Past Its Prime
Continued (page 2 of 2)
For me, the best argument made by those disappointed with the USGA's decision is that many of the young players that now constitute the majority of the field at both the APL and WAPL come from backgrounds where public golf was the only avenue for them to pursue the game. Despite, in many instances, financial challenges, they managed to develop into standout players whose hard work is rewarded when they advanced through sectional qualifying into national championship proper.
Certainly, those golfers are to be commended for their efforts. But they are not the populace that the APL or WAPL was originally intended to serve. Those players have the opportunity to compete and thrive in other USGA championships -- the boys and girls juniors and the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Women's Amateur championships -- and they often do. However, their presence at the APL and WAPL comes at the expense of their older counterparts. They take the spots that adult public golfers claimed in previous generations, squeezing out the everyday municipal golfer that was supposed to be the championship's target audience.
When I've previously written about what might be done to save the APL/WAPL, one of my suggestions has been to prohibit college players from being eligible. More often than not, these golfers have access to private facilities through the teams they play on, so characterizing them as "public" players seems a bit disingenuous anyway. Tom O'Toole, the USGA championship committee chairman, said that idea was discussed and evaluated, but that ultimately it didn't resolve the question of whether the mission of the event was still being achieved.
The point that resonated with me the most in listening to the USGA was something that John Bodehamer, the association's senior managing director, rules, competitions and equipment standards, said to me when trying to explain why the they would shutter championships for the first time in the USGA's 119-year history.
"What it all boiled down to was an essential question," Bodehamer said. "If we were starting over today and founded the USGA, starting the championships, would we created these two championships today? And the answer is no because the original mission is no longer needed."
I'm not 100 percent sure I agree with his later point. The idea of championships for true public golfers might not be needed, but they certainly are events that would be worthwhile and appreciated.
Sadly, the APL and WAPL, at least as they are today, aren't those championships any more.
-- Senior Writer Ryan Herrington covers college and amateur golf for Golf World. i>