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Tradition of U.S. Senior Open Matches That of Notre Dame

Oct. 14, 2016

By John Heisler

Arnold Palmer.

Jack Nicklaus.

Gary Player.

When a golf event boasts those three names among its former winners, there’s instant cache.

That alone makes the 2019 United States Senior Open Golf Championship, headed for the first time to a college campus and the Warren Golf Course at Notre Dame, a special occasion.

It’s all part of a dream that Bill Warren had for his alma mater—and that Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore helped come true.

The United States Golf Association will play its 40th U.S. Senior Open June 24-30, 2019, at the north edge of the University of Notre Dame campus—the first time in the history of golf a major championship has been contested at a collegiate venue.

The field will feature 156 of the best senior golfers (age 50 and older) from around the world.

Practice rounds will take place Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and the competition will run Thursday through Sunday.

The Warren Course layout will be reworked for the event—with the current 10th hole becoming the opening hole and a number of other holes changing places in the 18-hole rotation to better accommodate the anticipated number of spectators.

The Warren Golf Course at Notre Dame was designed by Crenshaw and Coore, who many consider the greatest golf architects of the day. The classic links design features square tee boxes, undulating greens and thoughtfully trimmed native grasses. A public facility, Warren Golf Course rivals even the best private courses in the region. The 250-acre venue is also a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary. The 7,020-yard championship track will play to par 70 for the U.S. Senior Open.

“We’d known Bill Warren for so long because we did some work on his course, Southern Hills, in Tulsa,” says Crenshaw. “Even though there was an existing course here at Notre Dame, Bill indicated there was an interest in possibly building a new course and he asked us if we would be willing to help. We did some scouting and this piece of property was right by the campus–and it was very conducive to the idea of building a golf course in the traditional sense.

“My brethren, the guys on the senior tour, they can still really play golf. I think this is the type of challenge they will really enjoy. You have to play sound golf on this course—it won’t beat you up in terms of length, but placement and accuracy are paramount. It’s an honor to be picked for a USGA senior event–it’s a very nice thing.”

Adds Coore, “It was very rewarding—we were honored it was picked. One of our primary goals was to build something both in terms of character and looks that had this classic, timeless feel to it, like the University. Having the U.S. Senior Open here is like icing on the cake. We think the golf course will enable the players to truly showcase their skills. It’s not heavily based on strength and distance, but it requires ball-striking and a thoughtful negotiation of how to go through the holes.”

And it may well become Warren’s finest moment in terms of golf on the Notre Dame campus since his dream became reality when the Warren Golf Course opened in 2000.

Palmer, Nicklaus and Player meet Rockne, the Gipper and the Four Horsemen.

The purse for the championship is $3,750,000—the largest in senior golf. The 2016 winner earned $675,000.

FOX Sports will provide 16 hours of network coverage to more than 100 countries.

More than 100,000 fans are expected to attend the event—with its projected 26,000 hotel nights and 7,000 car rental days translated to a projected $18 million impact on the local community.

Previous venues for the event have included Whistling Straits Golf Club (Sheboygan, Wisconsin), Pinehurst #2 Country Club (Pinehurst, North Carolina), Prairie Dunes Golf Club (Hutchinson, Kansas), Winged Foot Golf Club (Mamaroneck, New York), Riviera Country Club (Pacific Palisades, California), Oakland Hills Golf Club (Bloomfield Hills, Michigan), Sciota Country Club (Upper Arlington, Ohio), Inverness Club (Toledo, Ohio), Olympia Fields Country Club (Olympia Fields, Illinois), Salem Country Club (Peabody, Massachusetts), Congressional Country Club (Bethesda, Maryland) and Crooked Stick Golf Club (Carmel, Indiana).

The Warren Course has played host to 10 USGA events since it opened in 1999—including the 2010 Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship.

The 2019 U.S. Senior Open will be played two weeks after the U.S. Open is contested at Pebble Beach Golf Links in Pebble Beach, California.

The 2016 U.S. Senior Open, held in August at Sciota Country Club in Columbus, Ohio, was won by Gene Sauers. Among other competitors in that event were Miguel Angel Jimenez (the runner-up), Bernhard Langer, Vijay Singh, Tom Lehman, Billy Mayfair, David Frost, Loren Roberts and Ian Woosnam.

The 2017 event will be held June 29-July 2 at Salem Country Club, and the 2018 event June 28-July 1 at the Broadmoor Golf Club (East Course) in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

The inaugural U.S. Senior Open was held in 1980 at Winged Foot and won by Roberto DeVicenzo. Other winners over the years have included Colin Montgomerie (2014), Bernhard Langer (2010), Fred Funk (2009), Peter Jacobsen (2004), Hale Irwin (1998 and 2000), Graham Marsh (1997), Dave Stockton (1996), Tom Weiskopf (1995), Nicklaus (1991 and 1993), Lee Trevino (1990), Player (1987 and 1988), Billy Casper (1983) and Palmer (1981). Miller Barber (1982, 1984, 1985) is the lone three-time winner; the two-time winners are Player, Nicklaus and Irwin.

Hospitality for the U.S. Senior Open is handled by Bruno Event Team (contact Steve Nieman at 574-631-9792).