Oakland Hills set for Amateur with hopes for U.S. Open

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
Oakland Hills last hosted a major tournament in 2008, the PGA Championship.

Bloomfield Hills — As Oakland Hills Country Club prepares to host the U.S. Amateur next month, officials still have their sights set on hosting another U.S. Open, an event that hasn’t been played at the Metro Detroit club since 1996.

“We have extended an invitation to the USGA to come back,” Oakland Hills member and general chairman Lee Juett said at the U.S. Amateur Preview on Tuesday. “We have not had any further discussions, but we expect to have those during the Amateur in some fashion.”

USGA officials announced in mid-June Oakmont Country Club, near Pittsburgh, would host the 2025 event, and Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y., would host the 2026 Open. That came a few weeks after Oakland Hills officials had extended an invitation to host the U.S. Open.

Oakland Hills hopes to put its best foot forward during the U.S. Amateur, which runs Aug. 15-21. It’s the first time the event has been played at Oakland Hills since 2002.

Its performance, however, doesn’t necessarily guarantee future USGA events.

“Oakland Hills will run a high-quality, first-class 2016 Amateur Championship,” said Ben Kimball, U.S. Amateur Championship director. “That’s what this committee is focused on and certainly what the USGA is focused on. Oakland Hills will deliver a first-rate experience for not only the players, but the media, the USGA staff and whoever.

“We have a future site committee at the USGA that is constantly looking at where all our Open championships will go. We want to take the Open Championship to the best venues in the country, and this certainly is one of them.”

The U.S. Amateur will be the 11th USGA championship at Oakland Hills, and first major event since the 2008 PGA Championship.

The final preparations for the Amateur, however, come as a proposed $11 million renovation of the famed South Course was voted down by Oakland Hills members on Monday, Juett said.

The changes would have restored the course to more closely resemble the original inland links design by Donald Ross, and would have been funded by increased member dues. The South Course was updated in 2006 by Rees Jones.

“What we see today and what we’ve had for 100 years is a very challenging golf course,” Juett said. “We’re comfortable with where it’s at right now and through Aug. 15th we’ll be comfortable with how it will play and what they’re gonna find there.”

The South Course and the North Course will be used the first two days of stroke play, with match play taking place on the South. USGA officials said they planned to play both courses as par-70, changing Nos. 8 and 18 on the South Course from par-5 to par-4.

“If (the matches do get to the 18th hole) the converted par-5 to 4, 18th hole will provide all the finishing-hole drama you could ask for,” Kimball said.

One of the premier players who will be shooting for the U.S. Amateur title is Maverick McNealy, the top-ranked amateur and a senior-to-be at Stanford.

He’ll have his father, Scott, as caddy — and Dad brings plenty of local knowledge having graduated from Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook and played plenty of rounds at Oakland Hills.

mcharboneau@detroitnews.com

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U.S. Amateur

Course: Oakland Hills Country Club South (7,334 yards, par 70) and North (6,849 yards, par 70) courses

Schedule: Aug. 15-21

TV: FS1 — 3-6 p.m. Aug. 17-19. Fox — 3-6 p.m. Aug. 20-21

Format: Stroke play — Aug. 15-16. Match play — Aug. 17-18. Quarterfinal match play — Aug. 19. Semifinal match play — Aug. 20. Championship match — Aug. 21

Tickets: $20 single day, $75 weekly pass; military and students free

Details: 2016usamateur.com