By Ron Green Jr.firstname.lastname@example.org
There is attention to detail, and then there is the challenge Morgan Lang, director of the U.S. Women’s Amateur golf championship, gave her staff at Charlotte Country Club.
Memorize each of the 156 players from 32 states and 14 countries by name before they arrived.There were even staff quizzes.
“It’s important that they feel welcome here because this is their event,” Lang said.
As the first of two days of qualifying begins Monday at Charlotte Country Club, more than a year of planning and preparation is in full operation.
It ultimately is about the golf – the low 64 players in the stroke-play qualifying portion will advance to match play beginning Wednesday – but bringing it all together has been a major logistical challenge.
A small army of volunteers has been recruited to do everything from hosting some players in their homes to providing transportation to selling drinks on the course.
Lang arrived in Charlotte one year ago to begin putting the pieces together. The U.S. Women’s Amateur has been played since 1895, making it among the oldest championships conducted by the U.S. Golf Association.
The goal, beyond finding a champion, is to celebrate women’s amateur golf. Organizers hope as many as 5,000 spectators a day show up as the tournament gathers momentum toward Sunday’s 36-hole championship match.
There will be no gallery ropes at Charlotte Country Club. Spectators will be free to walk the fairways with players during competition, providing a different perspective than at most major events.
“One of the neat things about this event is it’s such an opportunity for female development,” Lang said. “It’s a chance for young kids to see role models. It’s affordable and it’s a completely different demographic we’re trying to reach. We want people to be out here.”
Among the biggest challenges has fallen to course superintendent John Szklinski, who has had to keep Charlotte Country Club’s bent grass greens healthy through a brutally hot and humid summer. It’s a cool-weather grass that has had difficulty surviving at some courses this year.
“Our greens are doing fine, but they are enduring a lot of stress,” Szklinski said. “If I told you they’re not stressed, I wouldn’t be honest.”
On Friday, Szklinski said the heat index hit 105 degrees at Charlotte Country Club, demanding the putting surfaces be monitored on a regular basis.
To keep the greens healthy, they will be softer than Szklinski would like, but it’s a necessary tradeoff.
Otherwise, the course is primed for the championship. It will be played at 6,559 yards and par 72 with 2 1/2- inch rough during the qualifying phase. It might be lengthened slightly during the match-play portion depending upon weather conditions.
“The golf course is very good,” Szklinski said.