The Kittansett Club, which sits on a point that juts into Buzzards Bay, is celebrating its centennial by hosting the 67th U.S. Senior Amateur Championship.
Surprisingly for a course generally regarded as one of the best in New England, this week marks just its second USGA championship, after the 1953 Walker Cup Match, which was won by the USA over Great Britain & Ireland, 9-3. That USA Team featured a pair of future U.S. Open champions: Gene Littler and Ken Venturi, as well as six past or future U.S. Amateur champions: William C. Campbell, Richard Chapman, Charles Coe, Sam Urzetta, Harvie Ward and Jack Westland.
The 156-player field will take on a course that was designed by founding club member Frederic C. Hood, with consultation from renowned course architect William Flynn. The course has recently undergone a multiyear restoration and tree removal program overseen by Gil Hanse.
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“Kittansett is a very natural golf course, nothing manufactured, and the fescue’s up and it’s going to be blowing,” said Greg Sanfilippo, the championship director, who has guided the USGA’s efforts for this 55-and-over championship for more than a decade. “It just feels like a championship site.”
The wind is a seemingly constant feature of the Buzzards Bay setting, and it is expected to provide the players with a variety of challenges, as it is forecasted to blow in at least three directions with gusts up to 20 to 30 mph.
“The members will tell you that the traditional wind is out of the southwest,” said Sanfilippo. “But for stroke play, it appears we’re going to get some northeast winds, which will force us to adjust our setup a little. The winds will gust, so we need to really look hard at slopes on the putting greens, while still being sure to bring the architecture into play.”
Kittansett’s most famous hole is assuredly No. 3, a par 3 that will play about 150 yards. The green, which is set slightly above the tee, is totally surrounded by sand and sits within several yards of the bay.
“The green is actually fairly large, but when you look at it from the tee, it looks like a postage stamp,” sad Sanfilippo. At 34 yards deep, the putting surface is among the deepest on the course, and it’s about 20 yards wide through the middle. “It needs to be, given the exposure to the wind. It’s iconic, and it’s going to be a hard one to hit.”
When the field is whittled to 64 for match play, starting on Monday, Sanfilippo expects the layout to shine.
“There are opportunities to locate the holes on some higher slopes, or a little tucked,” said Sanfilippo. “The players will have to think about where their ball is going to land on these greens, and if their opponent has stuck one to 5 or 10 feet, they’re going to have to go after it in these windy conditions.”
One would be hard-pressed to find a more accomplished list of players than this one. Sixteen USGA champions are in the field, including defending champion Gene Elliott and eight other past Senior Amateur champions, one of whom, Paul Simson, has won it twice (2010, 2012) and lost in the final in 2017. Simson is competing for a field-high 15th time, while 2015 champion Chip Lutz is next, making his 12th start.
There are also three U.S. Amateur champions (Fred Ridley, Nathaniel Crosby and Stewart “Buddy” Alexander), and three Walker Cup captains, two of whom (Ridley and Crosby) have already served, while Michael McCoy played in 2015 and will captain the USA side at St. Andrews in 2023. Nine USGA championship runners-up are also here, eight of whom did so in this championship – although four of those men also count themselves among those whose names are etched into a plaque in the USGA Golf Museum’s Hall of Champions.
A few of those in this field have earned notoriety in other sports pursuits, notably a Super Bowl starting quarterback and a Major League Baseball (MLB) All-Star pitcher. Stan Humphries, of Monroe, La., led the 1994 San Diego Chargers to the Super Bowl, where they lost to the San Francisco 49ers, led by QB Steve Young. Humphries also won a Super Bowl ring as a backup quarterback for the Washington Redskins (now Commanders) three years earlier. The 57-year-old Humphries, who has coached high school girls’ basketball the last 19 years, is playing in his first USGA championship.
Erik Hanson, 57, of Kirkland, Wash., pitched for four MLB teams, including an All-Star season with the Boston Red Sox in 1995. Hanson compiled an 89-84 record in 238 starts over 11 seasons, with 18 wins for the Seattle Mariners in 1990. Hanson is playing in his first U.S. Senior Amateur and 15th USGA championship.
Others with interesting back stories include John Pate, who is the brother of six-time PGA Tour winner Steve Pate; and Jim Doing, of Verona, Wisc., a former opera singer who teaches voice at the University of Wisconsin. He and his wife, Sue, have five adult children, including Jon, 37, who is the percussionist in the hit show “Hamilton” on a Broadway national tour.
Ron Driscoll is the senior manager of content for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.