By Grant Lucas

The Bulletin

Pacific Amateur Golf Classic

What: 54-hole stroke play tournament featuring 300 players from 21 states

Where: Sunriver’s Meadows, Woodlands and Crosswater courses

When: First three rounds Monday through Wednesday; top four finishers in each flight play for the championship Thursday at Crosswater

Admission: Free for spectators. A cash contribution from the Pac-Am will be made to the Sunriver Nature Center, a not-for-profit scientific and educational organization.

Sunriver has been the host site sponsor of the Pacific Amateur Golf Classic since the tournament’s inception in 1997. The resort has been a stage for the men’s and women’s amateur tournament as it blossomed into one of the largest and most renowned amateur tourneys in the country.

This year, however, will be different. And Josh Willis cannot mask his excitement.

For the first time, the Pac-Am’s 54-hole stroke play championship will be played at a single general site. A full field of 300 players representing 21 states, some from as far as Massachusetts, Georgia, Tennessee, Alaska and Hawaii, will tee off Monday at Sunriver’s Meadows, Woodlands and Crosswater courses.

Players ages 18 to 70 and older are expected to compete in five net score divisions, a gross flight, and a noncompetitive division (for those not looking to play under the pressure of shooting low scores).

Players within each net division will be sorted into flights based on their handicaps, and all players will compete at all three Sunriver courses. The top four finishers in each flight will play Thursday at nationally renowned Crosswater to determine the overall Pac-Am champion.

“It’s super popular,” says Willis, the Sunriver director of golf, noting that the field was limited to 300 participants (the tournament drew more than 400 last year) to allow players to stay “on campus” in Sunriver. “The participants are coming from all over the U.S. It’s an awesome event, 21 years of sustainability. What a great opportunity to expose our region, here in Central Oregon, to amateur golfers all over the U.S.”

Sunriver was chosen as the sole host for the 21st Pac-Am after the Central Oregon Visitors Association, which had been managing the event, was appointed to administer Travel Oregon’s Regional Cooperative Tourism Program for Central Oregon. In the past, several area courses hosted rounds during the Pac-Am. Last year, for example, play was held at Lost Tracks, Widgi Creek, Sunriver, Juniper, Aspen Lakes and Black Butte Ranch.

Because of the new commitment, says COVA president and CEO Alana Hughson, the visitors association decided to step away from directly producing the Pac-Am.

Hughson says COVA met with past Pac-Am sponsors and golf courses to determine which would be the 2017 host, and Sunriver stood out. Of course, Sunriver ­Resorts’s reputation for putting on high-profile tournaments, such as the PGA Professional Championship this past summer, was a contributing factor in the decision process.

“Really, Sunriver Resort was the only entity that could step in and take on an event the size and scope of the Pac-Am seamlessly,” Hughson says. “So it was a pretty natural fit. They had been our official host site sponsor since the inception of the event, and they were well-suited to seamlessly take it over and continue the legacy as it is.”

Despite Sunriver being the lone site of the Pac-Am this year, Willis says there is no added pressure for the resort to put on a successful tournament.

“It’s part of the bigger vision of golf in Central Oregon and Sunriver,” Willis says. “We want to make sure every day that we’re doing everything possible to invite and encourage as many people from outside of Central Oregon to come and experience everything we have to offer.”

Of the 76 players from Oregon in the 2017 Pac-Am field, several will not travel far to compete. Eleven players from Central Oregon are expected to participate.

The Pac-Am, though, is best known for attracting golfers from all over the country.

“That’s been one of our missions has been to expose our Sunriver Resort and golf product as well as Central Oregon and all the natural resources here that make this such a great place for you and I to live,” Willis says. “And we want to expose everybody else to it as well.”

— Reporter: 541-383-0307,