THE MODERATOR: I would especially like to welcome the leadership here at Olympic Club, past presidents, staff who have joined us here this morning. We joined by leaders from the USGA and across the golf community today for this very special announcement, John Bodenhamer is the USGA senior managing director of Rules, Competitions and Equipment Standards; Dennis Murphy, current president of the Olympic Club. On the phone we are pleased to be joined by Josh Lesnick, president of Kemper Sports Management. Josh is representing two exceptional facilities that are central to today's announcement. We are also for fortunate to be joined by our dear friend, Johnny Miller, 1973 U.S. Open winner and golf commentator for NBC, the USGA's long‑time broadcast partner.
And I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the presence of the U.S. Women's Amateur and Golf Channel correspondent Kay Cockerill, who is also an Olympic Club member and has joined us here today. Like to thank Mike Dewees, Lake side manager for hosting us this morning, as well as Pat Cornett from the Club's Championship Committee, for their support thank you very much.
Now it's my pleasure to turn over the program to John Bodenheimer, the senior managing director of Rules, Competitions and Equipment Standards for the USGA.
JOHN BODENHAMER: Thank you, Joe, and good morning everyone. On behalf of the USGA Executive Committee and Championship Committee, thank you for joining us this morning for this very exciting announcement.
Before I begin, I would be remiss if I didn't take just a moment to mention that our championship committee chairman, Thomas J. O'Toole, Jr., intended to join us this morning but unfortunately he could not be with us. He is tending to much more important business this morning as he and his wife, Julie, await the birth of a new addition to their family, a new baby in St. Louis. So I know all of us here today wish Tom and Julie and their family the very best as they await their new addition that is closely at hand.
As many of you know when the USGA was formed in December of 1894, it was for the purpose of serving two primary missions: To write and interpret The Rules of Golf and conduct national championships. 119 years later, these two missions are still at the very core what the USGA is all about.
Indeed, it is our newest championship that brings us together today. And not just any championship, but two new competitions that we believe represent the USGA's long‑standing and ongoing commitment to the amateur game.
The USGA's support of amateur golf and the conduct of our ten individual amateur championships represent the heart and soul of the association. Nearly all of our activities from The Rules of Golf, amateur status handicapping, course rating, junior golf program and even assisting golf course superintendents who care for the golf courses through the wonderful work of our greens section, all of our services are geared towards the millions of amateur golfers around the country and around the world.
This past February, the USGA demonstrated its commitment to the amateur game by announcing the establishment of our new U.S. Amateur Four‑Ball and U.S. Women’s Amateur Four‑Ball Championships, the first national championships to be added to the USGA's competition schedule since 1995.
Four‑ball has been a widely popular format as the state and regional Golf Association level and at golf clubs all across the United States. It's form of play is enjoyed by millions of golfers every day in regular matches, during road trips, in member/guest competitions and in charitable events.
In 2012, more than 150 championships, either strictly four‑ball or four‑ball as part of a competition, were held in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Because the four‑ball format lends itself to spirited team competition and encourages the risk/reward shot‑making type of play, we are confident that these two national championships will deliver exciting amateur golf on the national stage for players and spectators alike.
As with all USGA national championships, it takes dedicated support and expertise from the very finest golf clubs and facilities throughout the country to effectively stage our national championships. It's a big endeavor. While it certainly takes a great golf course to produce a great test of golf, another necessary ingredient is the gracious support of members and ownership, as well as a talented staff to produce a truly memorable championship.
With our new Amateur Four‑Ball Championships, we are once again privileged to have invitations from two of the nations most historic golf clubs, from a world‑renowned destination resort, as well as from a relatively newer celebrated venue, and we are excited about all of them.
So on behalf of the USGA's Championship Committee and 7,000 USGA members, our 1,200 USGA committee volunteers and staff, it is my privilege to formally announce today that the inaugural U.S. Amateur Four‑Ball and U.S. Women’s Amateur FOUR‑BALL championship will be played here at the Olympic Club in is San Francisco and at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Bandon Dunes, respectively. The dates for both championships will be April 30 through May 6, 2015.
With the beauty of the Lake and Ocean Courses here at Olympic and the wonderful diverse City of San Francisco that surrounds it, the Olympic Club is one of the world's great tests of golf and has delivered a string of exciting and historic USGA championships over the last 60 years. This includes five U.S. Opens, three U.S. Amateurs, and along with the 2004 U.S. Junior Amateur Championship.
