LITTLE ROCK — Calculating ticket sales for the 2013 Western Amateur, experts from the Western Golf Association have underestimated the curious who have only heard and read about the tournament site.
Western officials have told Warren Stephens, owner and creator-builder of The Alotian Club, that the sale of 2,500 tickets would be amazing. I am in the group that believes 2,500 tickets will be sold within 72 hours because there are X number of people who want to see the course, in addition to the golf fans who appreciate the quality of the invitation-only field.
My reference point is a group of 8-12 municipal course players who usually get together on Sundays. When it was announced last year that the Western was coming to The Alotian, several of them asked if it was going to be open to the public. Told yes, they wanted details of the ticket sales.
They will be glad to know that the ticket, or badge, will be transferable so that they can split the cost and see all the golf and golf course they want.
All they know is that the course, No. 14 in Golf Digest magazine’s ranking of "America’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses," is out Arkansas 10, west of Little Rock. Ahead of The Alotian on that list are the likes of Augusta National and Pebble Beach, courses they know from television coverage of The Masters and the U.S. Open. Named the country’s top new private course in 2005, The Alotian offers Colorado-like vistas and ups and downs that are so dramatic, Western Am competitors — many of whom carry their owns bags — will be ferried from some greens to the next tee.
The reputation of the competitors is equally compelling.
Dan Snider, COO at The Alotian, mentioned the "Sweet 16" players who go into match play each year after 72 holes comprise a Who’s Who of the PGA Tour.
The Western Golf Association provided the results and, in the name of fairness, I decided to poll four co-workers and add the year of the granddaughters’ births. Chronologically, here are match player competitors from those years:
1972: Ben Crenshaw, Bill Kratzert, Gil Morgan, Bill Rogers, Fuzzy Zoeller.
1975: Andy Bean, Keith Fergus, Peter Jacobsen, Mike Reid, Curtis Strange, Lance TenBroeck.
1980: Mark Brooks, Fred Couples, Mark O’Meara, Corey Pavin, Joey Sindelar, Hal Sutton, Bob Tway, Robert Wrenn.
1981: Curt Byrum, Brad Faxon, Tom Lehman, Pavin, Sutton, Willie Wood.
2000: Ricky Barnes, Ben Curtis, Danny Green, Jeff Klauk.
2002: Green, Bill Haas, Klauk, Hunter Mahan, Kevin Stadler, Camilo Villegas, Casey Wittenberg.
Outside the U.S. Amateur and the British Amateur, it is the most prestigious amateur event in the world.
The format is grueling. The competitors play 18 holes on each of the first two days before the field is cut to the low 44 and ties, who are scheduled to play 36 holes in one day to whittle the field to 16. Considering the heat in late July-early August in Arkansas and the elevation changes, the Western has agreed to possible concessions.
If temperatures push 100 as usual that time of year, only one round will be played on the third day and the requirement that players wear slacks will be waived.
When the Western Golf Association was formed in 1889, Chicago was the West and the tournament was played in the area for years. Beginning in 1971, the tournament was held in Michigan for more than 30 years, and recently returned to the Chicago area.
The tournament’s benefactor is the Chick Evans Caddie Scholarship Fund, which hands out more than 800 full tuition and housing scholarships each year.
Cognizant that caddies are an integral part of the history and tradition of golf, Stephens made certain The Alotian had a caddie program. Three of those caddies received Evans scholarships, opening the line of communication between the Western and The Alotian.
The course was not constructed with a big event in mind and the smallish locker room and parking facilities will be turned over to players and their families. Out of necessity, spectators will be shuttled from nearby schools and other sites.
My friends won’t care; they are dying to see the course.
Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.