U.S. WOMEN'S AMATEUR FOUR-BALL
Bandon Dunes a Stern Test for Inaugural Women's Four-Ball April 1, 2015 | Bandon, Ore. By Zack Hall

A look at the picturesque 11th hole at Pacific Dunes, site of the inaugural U.S. Women's Four-Ball Championship. (USGA/Kirk H. Owens)

When Mike Keiser first envisioned what would become Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, he dreamed of making links golf far more accessible for American amateur golfers.

Nearly two decades later, the owner of Bandon Dunes has brought that vision to life with four renowned links courses on this remote, wild stretch of Southern Oregon coastline along the Pacific Ocean.

“Bandon Dunes pays homage to the great links courses of the British Isles,” said Keiser at media day for the inaugural U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship. “I built them not for championships, but for all of us.”

Keiser also enjoys challenging elite amateur competitors with this most traditional form of golf. The first Women’s Amateur Four-Ball will be contested May 9-13 on the Pacific Dunes Course. Sixty-four teams of two will play two rounds of stroke-play qualifying to narrow the field to 32 teams (64 players) for match play. Each competitor will play their own ball, with the lower of the two scores counting as the official score for the hole.

Keiser is excited about the new addition to the USGA championships calendar, which will be broadcast on Fox Sports 1.

“I love it,” he said. “I thought it was brilliant. … Having a four-ball championship is going to be great for golf.”

That Bandon Dunes is hosting a USGA championship for a fifth time should come as no surprise. The 16-year-old resort previously hosted the 2006 Curtis Cup Match, the 2007 U.S. Mid-Amateur and the 2011 U.S. Amateur Public Links and U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links championships.

“Mike’s love for links golf, the amateur game and match play makes hosting our fifth USGA championship such a great fit,” said Josh Lesnik, president of KemperSports and the former general manager of Bandon Dunes.

Pacific Dunes, which will measure 6,003 yards and play as a par 72 for the championship, figures to create a stern test for the competitors. Pacific Dunes’ links design should also present a natural risk-reward element to a format that tends to foster aggressive play.

Rachel Graves, the USGA’s director of competition for the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball, said that Pacific Dunes’ beachfront par-4 fourth hole will be stretched to a 463-yard par 5. She also sees possibilities to use upper and lower teeing grounds to change the look of the par-3 10th hole. The USGA could use a forward tee on the par-5 15th hole to make it reachable in two shots and shorten the par-4 16th hole to a drivable 292 yards.

“For many players, it will be the most challenging, yet fair, test of golf they will see all year,” Graves said. “You will quickly learn that the key to playing this course well is patience. The course can be intimidating given the winds, tight lies and the need for good course strategy.”

Pacific Dunes’ fescue grasses also create firm and fast conditions that require an adjustment period when played for the first time. Based on the unique conditions, local knowledge can be of particular advantage.

Keiser has no illusions that this tiny seaside village could one day host a U.S. Open, but the visionary Bandon Dunes owner also promises that his courses will remain a venue for some of the USGA’s most prestigious championships.

The reason is simple.

“We’ve always been about amateur golf,” Keiser declared.

“I like all the USGA championships,” he added. “Hopefully in 20 years when we talk, we’ll be able to point to having hosted each one but the U.S. Open.”

The USGA also unveiled the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Trophy to the public for the first time. Designed by Nicholas Winton, an English silversmith, the trophies for the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball and U.S. Amateur Four-Ball championships were the first trophies to be commissioned by the USGA since 1948. Trophies for other recently added USGA championships such as the U.S. Mid-Amateur (1981) and U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur (1987) were donated to the Association.

The women’s trophy is an ornate silver cup that sits on a base that features a four-balls-and-four-clubs motif. The USGA logo and the name of the championship, “U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball,” are etched on the trophy. A silver band wraps around the base where the names of future champions will someday be engraved.

That band sits empty, for now. On May 13, that will change forever when the inaugural Women’s Amateur Four-Ball crowns its first champion at Pacific Dunes.

Zack Hall is an Oregon-based freelance writer.

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