It will be thrilling to watch teams of amateur four‑ball players walk in the footsteps and play the same shots here at the Olympic Club as such greats as Hogan and Fleck, and Palmer and Casper, and Stewart and Janzen, and Woods and Simpson.
Both the Lake and Ocean Courses will host 36‑hole stroke play qualifying for the championship, and then the Lake Course will host the match play portion of the competition as we look to crown a winning team.
Bandon Dunes Golf Resort on the picturesque Oregon coast will be hosting its fifth USGA National Championship. It was the site for the 2006 Curtis Cup, the 2007 U.S. Mid‑Amateur championship and both the 2011 U.S. Amateur Public Links and U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links Championship.
In just over a decade, Bandon Dunes has become a destination or golfers all across the world and is known for its incomparable views, dramatic terrain and environmental sustainability.
While the resort has four marvelous golf courses, the Women's Amateur four‑ball championship will be contested on the Bandon Dunes course. Both the Olympic Club and Bandon Dunes Golf Resort is consistently ranked at the top in term of their challenge to the world's best players as well as their support and commitment to amateur golf. For that we are grateful and proud to be both at the Olympic Club and Bandon Dunes Golf Resort for these inaugural championships.
Onward to 2016, we continue the excitement. We are pleased to announce that Winged Foot Golf Club just outside of New York City and Streamsong Resort, just outside of Tampa, Florida will host the 2016 U.S. Amateur Four‑Ball and U.S. Women's Amateur Four‑Ball Championships, respectively. Both championships are scheduled to be played May 19‑25, 2016. So a little bit later the next year.
Winged Foot Golf Club also has a rich and storied history as everybody knows in hosting USGA championships. The club offers a truly magnificent is setting in a dynamic market and has justifiably earned its reputation as one of the premiere championship venues in the nation. The 2016 U.S. Amateur Four‑Ball Championship will be the 12th USGA Championship conducted at Winged Foot, which has hosted five U.S. Opens and is scheduled to host another U.S. Open in 2020, its sixth.
While Winged Foot East and West Courses will host the 36‑hole stroke‑play portion of the Championship, the club's treasured East Course will serve as the primary venue on which we will play the match‑play portion of the competition. The club has engaged acclaimed golf course architect Gil Hanse, who is in the midst of putting the finishing touches on a major restoration of a venue that has hosted two U.S. Women's Opens and the inaugural U.S. Senior Open in 1980.
In hosting the 2016 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four‑Ball, this will be Streamsong Resort's first USGA Championship and we are excited about it. While a newcomer to elite competition, Streamsong, an outstanding championship venue in every way and with two fabulous courses that opened for play in 2012, its Red and Blue Courses are fabulous. They were designed by Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore, and the Blue Course was designed by Tom Doak. We think it will deliver a truly challenging test for our members' Amateur Four‑Ball Championship. It's really a great site.
Streamsong is new, but we at the USGA are truly convinced that it will provide a magnificent setting for our Women's Amateur Four‑Ball Championship in 2016 and we are very much looking forward to it's Blue Course designed by Tom Doak hosting the championship.
We set forth to identify the best host sites for these new USGA national championships, it was our goal primarily to create a 'wow' factor when announcing the sites and conducting the inaugural championships, and I think with our announcement today and these four sites, I think we have achieved that; at least we feel we have, and we hope the golf community will, too. We could not be more proud and believe while we have achieved that wow factor, the best lies ahead and we can't wait to begin preparations for these he events.
So we look forward to these four sights, and the world‑canvas that they will provide for talented amateur players to showcase this unique and exciting brand of competition, the risk/reward that it offers, amateur golfers are bound by passion for it the game and its unwavering challenges, its long‑held traditions and its unique culture of sportsmanship, respect and camaraderie. These course sites share in that position, and share in the USGA's commitment to amateur golf, as well as to the millions who play for the enjoyment and simple love of the game as part of what this championship is all about.
So to the Olympic Club, Bandon Dunes Golf Resort and Winged Foot Golf Club and Streamsong Resort, we say thank you for the generosity and your continued partnership with the USGA in hosting these national championships and assisting us as we work for the good of the game.
At this time I would like to introduce club president here at the Olympic Club, Dennis Murphy.
DENNIS MURPHY: Thanks, John. I speak on behalf of our 9,000 members when I say that the Olympic Club is deeply honored that the USGA has accepted our invitation to host the inaugural U.S. Amateur Four‑Ball Championship at our historic site in 2015.
