Eugene Country Club members and staff prepare for NCAA golf championships
Casey Martin was uncertain the Eugene Country Club would be willing to host the NCAA Golf Championships when the topic came up in 2014.
After the club hosted one of six NCAA regionals that year, NCAA officials encouraged the Oregon men’s golf head coach to bid on the 2016 championships at the Eugene Country Club. But hosting would restrict club members from using the course for several weeks in May during some of the best conditions of golf season.
“Initially, my response was … I can’t foresee a country club in their peak season giving up two to three weeks of their golf course,” Martin said.
As it turned out, interest between the NCAA and Eugene Country Club was mutual. Martin received positive feedback from club general manager Rich Spurlin, and the club’s board of directors voted unanimously in favor of hosting. The NCAA ultimately selected Eugene Country Club as the site for the women’s championships May 20-26 and the men’s championships May 27-June 1.
In addition to three weeks of NCAA presence at the Eugene Country Club, a major clubhouse renovation will immediately follow the end of championships. Although the golf course will remain open, members likely won’t be able to use other amenities until June 2017.
The decision to renovate was voted on by all members, with approximately two thirds voting yes. Spurlin estimates 650 families play golf at the club, and 50 who are only social members. Both the NCAA Championships and renovations will restrict what members can do at the course.
“For a lot of members, this is their home,” Spurlin said. “It’s an exciting time but disruptive.”
Course superintendent Chris Gaughan has seen the benefits of hosting an event at Eugene Country Club. He was a caddy the last time the club hosted NCAA Championships in 1978 and was in attendance for the 2008 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship and 2014 NCAA Regionals.
The course has hosted numerous tournaments, but its reputation grew, especially after 2014.
“This was the toughest regional even though it wasn’t the longest,” Gaughan said. “Everyone was talking about it, so there was a lot of buzz.”
As superintendent, Gaughan is tasked with getting the course up to NCAA standards for the championships. This includes growing and trimming the rough and raking sand traps. Those things come easy to Gaughan. It’s the weather that will be the most unpredictable, something Gaughan and the club staff will have no control over.
“If it gets wet, all that time and effort you put into it goes away,” Gaughan said.
But if nature cooperates, Spurlin and Gaughan believe the championships will build on the club’s success of hosting the 2014 regional. Hosting championships will allow members to watch elite amateur golfers in their backyard and also give them an opportunity to volunteer in the event.
“For members, it’s a big deal,” Gaughan said. “It’s fun when you get involved and host.”
Follow Will Denner on Twitter @Will_Denner
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