HEISER: York County Amateur Golf Association adds more opportunities for women players

Amy Kennedy has been a driving force behind adding female players to York County Amateur Golf Association events.
  • The York County Amateur Golf Association season starts Saturday.
  • The YCAGA Senior Championship will be held at Royal Manchester Golf Links.
  • For the first time, that event will crown a senior women's champion.

A year ago, the York County Amateur Golf Association started a new era.

In 2019, for the first time ever, the York County Amateur featured both men's and women's champions. Before last year, the YCAGA had only crowned men's champions in its most prestigious event, dating back to 1930.

In 2020, the YCAGA has decided to take things a step further. This season, the organization will also feature men's and women's champions in the YCAGA Senior Championship and in the YCAGA Champion of Champions.

The senior tournament will kick off the delayed 2020 YCAGA season  Saturday at Royal Manchester Golf Links.

"It was just a natural extension of opening up a women's division in the county amateur," YCAGA executive director Dave Bennett said.

Kennedy a catalyst: Just as happened last year, well-known local amateur Amy Kennedy was apparently the catalyst for the change. Last year, Kennedy approached the YCAGA with the idea of adding a women's division to the county amateur. Kennedy then went out and won that crown.

Joe Parrini, Amy Kennedy win playoffs to capture York County amateur golf championships

Since 1938, the Women’s York County Amateur Golf Association had organized and sponsored a match-play event to crown the women's county amateur champion. It had become a staple of the local June sports calendar.

In recent years, however, the WYCAGA had difficulty attracting players, and Kennedy thought that partnering with the YCAGA to add a women's division to the county amateur might boost the number of female competitors.

Now, the decision has been made to add women's divisions to the YCAGA's Senior and Champion of Champions events.

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“Amy talked to us again about holding a women’s senior, along same lines as the county amateur,” Bennett said. “It just seemed like a natural progression. The women’s association had no objection to that happening, and I know the state (golf association) is moving along the same lines.”

Having the county’s top amateur golfers, both men and women, playing on the same course at the same time while vying for championships, seems like a practical and overdue idea. It should help to promote a sport and an organization that has struggled locally in recent years.

Some folks still have concerns: This Saturday's event has about a half-dozen female competitors signed up. Bennett had been hoping for about 20 women, but the COVID-19 pandemic likely has helped to limit the field.

The senior event had originally been scheduled for May 11. There’s little doubt that there are some golfers, especially senior players, who are still leery about playing competitive golf at this time, even though York County has been moved into the green phase of the COVID-19 recovery plan. Seniors have been especially susceptible to serious complications and death during the outbreak.

“There are still some players who have concerns, and that’s completely understandable,” Bennett said.

Bennett said the YCAGA will follow all recommended health guidelines in an effort to ensure the safety of the players.

Approximately two dozen players have signed up for the men’s senior event, which has a 50-and-over division and a 60-and-over division, as well as a super-senior class for players 65 and over.

The YCAGA schedule: In addition to the senior tournament, two other YCAGA events were postponed this spring – the Spring Better Ball and the Interclub Championship. Rescheduled dates for those events have not yet been set.

The rest of the YCAGA schedule features the York County Amateur at Bon Air Country Club on July 18-19; the York/Lancaster/Harrisburg/Berks Mid-Amateur at Groff’s Farm in Lancaster County on Aug. 15; the York Open Senior Championship on Aug. 23 at Regents’ Glen Country Club; the York Open on Aug. 24 at Regents’ Glen; the Champion of Champions at Honey Run on Sept. 6; and the War of the Roses battle vs. Lancaster County at Country Club of York on Oct. 10-11.

Of course, those tournaments are all contingent on not having a COVID-19 resurgence.

“I was hoping for a good year, but it’s probably not going to be as good as we would’ve liked because of COVID,” Bennett said. “I’m not sure what Gov. (Tom) Wolf is going to do going forward, and who knows what may happen if we have another spike. We’re playing it by ear.”

— Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at sheiser@yorkdispatch.com.