As has been mentioned, this be will be the 10th USGA Championship that we have had the pleasure of hosting. We are especially thrilled that our newly‑enhanced Ocean Golf Course will be thrown into the national spotlight during the stroke‑play portion of this championship. Our Lake Course needs no such acclaim as can be attested by the hugely successful, by any metric, 2012 U.S. Open. We expect that both of our championships courses will offer a wonderful challenge for all the top amateurs who qualify.
The Olympic Club is the oldest athletic club in the country. Among our clubs founding principles is to continually foster amateur athletics. Thus, we feel that hosting such a championship is a perfect fit for us. We could not be more pleased, and we hope to set the bar at a very high level for future sites fortunate enough to be chosen as venues for this championship.
Thank you all very much, we graciously accept and look forward to the challenge.
THE MODERATOR: We are also fortunate to have with us via the telephone this morning, Josh Lesnick, president of Kemper Lesnick and Kemper Sports, which oversees Bandon Dunes and Streamsong Resorts as part of the company's portfolio of 100 managed golf facilities around the country. Josh previously served as general manager of Bandon where he spearheaded the grand opening, managed daily operations, marketing and communications.
He has a unique perspective on what this championship will mean for Bandon and Streamsong, and again he joins us by telephone.
JOSH LESNICK: Thank you, Joe, and thanks to the Olympic Club for hosting today.
On behalf of Mike Keiser of Bandon Dunes and Rich Mack of Streamsong, as well as all of the staff and caddies at both resorts, thank you to the USGA, including Tom O'Toole and the championship committee for accepting our invitations to host the 2015 and 2016 Women's Amateur Four‑Ball Championships, respectively.
Bandon Dunes, as John said, we will be hosting our fifth USGA Championship. It's become pretty evident that Mike Keiser is committed to promoting the amateur game at Bandon Dunes where frankly everything he does is about the love of the game.
I think the USGA staff and volunteers that have helped host championships at Bandon in the past would share the sentiment of just how exciting it is for our small community in Bandon to host these national championships, not only for the resort staff and caddies, but for the residents and the community, as well, who truly embrace our guests. It creates a real sense of community pride.
For Streamsong, this will be our first‑time hosting a USGA Championship, and we have been and continue to be extremely excited to watch the golf world's reaction to this world‑class property unfold over the next few years.
The competitors will find, as our golfers have found, that while the golf courses feel tucked away in some faraway belt of sand dunes, it's actually quite easy to get there from both Tampa and Orlando.
Streamsong is thrilled to be starting our partnership off with the USGA, while obviously still in our infancy, and we look forward to a great relationship in hosting firm and fast amateur championships for years to come.
Mike Keiser, the mosaic corporation, which are the owners of Streamsong, as well as Kemper Sports, are particularly excited about this new format as it is frankly the most popular format amongst our resort guests, at these two facilities, as well as golf courses everywhere.
In fact, with no offense to anyone else on the line, if anyone is looking for a match, I would be happy to take our next speaker as a partner.
I'd just again like to say thanks to the staff and volunteers of the USGA and thanks again to the Olympic Club for hosting.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks very much. Finally, we are pleased to welcome Johnny Miller who joins us via telephone, as well. Johnny is no stranger so San Francisco, the Olympic Club or USGA competition, nor is he unfamiliar with competing in team competition. He won the 1964 U.S. junior amateur and first qualified for the 66 U.S. Open right here at Olympic Club, and is the 1973 U.S. Open Champion and played on two successful USA Ryder Cup teams in 1975 and in 1981 respectively. He is a currently the lead golf analyst on NBC and is uniquely position to share his position on these host venues, the excitement of four‑ball championship competition, and the impact these new championships will have on the amateur game.
JOHNNY MILLER: First of all, welcome, everybody. Feel like I should be at Olympic Club but I'm in a ski area at Utah now.
It's great news and I am excited about a chance for these players like my sons or whatever, really good players all over the world for that matter, to team up with a best buddy and go for this four‑ball championship. I think it's going to be super, super popular, I really do. I was lucky enough to play in some Ryder Cups with Casper and Weiskopf in four‑ball, and of course covered The Ryder Cup for many years with their championships, too. I won the four‑ball with Jack Nicklaus in the PGA National Team Championship and had some other good finishes, so I'm a big fan. As well, we played our matches on Monday, Tuesday on the Tour.
I think the reason why the four‑ball works so well is there are a lot of players out there that don't necessarily under pressure want to be teeing it up ‑‑ but with a partner, they can just turn it loose and be more free, and obviously they have backup with a partner.
