3 Things to Know: 3rd U.S. Adaptive Open

By Greg Midland, USGA

| Jul 07, 2024 | Newton, Kan.

3 Things to Know: 3rd U.S. Adaptive Open

In a festive ballroom in Wichita on Saturday evening, more than 300 attendees gathered for what has become a much-anticipated event: the U.S. Adaptive Open Players’ Dinner. It’s equal parts celebration, reunion and official kickoff to a championship week that is unlike any other on the USGA schedule.

For the first time in its young history, the U.S. Adaptive Open is being held somewhere other than Pinehurst No. 6, which hosted the first two editions of the championship. This year’s venue, Sand Creek Station Golf Course in Newton, Kan., is a public course that hosted the final U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship in 2014.

As has been the case for the previous two U.S. Adaptive Opens, the practice rounds offer an opportunity for players to plan out their strategies as well as reconnect with fellow competitors who they might not cross paths with very often.

“It’s awesome to be back. I’m really great friends with a lot of these people,” said Amanda Cunha, 20, who became legally blind in 2021 and won the female visual impairment category in this championship the last two years. “For the three years that I’ve been playing adaptive golf, I’ve really been able to make really strong connections.”

Here are 3 things to know heading into Monday’s opening round.

shot from fairway

Kellie Valentine plays a shot on the 16th tee during a practice round ahead of the 2024 U.S. Adaptive Open at Sand Creek Station in Newton, Kan. (Jeff Haynes/USGA)

Qualifying and a Cut

Thirty players are making their U.S. Adaptive Open debuts this year. Some earned their way into the field via an exemption or committee selection and others through qualifying, which was conducted at six sites in the U.S. this spring. It was the first time qualifying was offered for this championship, and the result is a field that represents even more pathways of entry to what has become the most coveted title in adaptive golf.  

Another major difference this year is the presence of a 36-hole cut. The following will advance to the final round on Wednesday, July 10: the top 20 overall male players and ties and top three men and ties from each Impairment Category; and top 10 overall female players and ties and top two women and ties from each Impairment Category. In addition, any player within five strokes of the leader in their Impairment Category will make the final day. It’s yet another evolution for a championship that is on the forefront both in the competition it provides and the inspiration it generates.

Railroad Crossing

Opened in 2006, Sand Creek Station takes its name from the tributary that flows through town, as well as Newton’s past and present as a freight railroad hub. The busy tracks used by the BNSF Railway Company are adjacent to the course property.

The par-72 course features multiple teeing grounds that offer the needed number of yardage options for the 96-player field, made up of competitors representing eight distinct impairment categories. It is already getting positive reviews following the two days of practice rounds.

“The fairways are bentgrass and the ball just comes off so nice,” said Larry Celano, 55, who competes in the seated player division. “I’m from Arizona, so I know good golf courses because we have some of the best in the world. This is right there with them.”

“I’m so excited to be at a new course and have a new experience this year,” said Ryanne Jackson, 26, the reigning overall women’s champion. “There’s a lot more trouble off the tee here, so I think a big key is going to be getting off the tee well and then, as always, putting.”

shot from fairway

Max Togisala smiles on the third tee during a practice round ahead of the 2024 U.S. Adaptive Open at Sand Creek Station. (Kathryn Riley/USGA)

International Flavor

While this championship is taking place in America’s heartland, don’t be surprised if the champions and category winners have significant international representation. There are 11 different countries represented in this year’s field, and the championship is still waiting for its first American men’s champion; Simon Lee of Korea won in 2022 and Kipp Popert of England took the title last year.

Additionally, the top five players in the World Ranking for Golfers with Disability (WR4GD) are international male competitors, including first-time U.S. Adaptive Open participant Brendan Lawlor of Ireland, who is ranked third. Lawlor made history in 2020 by becoming the first player with a disability to compete in a DP World Tour event.

To follow the action from Sand Creek Station and see who will raise the trophy as an overall champion or earn a medal as a category winner, tune into Golf Channel for extended coverage and live reports during “Golf Today” (1-3 p.m. EDT) and “Golf Central” (5-6 p.m. EDT). The final 30 minutes of Wednesday’s Golf Central will be dedicated to covering the conclusion of the championship, including the trophy ceremony.  

Greg Midland is the editorial director at the USGA. You can email him at gmidland@usga.org.