SAN FRANCISCO – The U.S. Golf Association wanted to make a splash in its selection of sites for the new U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship announced earlier this year.
And it believes it has done just that.
Just a year after hosting the U.S. Open, The Olympic Club in San Francisco was selected Monday to host the inaugural men's four-ball championship in 2015. Bandon Dunes Golf Resort on the Oregon coast will hold the first women's event that spring.
Winged Foot Golf Club just outside New York City will be the site of the men's tournament in 2016, while the women will go to the newly designed Streamsong Resort near Tampa, Fla., that year.
''When we set forth to identify those sites for these new USGA national championships, it was our goal primarily to create a wow factor when announcing these sites and conducting these inaugural championships,'' USGA Senior Managing Director John Bodenhamer said at a news conference at Olympic Club. ''And I think with these four announcements we've done that.''
It's the first time since the State Team Championships in 1995 that the USGA has introduced a new championship.
Adding these two tournaments means the end of two others, however. That includes the U.S. Amateur Public Links, which dates to 1922 and has a list of winners that includes Trevor Immelman, Tim Clark and Brandt Snedeker. Also being abandoned is the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links, where Michelle Wie made history in 2003 at age 13 as the youngest winner of a USGA championship for adults.
USGA Vice President Thomas O'Toole Jr. said the better-ball format for the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship – announced as replacements to both in February – should lend to more exciting golf. He also said it was gaining in popularity, with more than 150 tournaments using the format in state and regional competitions last year.
The USGA said there would be no age restriction for teams in the Four-Ball championships, and that players do not have to belong to the same club, or even come from the same state or country. There will be 36 holes of stroke-play competition – counting the better score of the two players on each hole – before the field is reduced to 32 teams for the four-ball format in match play.
''This could be possibly the most popular tournament for amateurs in the country,'' said Johnny Miller, a two-time major champion and longtime NBC golf analyst who played at Olympic Club growing up. ''I just think there are going to be people coming out of the woodwork. Me being the guy who's talked about the choke factor probably more than anyone in history, there's a lot of guys who just won't tee it up.
''All of a sudden, in this kind of format, you're going to have guys who before didn't want to put their reputation on the line or whatever, they're going to be able to sort of hide with their partner psychologically and maybe play some great golf.''
Qualifying will begin as early as next August. The national events will take 128 two-player teams for men and 64 for women. The inaugural championships will be held from April 30 to May 6 for both the men and women.
Olympic Club, founded in 1860, is the oldest athletic club in the U.S. The four-ball competition will be the 10th USGA championship Olympic has hosted, including five U.S. Opens on the Lake Course.
Winged Foot will host its 12th USGA championship with the four-ball event scheduled for May 19-25 in 2016. The club also is set to host the U.S. Open on its West Course for the sixth time in 2020.
Bandon Dunes will be hosting its fifth USGA championship. Streamsong Resort has never held a USGA championship.