It’s one of the oldest athletic competitions for women in York County.
For more than eight decades, starting in 1938, the best female golfers in the county have teed it up to determine the Women’s York County Amateur champion.
The Women’s York County Amateur Golf Association has long organized and sponsored the match-play event, which has become a staple of the local June sports calendar.
This summer, however, the tradition-bound event will have a new organizing group, a new format and a new date.
Other than that, nothing much has changed.
The 2019 Women’s York County Amateur Championship will be put on by the York County Amateur Golf Association, which has long run the local men’s amateur golf championships. In addition, the Women’s York County Amateur will be held at the same time and on the same course as the men’s York County Amateur.
That means this year’s Women’s York County Amateur is set for Saturday and Sunday, July 13 and July 14, at Out Door Country Club. It will be a 36-hole stroke-play event — just like the men’s York County Amateur. The only difference will be the women’s event will be flighted, while the men’s event is not.
Changes could boost women’s event: Amy Kennedy, who has won the Women’s York County Amateur title nine times and finished second in 2018 to Tori Ross, was one of the driving forces behind the move, according to YCAGA executive director Dave Bennett.
Kennedy said it’s hoped that the changes will boost a tournament that has struggled to attract players in recent years.
“The overall number of WYCAGA members who participated in the (women’s) amateur has been quite low over the last number of years,” Kennedy said. “They decided to allocate their resources to events which served their members better. The (women’s) amateur fits into the YCAGA organization quite easily. They simply added a women’s division to their current event.”
Kennedy is hoping for a women’s field of about 20-25 players, but YCAGA executive director Dave Bennett is hoping for an even larger field, possibly in the 30-50 range. The 2018 Women’s York County Amateur featured 27 players across seven different flights.
“I believe this change will open the (women’s) amateur up to more women,” Kennedy said. “The resources of the YCAGA will help attract more women golfers to the event. Additionally, (the) YCAGA has marketing and reach which will benefit the championship.”
Weekend tournament could help attract female players: The fact that the tournament will now be held on a weekend and cover just two days may also help attract more players.
Before this summer, the Women’s York County Amateur used a match-play format and was held during the week. Last year’s event lasted just two days, but previously, it lasted three or even four days, requiring some players to use almost a week of vacation to participate. That will no longer be the case.
Additionally, the fact that the event is being held at a private country club may help lure more players. Typically, YCAGA events at country clubs get larger fields because it's an opportunity for golfers to compete on a private course that they don't normally have access to play. In addition, the cost for the women is just $75 for two rounds of golf.
Kennedy doesn’t expect the changes to create much of a ripple among the county’s top female players.
“Championship golf is not gender specific,” she said. “Women players who will contend for the Women’s York County Amateur do not care who runs the tournament. They simply want to compete in a well-run championship.”
Reaction positive in YCAGA: The YCAGA has a long history of “well-run” tournaments. The Women’s York County Amateur should be no different.
Bennett said the reaction from the men within the YCAGA has been positive.
“There have been no complaints,” he said. “Some men are like, ‘wow, maybe I can get my wife to play and then I can play, too.’ There were no drawbacks from the (YCAGA) board. We promote amateur golf. Yes, we’re a men’s organization, but why not (add the Women’s York County Amateur). It doesn’t take that much effort to set up a separate tournament (for the women).”
May boost struggling sport: It’s no secret that the sport of golf has struggled in recent years, both locally and nationally. The YCAGA, like the WYCAGA, has struggled to attract players to its men’s events.
Maybe holding the Women’s York County Amateur and the men’s York County Amateur concurrently will provide a much-needed charge of excitement to the sport locally. Both Bennett and Kennedy are hoping the change will become a long-term fixture on the local summer golf calendar.
“I hope it takes off,” Bennett said. “It’s something that’s needed.”
Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.