A Long Time Coming, Harbour Trees Host of the 2014 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship

Writer / Krista Shields

What started as a sparked interest for Harbour Trees members has become a reality. Host of the 2014 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship, Harbour Trees Golf Club is gearing up for this major event, which will take place Sept. 6-11.

“I don’t think people realize this is huge for Harbour Trees and the Noblesville community as well as Hamilton County,” golf pro Justin Werkley said. “This is a national championship, and there are only 13 events like this a year, and one of them is here.”

Beginning Sept. 6, 132 women will play 36 holes in two days of stroke play. The top 64 golfers will then advance to the match play portion. The final day will involve two players competing for the national championship title.

According to the United States Golf Association, this is the first time Indiana has hosted the championship. Last year’s event was hosted at Biltmore Forest Country Club in Asheville, N.C.

Hosting with the most

Though Harbour Trees has hosted several state events, this is its first national championship outside of the LPGA tournaments in the late 70s. It came about when members expressed interest and Werkley wrote a letter to the USGA nearly two years ago. They then came to evaluate the course, and it was announced in the fall of 2012 that the course would host the event.

Course Superintendent Ed Devlin says the course is really ideal for the event. “While it isn’t considered to be particularly “long” by today’s standards, Harbour Trees requires well-placed tee shots and good second shots into these Pete Dye-designed greens,” Devlin said. “The putting surfaces are truly the teeth and add the most challenge.”

The course has had a program in place for the past several years that fits the parameters that the USGA requests when setting up for a national championship, meaning it does not have to face wild changes in order to run the championship in September. “We will certainly become more intensive as the championship approaches, but by and large Harbour Trees is ready as far as the golf course is concerned,” Devlin said.

Last year’s winner and Indiana’s own Julia Potter contends that the course also has a finish that will make it interesting for the spectators, who can attend the event free of charge. “The most interesting aspect of this course is the finishing hole is a par 3 over water,” Potter said. “For any matches that go to the 18th hole, this will be a true test of nerves for the players involved.”

For the win

What really makes the event, according to the staff at Harbour Trees, is the women. In order to compete, the women have to have a handicap not exceeding 9.4 and must be at least 25 years old, meaning that many have other jobs and even families.

“These ladies love this sport so much, they are willing to use vacation time/personal time to play in this event,” Potter said. “It is this love that really helps define the fun and competitive atmosphere of this championship.” They don’t win any money. However, a medal for a national championship is at stake.

According to Devlin, this is an opportunity to be “a part of the game at the purist level, which is important for the game’s growth as well as its preservation.”

Potter, who will be defending her title this year, said, “I think it is every competitive golfer’s goal to win a USGA championship, and to be able to do that — it means the world to me.” Potter won the championship last year in an action-packed 19th-hole victory.

“We look forward to Julia defending her title at Harbour Trees,” Werkley said.

The need for help

The six-day event will require manpower and money. There are basically three ways to help with the event: volunteer, provide financial support and/or house one of the golfers. According to the co-chair for the event, Steve Baker, who has experience from hosting the 2009 Senior Open at Crooked Stick, this is a non-revenue-producing event, which means the community, even the county, has to get involved. “There are some wonderful opportunities for everyone in Hamilton County,” Baker said. “This is an expensive event to put on, so we would love to talk to anyone interested in supporting it financially.”

Aside from the golf outing that was held in September, there will be several opportunities, including a championship program. The club is looking for corporate and individual supporters.

Sue Shields, co-chair, said there are a number of golfers who prefer to stay on or near the course due to transportation and practice reasons. “There are some [golfers] who do it because they enjoy meeting the members of the club,” Shields said. “And there are some, particularly the younger ones, who just enjoy a family atmosphere.”

Harbour Trees hosted the LPGA Mayflower Classic from 1977 to 1980 and members opened their homes back then. Shields said members “rose to the occasion back then” and that they will do the same this time as well.

“These are really wonderful women who are really wonderful players,” Shields said.

Potter, who is now working for the Indiana Golf Office, said that the course, staff and volunteers are really the backbone of the championship. “I actually had private housing with a family, the Baileys, who volunteered for the event last year, and it was great to get a firsthand experience of all the time and talents these people put in to pull off a successful event,” Potter said. “I developed a newfound appreciation for all volunteers and staff both at this championship and others.”

Werkley estimates that the event will require approximately 300 volunteers working in positions such as course marshals, transportation directors and caddies, to name a few. These volunteers will include members as well as outside members of the community.

“Really, there is something for every volunteer,” Werkley said.

Additional proceeds from the event will benefit the Noblesville Boys and Girls Club and the Indiana Golf Foundation.

Anyone interested in helping should visit the club’s website at harbourtrees.com or call 317-877-3616.

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