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Orchid Island Club lands another major golf event

STORY BY RAY MCNULTY (Week of February 26, 2015)

Never before had the United States Golf Association entrusted one of its major championships to the Vero Beach area.

So how did this golf-loving, seaside community end up with two of them in the next three years?

Just a coincidence.

That's how Mark Hill, senior director of USGA championships, explained the association's decisions to award the 2015 Mid-Amateur Championship to the John’s Island Club and the 2018 U.S. Senior Women's Amateur Championship to the Orchid Island Golf & Beach Club.

"We didn't target the area," Hill said. "Traditionally, clubs that want to host a championship contact us, then we evaluate their request and determine whether the site is a good fit.

"Sometimes, as was the case with Orchid Island, a club will seek a particular championship," he added. "Usually, though, the club will contact us about getting a championship and we determine which championship fits best at that club.
"So at the end of the day, given our process, it was a coincidence that two clubs from the same community were awarded championships only three years apart."

The 2015 Mid-Amateur will be played Oct. 3-8 on the John's Island Club's West and North courses. The 2018 Senior Women's Amateur Championship is scheduled for Sept. 29 through Oct. 4 at Orchid Island.

According to John's Island resident Mark Mulvoy, the Mid-Am's tournament chairman, the club first contacted the USGA eight years ago in its pursuit of the 2009 U.S. Senior Amateur, which eventually went to the Lake Nona Golf & Country Club in Orlando.

Mulvoy said the USGA staffers who visited John's Island were so impressed with the courses and community that they said they'd consider the club for future championships. Three years ago, the USGA offered the 2015 Mid-Am, and John's Island jumped at the chance.

"We were in discussions with John's Island about having the Mid-Am there in 2019 or 2020," Hill said, "but we had a problem with the club that was supposed to host the 2015 championship, so we called John's Island and asked if they wanted it."

Orchid Island originally had requested the 2015 Senior Women's Amateur tournament, but settled for 2018 after the USGA awarded this year's Mid-Am to John's Island.

"Being selected to host this prestigious championship is a testimony to the quality of our Arnold Palmer-designed golf course, the excellence of our staff and the dedication of our members," Orchid Island club president Tom Hutton said.

"We thank the USGA for the opportunity to work together in producing an outstanding experience for all players."

The tournament, which was first played in 1962, is open to women amateurs ages 50 and up with a handicap index not exceeding 18.4. Championship play is preceded by 18-hole sectional qualifying conducted by state and regional golf associations.

From the sectional qualifying, 132 players will compete in 36 holes of stroke-play qualifying at Orchid Island, where 64 of them will advance to the match-play bracket that will determine the champion.

"The golf course is always a key factor in or decisions," Hill said. "In the case of John's Island, the fact that they had two of them was important because of the size of the Mid-Am field.

"But the community is a factor, too," he added. "We believe, based on our evaluations, that the championships at both John's Island and Orchid Island will be well received and strongly supported by the Vero Beach community."