York County golf history will be made this weekend.
For the first time ever, the top male and female amateur players in the county will compete on the same course at the same time.
At stake will be the most prestigious trophies that area amateurs can win.
Oh yeah, one other thing. The tournament will be played on a course that is generally regarded as one of the best-conditioned and most challenging layouts in the region.
All the ingredients are there for a truly special golf event.
The York County Amateur, sponsored by the York County Amateur Golf Association, has been the premier tournament for local male golfers for nine decades, dating back to 1930.
This year’s event will be held Saturday and Sunday at Out Door Country Club, a course designed by the highly regarded Ault and Associates firm back in 1959.
New twist: The 2019 tournament, however, will feature a new twist. There will be a women’s field at the event for the first time.
Previously, the Women’s York County Amateur Golf Association held its own match-play championship to crown the top female amateur golfer in the area. That tournament had quite a history of its own, dating back to 1938.
Recently, however, the WYCAGA had some difficulty attracting players to its event, which was held during the week, creating some conflicts for those who worked.
According to Amy Kennedy, a nine-time winner of the Women’s York County Amateur, the WYCAGA “decided to allocate their resources to events which served their members better.”
Kennedy then approached the YCAGA about playing host to Women’s York County Amateur event during the same weekend it hosted the York County Amateur. A deal was quickly struck to add a women’s bracket to the 2019 tournament.
The women’s championship will now be decided using a two-day, 36-hole, stroke-play format, rather than match play. There are, however, a couple of differences. The women’s tournament will be flighted, while the men’s event is not. Also, the men’s event will have a cut (top 40 and ties) after the first round, while the women’s event won’t have a cut.
Seamless transition: According to Dave Bennett, the executive director of the YCAGA, the merging of the men’s and women’s events has gone seamlessly and the reaction from the male players has been positive.
As of 3 p.m. Tuesday, the York County Amateur had a field of 59 male golfers, while the Women’s York County Amateur had 19 competitors signed up.
The men’s field is up significantly compared with the approximately 40 players who competed at the Bridges in 2018.
The women’s number, however, is down from the 27 who competed in last year’s Women’s York County Amateur across seven flights. Bennett said this year’s women’s event will likely have three flights, including an eight-woman championship flight.
Bennett said some confusion about who was eligible to compete in this weekend’s event might have kept some female players from entering, so he extended the entry deadline through midnight Wednesday.
Bennett said any York County resident or any member of a YCAGA club can compete, provided the player has a verifiable handicap.
Bennett believes that after this year’s event, the confusion will dissipate and the female competitors in the 2019 tournament will tell other women golfers about the quality experience they enjoyed. He’s hopeful that will boost the women’s field in 2020.
Men’s field: The men’s field at Out Door features nearly all of the most familiar names on the local amateur circuit.
The most prominent name missing on the men’s entry list, as of Tuesday, was Matt Henry, who has won the York County Amateur three times in the past decade, most recently in 2016.
Brett Berkheimer will attempt to defend his 2018 title. The 2017 champion, Ray Sheedy, is also in the field, as is 2015 champion Axel Hartman. Other prominent players entered include six-time champion Bill Brenner, five-time champion T.J. Ostrom and three-time champion Scott Knouse.
Hartman, who starred at West York High School, is one of several under-30 players in this year’s field. That is not an accident, according to Bennett.
“That's been percolating," Bennett said. "We keep reaching out to younger high school players as much as possible, and some of it is paying off.”
The under-30 crowd also includes former Central York standout Joe Parrini, who now competes for the University of Arizona, and former York Catholic star Andrew Forjan, who plays for Rider University. Parrini is a three-time District 3 champion.
Bennett said another rising local star, Carson Bacha, would have played this weekend if he hadn’t already had another commitment. The Central York standout has committed to play for Auburn University.
The par-72 Out Door layout can stretch out to more than 7,000 yards from the championship tees, with a imposing slope rating of 140. The recent rain has softened up the course, however, and Bennett said the setup for the weekend will likely play under 7,000 yards.
Bennett said he expects the women’s layout this weekend will measure in the 5,500-yard range.
Women’s field: The women’s championship flight will include Kennedy and Tori Ross, who defeated Kennedy in last year’s Women’s York County Amateur final, 3 & 2.
Ross has excelled for Limestone College in South Carolina.
Missing from the field is 31-time Women's York County Amateur champ Connie Shorb, but Bennett is hoping she may play next year.
Former Susquehannock High standout Kendel Abrams, who now plays for Converse College in South Carolina, is entered in 2019, as is Eastern York grad Alexandra Lowder, who plays for West Chester University. Abrams is also a former District 3 champ.
The other members of women’s championship flight, according to Bennett, are Jocelyn Abel, Susan Konstalid, Louise Gebhart and Kristie Hamp, although that could be subject to change.
One of those eight will likely emerge as a first-of-her-kind champion in a first-of-its-kind event.
The winner will also become a part of York County golf history.
— Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at email@example.com.