Harrison Ott of Brookfield, Sarah Busey of Racine and Jack Schultz of Whitefish Bay are three of the many Wisconsin golfers whose summer schedules are built on the idea of having a chance to qualify for United States Golf Association events.
They won't have that chance this year after the USGA on Monday officially reduced its 2020 schedule to its final four championships due to COVID-19. It canceled four more amateur championships and eliminated the traditional qualifying process for the four remaining championships that will be played.
The U.S. Open, the U.S. Women's Open, the U.S. Amateur and the U.S. Women's Amateur will be the only USGA championships contested during 2020, the USGA announced in a news release. The USGA announced it will cancel the U.S. Women's Mid-Amateur (Aug. 29-Sept. 3 in Bluffton, S.C.), the U.S. Senior Amateur (Aug. 29-Sept. 3 in Grosse Pointe Farms, Mich.), the U.S. Mid-Amateur (Sept. 12-17 in Manakin-Sabot, Va.) and the U.S. Senior Women's Amateur (Sept. 12-17 in Point Clear, Ala.).
The USGA previously announced the cancellation of six 2020 championships: the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball, U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball, U.S. Senior Open, U.S. Senior Women’s Open, U.S. Girls’ Junior and U.S. Junior Amateur.
"My question for the U.S. Am was always how all of the qualifying would work since it starts well before the actual event," Ott wrote via text to Wisconsin.Golf. "So I am not that shocked they are doing it all based on exemptions."
Ott, the 2018 Wisconsin State Amateur champion who now has two years of eligibility remaining at Vanderbilt University after losing the back half of his junior season due to the coronavirus crisis, won last year's U.S. Amateur qualifier at Watertown Country Club after back-to-back rounds of 66. He shot 76-74 in the stroke-play qualifying at the 2019 U.S. Am at Pinehurst Resort and missed earning one of the 64 match-play berths by five strokes.
"It is a little sad for smaller states like Wisconsin where the U.S. Am qualifier is a big deal and gives some players national exposure they haven’t had before," Ott wrote. "I have learned a ton from the competitive reps at the U.S. Am qualifiers I have played and the U.S. Ams I have played."
Busey, the reigning WSGA women's player of the year who qualified last year for the U.S. Women's Amateur, couldn't agree more. The junior at Santa Clara (Calif.) planned to spend the summer on the West Coast caddying at a club near campus, but the U.S. Women's Am was one event she had circled.
"I was really hoping for the chance to qualify again, given that it was such a fun event and a great experience (in 2019)," Busey wrote in a text message to Wisconsin.Golf. "So it was quite disappointing to hear that there won't be any qualifying for this year's (Women's) Am."
John Bodenhamer, senior managing director of championships for the USGA, said details of the expanded exemption categories for the four championships will be revealed "in the coming weeks." He acknowledged that the absence of coast-to-coast qualifying opportunities leaves a void for many golfers.
"We take great pride in the fact that many thousands typically enter to pursue their dream of qualifying for a USGA championship and we deeply regret that they will not have that opportunity this year," Bodenhamer said in a news release. "But this structure provides the best path forward for us to conduct these championships in 2020."
Schultz, a three-time WSGA golfer of the year who qualified for the 2017 U.S. Amateur at Riviera CC in Los Angeles, said he was surprised that the USGA didn't cancel the men's and women's amateur championship altogether.
"I've kind of been thinking it wouldn't be played at all just because all of the qualifying that needs to take place," Schultz wrote in a text message to Wisconsin.Golf. "(It) didn't cross my mind it'd be played invite only. ... Now I'm very curious how and when they're going to come up with the invite field.
"(There are) so many directions they can go with it. ... And no matter what, it's probably going to annoy some people if they didn't get the invite."