Inaugural U.S. Adaptive Open: 3 Things to Know, Round 1

By Ron Driscoll and Greg Midland, USGA

| Jul 17, 2022 | VILLAGE OF PINEHURST, N.C.

Inaugural U.S. Adaptive Open: 3 Things to Know, Round 1

U.S. Adaptive Open Home

Monday’s first round of the Inaugural U.S. Adaptive Open is among the most highly anticipated days of golf in recent USGA history. This championship has been years in the making, and now the stage is set for 96 players representing eight different impairment categories to begin their USGA championship journey.

The venue, Pinehurst No. 6, is a 1979 design by George and Tom Fazio that will also host this championship in 2023. It was chosen specifically for its friendliness to golfers with disabilities – no forced carries, gentle bunker entrances and no curbs on cart paths, among other features.

Here are 3 Things to Know heading into Monday’s opening round.

First Time’s a Charm

Stephanie Parel, the championship director for the U.S. Adaptive Open, paused for a moment to come up with the right word. “Everyone’s giddy – that’s the best word I can think of,” said Parel. “That’s the only way to describe how wonderful this is, the joy of being part of it, having it realized.”

Parel saw the reactions of players as they registered over the weekend, their smiles “beyond ear to ear,” and even a few fist pumps as they headed out to begin preparing for the championship, the details of which were announced only last December. 

“December isn’t a lot of time for any championship, but especially one that doesn’t have a model that we’ve used before,” said Parel. “Still, it’s such a dream to get to do the first one at Pinehurst, for us, for the players and for the community. We’re honored to add a different demographic to our USGA championships.”

An Open, But Different

This is an Open championship, open to professionals and amateurs and representing a world-class field from 11 countries and 29 U.S. states. But in an effort to create a positive experience for the players, some things will look and feel different than the USGA’s other four Opens.

For starters, there is no cut – all 96 players will play 54 holes, barring a withdrawal or disqualification. Also, the field is grouped into foursomes, rather than the groups of three or two that are customary at the other Opens. A maximum score of two times par on a given hole (i.e., an 8 on a par 4) will be in effect, and multiple teeing grounds will be used based on players’ impairment categories. Each group will be assigned a player assistant to help with course care tasks such as bunker raking, divot replacement and ball mark repair. Finally, the championship is being played under the Modified Rules of Golf, which includes a set of accommodations that includes the expansion of the lateral relief area – to four-club lengths – for seated players and permitting the caddies of visually impaired players to stand behind their player and assist with alignment and setup.

Even with all the differences, one key similarity remains: When the two overall low scorers – one male and one female – raise their respective trophies on Wednesday afternoon, they will forever be known as USGA champions.

Familiar Names

The community of golfers with disabilities includes some people whose names will no doubt ring a bell. Ken Green, 63, who lost his leg in an RV accident in 2009, won five PGA Tour events in the late 1980s and played on the 1989 USA Ryder Cup Team. Dennis Walters, the 2018 USGA Bob Jones Award recipient and the second-oldest player in the field at 73, is renowned for his trick-shot exhibitions that have entertained audiences around the world.

Amy Bockerstette, 23, gained fame for playing – and parring – a hole with Gary Woodland during the PGA Tour stop in Phoenix three years ago and founded her “I Got This” Foundation to support players with Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities. Jake Olson, 25, is a former long snapper for the University of Southern California and made history in 2017 as the first blind player to compete in an NCAA football game.

While these individuals may be among the headliners, all 96 players in the field have a story to tell, and everything is in place for them to chase their dreams of USGA championship glory.