USGA creates new amateur four-ball championship
The USGA giveth and the USGA taketh away.
For the first time since 1987, the governing body will add an event to its championship calendar for individual golfers while retiring a pair of tournaments for the first time in its history.
On Monday, the USGA unveiled plans for the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship and the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship to be played annually between mid-March and late May with the inaugural events scheduled for 2015.
The last time the USGA added a national championship to its schedule was the U.S. Women's Mid-Amateur event in 1987.
To make room on the calendar, the organization said it will no longer conduct the men's and women's Amateur Public Links tournaments after 2014.
The U.S. Amateur Public Links was first played in 1922, and is the fourth-oldest championship conducted by the USGA. Past champions of the event include Tim Clark, Trevor Immelman, Brandt Snedeker, Yani Tseng and Michelle Wie.
The tournaments were established to provide public golfers with access to a national championship because, at that time, the U.S. Amateur Championship was restricted to players from USGA Member Clubs. The women's event was added in 1977 for the same reason.
However, the USGA says an internal review determined that the Pub Links championships no longer serve their original mission because of the widespread accessibility public-course golfers today enjoy in USGA championships.
The elimination of the Pub Links championship also means one less Masters invitation will be handed out each year. Because of the team format of the four-ball championships, it's unlikely the winners will be extended an invitation into a major championship.
The USGA says four-ball has become a widely popular format for State and Regional Golf Associations across the United States. In 2012, more than 150 championships, either strictly four-ball or as part of a competition format.
Eligibility for both four-ball championships will be limited to amateurs, with no age restrictions. Team partners will not be required to be from the same club, state or country, and substitution of partners will be permitted until the close of entries. Male competitors must have a USGA handicap index of 5.4 or lower while women must have indexes of 14.4 or lower.
The U.S. Amateur Four-Ball and U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball will consist of 128 and 64 two-player teams respectively, each playing their own ball throughout the round. Each team’s score will be determined using their better-ball score for each hole. After 36 holes of stroke-play competition, the field will be reduced to the low 32 teams for the match-play portion of the championship.
The dates of the new championship are likely to deter college and high-school students from participating, which many cite for the demise of the Pub Links championships
Host sites for the inaugural four-ball championship will be revealed at a later date.