Women's Open: Golfing world focuses on Lancaster


Major golf championships don't come to this area very often.

Before the U.S. Golf Association awarded Lancaster Country Club this week's 70th U.S. Women's Open back in 2008, you'd have to go back some 75 years since the last major golf tournament was contested in south-central Pennsylvania. And even then, when Hershey Country Club played host to the 1940 PGA Championship, that event was the better part of an hour north of York.

So, while this year's tournament isn't exactly York County's own, it will still be one of the largest sporting events the area has seen in decades.

This year marks the first time LCC will host a major championship, and it set a record for the number of entrants who tried to qualify for the 156-player field. Just over the past 20 years, the U.S. Women's Open has grown from 826 qualifying hopefuls in 1995 to 1,873 this year.

"It's the biggest event in women's golf," U.S. Women's Open championship director Ben Kimball said at last month's media day.

"The fact that we have qualifiers all over the world now is a true sign of how the game is growing, and I don't know if we could be any happier with where we are with entries this year."

Tickets and patrons: This year's Women's Open is also expected to see a record number of tickets sold over the course of the week and for the four days of actual tournament play.

Exact numbers on how many tickets have been sold for the event haven't been released yet, but Women's Open executive committee member Rory Connaughton said that every time he's asked the tournament's general chairman, Jerry Hostetter, about ticket sales, his response is "pretty good."

During the media day news conference, Hostetter did say that a large percentage of the tickets sold for the event have been to folks and businesses in the local community.

"The community has really stepped up, as I thought we would, because this community always does," he said.

Tickets are still available for each of the four rounds and can be purchased online at 2015uswomensopen.com/tickets.

Strong field: The U.S. Women's Open, aside from being contested on one of the toughest courses in the country, also attracts the best field of golfers.

This year will be no different, with a star-studded field descending on L.C.C. World No. 1 Inbee Park will tee it up. She's a two-time winner of the U.S. Women's Open and the winner of this season's most recent major championship, the KPMG Women's PGA. Lydia Ko, an 18-year-old who's ranked second in the world, will also be in the field, as will all of the other members of the top 10 in the Rolex World Rankings.

Reigning champ Michelle Wie was fully exempt into this year's tournament, but her play since conquering Pinehurst No. 2 last year has slipped, falling all the way to 57th in the world.

Because it's an open championship — meaning anyone with a handicap index not exceeding 2.4 can try to qualify — there are usually some interesting players who make it into the field. That means a girl such as 16-year-old Angella Then, who came in second place in her qualifier, will have a chance to play alongside some of her idols for at least the first two days of the tournament.

Broadcasting: This also will be the first year that Fox and Fox Sports will broadcast the tournament.

Beginning on Thursday for the first round, Fox and Fox Sports 1 will broadcast at least 18 hours of coverage, and more than 100 countries worldwide will view the tournament. It also will be the first time in the event's storied history that, when the leaders tee off on Saturday and Sunday, fans at home will get to see their entire rounds, from their opening tee shots on No. 1 to the final putt on No. 18.

Local impact: It is estimated that more than 100,000 fans will flock to the course throughout the week to watch the golf.

With an event of this magnitude hitting the area, it's expected that York County could see some economic benefits as a surrounding community. With limited hotel options in Lancaster, York will likely reap the benefits from the overflow of fans. Situated only about 30-35 minutes from L.C.C., the city of York is considered a viable option for not only lodging, but also dining and non-golf activities.

It is estimated that the tournament will bring in anywhere from $25 million to $30 million in revenue to southcentral Pennsylvania, with a portion of that almost certainly seeping into York County.

According to Brent Burkey, communication specialist for the York County Convention and Visitors Bureau, York took out advertising space in the Women's Open program in an effort to further entice spectators to venture west of the Susquehanna River and see what the area has to offer.

The weeklong event begins Monday with the practice rounds. Tournament action begins Thursday.