January 7, 2020 By: Mike Dougherty — There wasn’t a lot of lobbying involved.
After executing a lengthy restoration that gave a popular Golden Age golf course a singular identity, the membership at Sleepy Hollow Country Club expressed a desire to host another USGA championship.
They didn’t have to ask twice.
Sleepy Hollow has been selected to host the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship in 2023. The official announcement from the USGA is expected later Tuesday. Fenway Golf Club will co-host two stroke-play rounds the week of Sept. 9-14, 2023.
“When I paid a site visit, I was just wowed by the place,” USGA tournament director for Mid-Amateur Championship Bill McCarthy said of the Scarborough landmark. “I grew up on Long Island and worked for the MGA for seven years, so I know the club’s history really well. I was just overwhelmed by the restoration. Their desire to host and showcase the new Sleepy Hollow was really well received by us.”
Both courses have been meticulously restored by noted architect Gil Hanse.
“We’ve had many great combinations with the U.S. Amateur, Mid-Am and Four-Ball, but this combination, Sleepy and Fenway, it may be the best we’ve ever seen,” McCarthy added.
The national spotlight on Weschester’s noteworthy lineup of courses dimmed more than a decade ago when the PGA and LPGA Tour moved on. It’s a void the USGA is happy to fill. Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck is hosting the 2020 U.S. Open and Westchester Country Club in Harrison is hosting the 2021 U.S. Women’s Amateur.
Quaker Ridge Golf Club in Scarsdale hosted the Curtis Cup Match in 2018 and Winged Foot hosted the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship in 2016.
Players must be at least 25-years old and carry a qualifying handicap index to be eligible for the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship. The field is limited to 264 players. Last year, there were 4,751 entries. The field is cut to 64 players after two days of stroke play and match play determines the winner.
Sleepy Hollow is anxious to open the gates.
The club signed Hanse to develop and execute a master plan that would restore the course in the spirit of C.B. Macdonald original 1913 design. A major assist came from George Bahto, a Macdonald historian. The first phase was completed in 2007. Hanse came back and dramatically reworked all 18 greens. The second phase was completed in 2017.
Gone is the influence of another Golden Age designer, A.W. Tillinghast, who oversaw an expansion at Sleepy Hollow in the late 1920s.
“We’ve always been a club that gives back to the golf community,” said Michael Anania, who is serving as the club’s Mid-Am chairman. “But with all the work that’s been done, we’re also looking forward to showing the course off and seeing how some of the best golfers in the world fare.”
The last USGA championship Sleepy Hollow hosted was the 2002 U.S. Women’s Amateur. The club was also the site of a PGA Champions Tour event between 1986-93. A number of MGA championships were also played at Sleepy Hollow, including the 2011 Met Open.
Over the last two years, the restoration has received plaudits from every angle.
Sleepy Hollow was added to the list of America’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses compiled by Golf Digest in 2019. The course debuted at No. 89.
“We really weren’t looking to get into the top 100,” Anania said. “It was brought up, but our intent was just to make the best course possible.”
Fenway was originally designed by Devereux Emmet, but that design was replaced by Tillinghast in 1924. Hanse was brought in to restore the green and bunker complexes and reestablish sightlines. The Scarsdale club has never hosted a USGA event. It’s been a favorite stop for local and regional tournaments including the Met Amateur, the Ike Stroke Play Championship and the Met Open.
“Both courses will present real challenges to the players and for similar reasons,” McCarthy said with a nod to the difficult greens at both sites. “They’ll have to think about approach shots when they’re standing on the tee. Sleepy Hollow and Fenway will force the players to play instead of hammering it, finding it and hacking it out.”