind procured volunteer lists from the USGA.
The goal was to land between 300 and 350 volunteers.
We have people even coming from New York City, said Suskind, adding that each volunteer receives two shirts, a windbreaker, a hat and meals, provided they work at least four shifts. It’s been very well-received.
Suskind, who has organized the annual Hampton Classic Horse Show, and Cooi created 14 team captains who will serve as committee chairs. All 14 gathered as a group for the first time on May 13 at Atlantic during Mid-Amateur media day.
The biggest challenge is finding accommodations in a region devoid of major resorts. While the East End is a popular summer retreat, most visitors stay in homes, not large hotels. Cooi was able to secure 90 rooms at the Southampton Inn.
We are spread out throughout the area, said Kooi. Everything we reserved is like 10 to 15 rooms.
Transportation was another area of concern. With a majority of players flying into JFK, LaGuardia or Islip airports, the club could not logistically provide transportation to and from all three airports. So players will have to rely on rental cars.
Atlantic’s clubhouse isn’t enormous, either, so they rented a tent to host the two major championship events: a dinner prior to play on Thursday night and the post-round party on Sunday after stroke-play qualifying.
With 50 to 60 caddies on property and many more at nearby facilities such as Shinnecock Hills, National Golf Links of America, Maidstone, Sebonack, Southampton and The Bridge, having enough caddies should not be a problem. Kooi said some have delayed leaving for Florida and the winter season to work the Mid-Amateur.
Atlantic also is providing concierge service for players and their families. Need a dinner reservation? The concierge will handle it.
We’ve spoken to a list of restaurants that will hold tables for the players and USGA [officials], said Suskind. They will even give them discounts.
We’ll even have a beer dispenser in the locker room. It’s all the little things that will make them say, ‘They are treating us special.’ We want people to walk away saying this is the best Mid-Am ever.
David Shefter is a USGA communications staff writer. E-mail him with questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.