Amateur golfers in Central Oregon

Two major amateur golf tournament headline Central Oregon's schedule

By Zack Hall / The Bulletin / @cogolfguy

A tournament that Tiger Woods once won and another that boasts Phil Mickelson as a three-time champion highlight Central Oregon’s 2011 golf schedule.

No, major professional golf is not returning to Central Oregon this season. But top-flight amateur golf will be here this year.

Crosswater Club will play host in late June to the American Junior Golf Association’s Rolex Tournament of Champions, a tournament that Sunriver Resort’s flagship course hosted in 2004 and includes a list of past champions that features Mickelson.

And the Pacific Northwest Golf Association’s Men’s Amateur, a prestigious regional tournament that Woods won in 1994 at Royal Oaks Country Club in Vancouver, Wash., will be played at Bend’s Tetherow Golf Club in July.

They might not be The Tradition — a major championship on the 50-and-older Champions Tour whose four-year run at Crosswater ended in 2010 — but both tournaments return championship-level golf to Central Oregon.

“It will be the best junior golfers in the world,” says Scott Ellender, director of resort operations at Sunriver Resort, of the Rolex event. “This is the cream of the crop.”

Indeed, when the Tournament of Champions was staged at Crosswater in 2004, the winner was Jamie Lovemark. After that victory, Lovemark went on to become a two-time All-American at the University of Southern California. Currently, he is playing on the PGA Tour.

The 2011 tournament, which organizers say is still in need of volunteers to help run the event, is scheduled for 72 holes of stroke play. It is expected to feature golfers from around the world, according to Ellender.

“These are the best of the AJGA, so it is a pretty big deal,” Ellender says.

The PNGA’s Men’s Amateur is no stranger to future PGA Tour talent itself.

Not only did Woods win the event, which each year features the top amateur players from around the Northwest and beyond, but Oregonians and current PGA Tour players Ben Crane (1997) and Jeff Quinney (1998, 2000) are also among the tournament’s recent champions.

This year’s field, which is limited to 168 golfers all with a handicap of 4.4 or better, will have to tackle Tetherow. It will mark the first time the tournament has ever been played in Central Oregon.

Similar to the U.S. Amateur Championship, the tournament will begin with two rounds of stroke play to cut the field to 64 players. Then six rounds of match play will ensue, finishing with a 36-hole championship match.

The PNGA Men’s Amateur will be the first major match-play tournament hosted by Tetherow, which opened in 2008. But Tetherow’s links style is a perfect fit for such a format, says Caleb Anderson, the course’s head pro.

“There is a lot of risk/reward and a lot of different ways to get your ball around this course,” Anderson says. “It just sets up so well for match play. I just can’t wait to see a championship with this level of golfer.”

The Men’s Amateur is the second of three PNGA events scheduled for Central Oregon in 2011.

In June, Black Butte Ranch’s Big Meadow course will play host to the PNGA Senior and Super Senior Men’s Amateur tournaments.

And Sunriver Resort’s Meadows course will play host in August to the PNGA Junior Boys’ Amateur, a tournament that Seattle native and eventual Masters champion Fred Couples won in 1976.

Jeff Fought, director of golf at Black Butte Ranch, says hosting PNGA events helps bring prestige to the area’s golf courses.

“Being a part of the PNGA is important to us,” Fought says. “It is an association that has all of our (Northwest golf) history with past champions such as Fred Couples.”

Adds Fought: “Every club should participate in the history of the PNGA, if they can.”

Tournament highlights in 2011

June 7-9 — Pacific Northwest Golf Association’s Senior and Super Senior Men’s Amateurs at Black Butte Ranch’s Big Meadow course

June 14-16 — Oregon Open Invitational at Awbrey Glen Golf Club in Bend

June 27-July 1 — American Junior Golf Association’s Rolex Tournament of Champions at Crosswater Club, Sunriver

July 11-16 — PNGA Men’s Amateur at Tetherow Golf Club in Bend

Aug. 15-19 — PNGA Junior Boys’ Amateur at Sunriver Resort’s Meadows course

Aug. 29-Sept. 2 — Golf World Pacific Amateur Golf Classic at multiple Central Oregon courses

Oct. 1-2 — Oregon Golf Association’s Men’s Team Championship at the Club at Brasada Ranch in Powell Butte