And there's a lot of strategy as to whether you go one long hitter and one more of a Tom Kite player that's steady and makes a lot of pars and how you put those teams together. There's risk/reward situations and the four‑ball is really fun. I think it's going to be as popular as almost any Amateur Championship, I really do.
And of course, being at Olympic Club is going to be fantastic. The Ocean Course is super, and with the qualifying, and of course the guys are going to have to worry about ‑‑ inaudible ‑‑ on the Lake Course, so it's going to be important to be steady and down the middle.
JOHN BODENHAMER: I don't know that there's anything unique in the timing of 2015 other than this has been discussed in the walls of Golf House for the last six years. I think the genesis of it was one of many things emanating from Mike Davis, and it's been something we have discussed for many, many years, simply because we recognize that four‑ball is such a popular format around the country. It truly appeals to the grass roots of golf.
As Johnny said, players will find a partner and play together. It enhances the risk/reward side of things and it also allows them to travel together and stay together and go out to dinner together and have a good time together and qualify together.
We think this particular format, being that it's in the shoulder season for us, normally we kick off our championship season with the U.S. Open in the middle of June. But this being in late April, early May, mid May, we think it will hopefully appeal to a new set of players that maybe haven't experienced USGA competition before, both at the qualifying level and championship level.
We think the form of play will encourage new players that, as Johnny said, have not experienced USGA competition before. We think we are broadening our horizons. We think the time is right for that, because we see at the state and regional level and all around the country that this is such a popular and excitement format, so we think the time is now for a National Championship.
Q. How does The Ocean Course play and Lake Course play, stroke play versus match play?
JOHNNY MILLER: Well, that's a good question. Pars and birdies are always good ‑‑ I think the bottom line, The Ocean Course has its own set of challenges. It's not as tough as the Lake, but it isn't an easy course, but it has I think more birdie opportunities.
The Lake Course is interesting, I don't know how they are going to play No. 1, but might go that time of year, go back to being a par 5, I don't know. But there are birdie holes on the Lake Course. 1, if it's a par 5, and 7. There are not a lot of easy I holes. 17, I don't know if they will play that as a par 5.
So, you know, it's interesting how it will be set up, and it's fun to have that hard hole/easy hole type of situation you had at Merion. You had all those holes at Merion that you think, hey, the guys are going to rip this up, and yet they got eight holes that are as tough as anywhere in the world.
So that was a nice competition. I hope it's set up that way on both courses where you have birdie holes and bogey‑type holes and not so many sort of par holes.
Q. If your goal was wow, I think you hit your goal. Curious if you have flushed out the qualifying process much to this point to the extent that you can share that with us, and then also, a related question, how many of the two‑man teams will advance to the men's and women's finals?
JOHN BODENHAMER: Glad to hear you think we've achieved our wow factors.
To address each of those questions, I would say from the get‑go that the fields in both competitions will be as follows: Men's competition will have a starting field of 128 teams, and after 36 hole stroke play qualifying, the low 32 will advance to match play, and the women's championship will start with 64 teams, and the low 32 will advance to match play, as well.
We have determined the qualifying process. It will be a little bit unique as compared it to USGA qualifying otherwise. Being that this is in an early year time of the year for us to conduct a national championship, as early as late April, we felt particularly in the northern tier of the country, we felt it was important to begin qualifying for this in the fall or late summer of 2014 to allow those in the upper tier of the country to begin qualifying then, and advance their teams from qualifying into a time frame where they might be coming out of a tough winter otherwise and not able to hold qualifying in February or March like the Southern states.
So what you will see, in essence, is a seven‑and‑a‑half‑month window of qualifying, which is something that we have never done before. Entries will be available and there will be the ability to answer and a little bit of a window for a substitution deadline and then you're in and then you'll qualify, and whether it's a couple of weeks that you qualify for the championship to a few months.
So it is a bit unique and we have a few challenges, but we think we are ready for it. We have been through everything we can think of to facilitate that and we think it will be a nice mix and a nice setup to allow us to accommodate the entire country to play in a spring championship.
Qualifying will be conducted by our state and regional golf association partners all around the country. There will be men's and women's sites conducted all around the country by the state and regional golf associations and each of those qualifyings will be played over 18 holes. So there will be an 18‑hole qualifying throughout the country to advance through the championship process.
Q. Can you just discuss when you're introducing a new championship the importance of getting names like Olympic and Winged Foot involved? And Johnny, sometimes the East Course is overshadowed, can you describe what's going to make that a fun match‑play course?
JOHN BODENHAMER: I think just going back to both of those questions, when we looked at the inaugural years of those championships, and let's talk about the inaugural events. It's an opportunity to write history.
