The remarkable growth of senior golf prompted the USGA to establish the Senior Amateur Championship in 1955. Many senior golf associations had come into being on the local, state, and regional level, proving that the competitive instinct among golfers was not diminished by age.
In 1955, the notion of a tournament only for seniors was not a new one. Fifty years earlier, the Apawamis Club, in Rye, N.Y., had started the oldest senior competition still in existence, which led directly to the formation of the U.S. Senior Golf Association, a private organization not linked to the USGA.
Apawamis extended invitations to golfers 60 years of age and older. When the response was not overwhelming, the age minimum was dropped to 55 to gather a representative field. Thus was the definition of a senior amateur golfer established.
The U.S. Senior Golf Association conducted a fine tournament, but membership in the organization was limited, and a long waiting list developed. Because there was no one event open to all senior amateurs, the USGA was asked to start a true national championship. The Senior Amateur was added to the schedule in 1955. Entries were open to golfers age 55 and over who had handicaps not over 10 strokes.
Addition of the Senior Amateur gave the USGA exactly twice as many championships as it had conducted before World War II, when there were just four: the Amateur, Open, and Women's Amateur, started in 1895, and the Amateur Public Links (1922). From World War II until 1955, the USGA added four more: the Junior Amateur (1948), the Girls' Junior (1949), the Women's Open (1953), and the Senior Amateur (1955). The USGA now conducts 13 national championships, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.
The first Senior Amateur, at Belle Meade Country Club, in Nashville, Tenn., drew 370 entries from 30 states and the District of Columbia. J. Wood Platt, 56, the eight-time Philadelphia Amateur champion, defeated George Studinger of San Francisco, Calif., 5 and 4, in the final.
In 1959, J. Clark Espie, who had won in 1957, became the Senior Amateur's first two-time champion. Lewis W. Oehmig, a record six-time finalist, is also the only three-time winner (1972, 1976, 1985).
Senior Amateur contestants may ride in carts, a concession not allowed when the championship was first played. Traditionalists, who believed walking was vital to a valid national title, finally gave in because the championship is played in the fall, when it is difficult to obtain caddies. Carts have been allowed since 1969.
USGA Senior Amateur Championship
PAR AND YARDAGE – The Farm Golf Club will be set up at 6,737/6,763 and par is 36-36—72.
COURSE SET-UP –
VENUE – The Farm Golf Club was designed by Tom Fazio and opened in 1988. Located between Atlanta and Chattanooga in northwest Georgia, The Farm benefits from significant elevation changes, which provide a scenic and difficult test of golf.
HISTORY – The USGA Senior Amateur Championship was first played in 1955. The 2005 Senior Amateur Championship will be the 51st.
SCHEDULE – Stroke play rounds will be played Sept. 17-18 (Saturday-Sunday). Following two days of stroke play, the field of 157 golfers will be reduced to the lowest 64 scorers, who will advance to match play. The match play portion of the Championship runs from September 19-22 (Monday-Thursday). The first round is set for Sept. 19 (9:30 a.m. start); the second and third rounds for Sept. 20 (8:15 a.m. and 1:45 p.m. starts) and the quarterfinals and semifinals (8:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. starts) for Sept. 21. The 18-hole, match-play final (9 a.m.) is scheduled for Sept. 22.
CAN I PLAY? – The USGA Senior Amateur Championship is open to amateurs who will have reached their 55th birthday on or before Sept. 17, 2005, and who have a USGA Handicap Index not exceeding 7.4.
ENTRIES – The USGA accepted a record 2,498 entries for the 2005 USGA Senior Amateur Championship, the fifth consecutive year entries topped 2,200. The previous record of 2,420 entries was set in 2004. The deadline for entries was July 27.
TICKETS – Admission and parking are free for all six days of the championship.
DEFENDING CHAMPION – In the finals of the 2004 championship, Mark Bemowski of Mukwonago, Wis., reversed the outcome of the 2002 by defeating Greg Reynolds, 4 and 3, at Bel-Air Country Club in Los Angeles, Calif. In 2002, Reynolds had beaten Bemowski by the same margin.