COVINGTON — The Oaks Course was recently awarded to one of the qualifying courses for the new four-ball format which is replacing the public links tournament continuing their relationship with the USGA active after 17 years.
“I believe that in 1998 we hosted an event so its been a pretty good run. It’s our way of supporting the game and supporting the organization,” Oaks Course director of golf Dick Schultz said. “A number of companies can afford to write a big check. We do our best and the best thing is to provide site they can come out and enjoy.”
The USGA has decided to do away with the individual public links tournament and is replacing it with a four-ball team format. A result of the change is that the winner will no longer be able to compete in the U.S. Open with the men’s winner getting a chance to play at the Augusta National for the Masters as well.
“The feedback to the USGA has been that they needed to change the format to fit the clientele that was the target. The target is the after college crowd, the competitive golfer in the age area that’s probably between 25 and 50. It’s another way for the amateur to compete,” Schulz said. “You’ll have a whole different field. They’ll be some players that just love the competition but I feel that there will be very few of the players that play in this that are looking to play golf as a way of making a living.
“I think that may have been part of the problem. Everybody saw these prospective pros as an entry into qualifying for the US Open or the Augusta National or maybe the British Open. So all the amateurs started flooding the field to try to qualify and be seen by possible sponsors. Instead of a great competition and a great game it became economically driven from the standpoint of achieving a goal of becoming a professional golfer.”
USGA Southeast director Pat O’Brien recently played at the Oaks and where he said that any golf course can be made extremely difficult. But that if the Oaks Course is set up in a normal manner it can test your skills but still be extremely enjoyable. He also enjoyed the old-style architecture of the Oaks Course making it an easy choice for a qualifying spot.
“They like the consistent conditioning. They know they’re not going to get any surprises with respect to bad greens or fairways. We take care of the golf course first and foremost,” Schulz said.
The qualifying date for the four-ball tournament is set for Oct. 4.
The Oaks Course is also becoming a U.S. Kids course. There will be plagues set up at various yardage markers so the younger players can enjoy a round of golf with a parent without slowing the pace of play by having them play at the same tees.
“If it’s a 10-year old it may be 75 yards to the hole, for a 14-year old it may be 175 yards,” Schulz said. “They’ll be able to make the choice so hopefully they’ll develop from the front plate.”