And we think and we have sat and talked at great length about where we might go for the first championships and we are grateful that the Olympic Club and Bandon Dunes Golf Resort have invited us to come.
We think for a number of reasons, both the great championship venues that they present, that's proven with their past USGA history and great support of the junior and amateur game; but also their support of amateur golf along with the ability to do things with our championships, like produce ‑‑ there will be proper agronomics available, late April and May in the Oregon coast and here in San Francisco are great time frames for us to be able to get the golf courses firm and fast and to do what we want, truly to identify the best players in a given week to identify these national champions.
So we are excited about that. We think it's a recipe for success from the beginning, and we think that the notoriety of Olympic Club coming off a very successful U.S. Open recently, and tremendously successful championships, Curtis Cup, Mid‑Amateur, Public Links championships at Bandon Dunes were met with rave reviews from players and fans alike. We felt that that it would just jump us into these championships running, and set a fine tradition that would really create, as we say, the wow factor and really create a buzz in the golf community to say, hey, I have to go qualify for those two championships.
Certainly Winged Foot and Streamsong add to that. To have another U.S. Open venue, and when players see some of those images and visit Streamsong and see how magnificent it is, we think in 2016 it will be every bit as exciting and we can't wait to get started.
With regard to the East Course, the most unique thing about the East Course, it's had so many great championships and Winged Foot is such an iconic venue, and with Gil Hanse's recent work and the restoration going on there, I know the club is very excited about showcasing the East Course and playing match play. I can assure you that we will set it up as we will at each of these venues to enhance and to encourage that risk/reward shot‑making, both not trying to knock it on in par 5 or drive a green on a par 4 hole. Those are some of the things we will do.
I have not seen all of Mr. Hanse's work on the East Course, but I can't wait to be out there a little later this summer and when he completes it, we will begin strategizing for just how we will set it up. We think it can't be anymore exciting in 2016 for match play than the East.
JOHNNY MILLER: I agree with that assessment there. If I was standing with Mike Davis ‑‑ I'm not sure if he's going to be doing it or not, but how much rough there is or whether you have a combination of nine really hard hole locations a day and nine that are sort of, you know, not funnels but where the ball likes to end up where you have a lot of tough holes, easy holes ‑‑ I just think it makes it more interesting.
I'm actually curious what the USGA's goal will be in setting these great courses up, Olympic Club and Winged Foot, and of course Bandon Dunes and Streamsong, it will be interesting how they set it up, where you have the combination of maybe a putt will win a hole or you'll have both teams making birdie on another hole. I'm really looking forward to it.
I don't know if the USGA realizes, this could be possibly the most popular tournament for amateurs in the country. I just think people are going to be coming out of the woodwork. I see this ‑‑ me being the guy that talks about the choke factor more than anybody in history. There's a lot of guys that won't tee it up and, all of a sudden in this kind of format, you'll have guys that will just be bold and want to putt their reputation on the line or whatever, they will sort of be able to hide with their partner it sort of seems psychologically and maybe play some great golf with the confidence of their partner with them.
I just think that a lot of people are going to want to be part of it. I think it's amazing how people are going to want to be part of this.
Q. Josh, can you just kind of talk about how Bandon got involved when the bidding came up for the inaugural event and how this process came through with Bandon to host it?
JOSH LESNICK: Well, you know, the USGA, I think we have had a great relationship in the past, and you know, knowing that the announcement for the new event was coming up, we were certainly interested in it. We would send our invitation in, and kind of talk through what would make it a successful championship. And having, you know, talked through that with John and others at the USGA, it just became evident that the USGA felt it would be a great place for the championship.
Q. Will the golf course setup be similar to a U.S. Open‑type setup?
JOHN BODENHAMER: I think you'll see some similar ties. I think at the USGA, it's always our goal to achieve firm and fast conditions. I think the U.S. Open is unique in and of itself as each of our Open Championships, the U.S. Open, Senior Open and Women's Open. You'll see firm and fast conditions and significant rough and challenges around the green complexes.
I think it will be different than the U.S. Open. I think as I said, we will ‑‑ and as Johnny has just alluded to, we will do everything we can to encourage the risk/reward sort of play, and that might mean having a couple of teeing grounds played a little bit further forward for competition than you would see for a U.S. Open. While the golf course will be agronomically similar and rough and greens being the same, I think you'll see the setup dish to encourage the risk/reward play.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks for joining us today, and this is a great next step in conducting the 2015 and 2016 U.S. Amateur Four‑Ball Championships. Thanks very much.