Hot tennis, hotter golfJuly is usually the hottest month of all, and when it comes to area golf, it can’t get any hotter!
Today sees the opening round of the 59th U.S. Women’s Open in nearby South Hadley on the Orchards Golf course at Mount Holyoke College, with the world’s best pros and amateurs in action.
Then women’s professional golf returns to Stratton Mountain July 6-10 with the Futures Tour, where the wanna-bes and the used to-bes battle for $70,000 in prize money and a chance for promotion to the LPGA.
Next is the Massachusetts Golf Association with the Men’s Amateur Championship at Williams College’s Taconic Golf Club in Williamstown July 12-16.
Also on July 12 the Country Club of Pittsfield will host the Women’s Golf Association of Massachusetts Class B, C. D and E Championships. A state junior qualifier will also be at the Pittsfield CC July 19.
Waubeeka Golf Links in Williamstown incidentally hosted a Northeast Junior Tournament today. And the Berkshire Allied Junior Championship will be July 12 at the Wyantenuck Country Club in Great Barrington.
That takes care of the “official” competitions, but virtually every club in the area will have its own events throughout July, with Taconic and Waubeeka combining to accommodate the large number of contestants in the annual Williams College Alumni/Guest Tournament July 22-24.
Sunday, July 4, will see the Independence Day Scramble at Waubeeka, followed by the annual Men’s Three-Day Member Guest, July 9-10.
Then there will be the sixth annual United Cerebral Palsy Classic at Waubeeka July 14, to support UCP services to children and adults with disabilities in Berkshire County. Contact Christine Singer for details or to enroll at 442-1562.
The 2004 Berkshire Allied Senior Championship will be July 19 at the Stockbridge Golf Club.
The U.S. Women’s Open would not be played at The Orchards if, in 1922, industrialist Joseph Skinner could have found a golf course that would have allowed his 9-year-old daughter to play.
Finding no course open to his daughter, he commissioned famed designer Donald Ross to build one at Mount Holyoke, where golf had been played on less elaborate links since 1897.
The Orchards had fallen into disrepair in recent years, until Arnold Palmer Golf Management was contracted to head the operation.
Then Mount Holyoke alum Joan Fay played the rejuvenated course in 2000 and praised its new look to her husband, David Fay, who happens to be executive director of the USGA. The rest is history.
The Open field includes defending champ Hilary Lunke, Annika Sorenstam, Juli Inkster, Se Ri Pak and Karrie Webb, but a 14-year-old, 6-foot, 1-inch lass, Michelle Wie, will be the focus of attention. Wie has already played in PGA and LPGA events on sponsors’ exemptions. She includes the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship among her major titles.
Admission is $30 a day at The Orchards, but children are admitted free when accompanied by a ticketed adult.
Stratton added golf to its ski facilities soon after opening in 1961 but gained summer fame in the ’80s with the always sold-out Volvo Tennis Classic.
After the Volvo relocated to a permanent stadium next to the Yale Bowl, Stratton then hosted the LPGA in the McCall Magazine Classic from 1990 to 1995.
The tour’s top players found the Geoffrey Cornish designed links demanding, but fair, and the most popular player was Hall of Fame Nancy Lopez, who competed in 1993. Dottie Pepper of Saratoga won the final event.
Pro golf was limited for the next seven years to the Futures Tour, with its home at the new Green Mountain National in the town of Killington.
But sponsors could not be found at GMN last year and Intrawest Ltd. of Vancouver, British Columbia, owners of Stratton, agreed to host The Futures this year and presumably for the next several years.
Many of today’s LPGA stars got their start on The Futures, including Grace Park, now one of the leading players.
The Futures players come from some 50 countries and include two Vermonters, Libby Smith of Essex Junction and Sue Horton of Essex Junction.
Co-sponsors include the Manchester & The Mountains Chamber of Commerce, the Equinox Resort in Manchester and Casella Systems.
While most of The Futures players are in their 20s, there are some veterans, including 48-year-old Beverly Klass, the Michelle Wie of the ’70s.
Admission is free for all at the Mass. Amateur at Taconic, where state and national championships have been held many times, including the U.S. Juniors in 1956, when Jack Nicklaus aced the 14th hole. The Men’s Division 3 National Championship was at Taconic in 1999 and the U.S. Senior Amateurs were there in 1996, a feature of Taconic’s 100th anniversary year.
National tennis championships have been held on the Williams College course also, with the NCAA Division III title won a couple of years ago by the Ephmen.
The Clarence Chaffee-Williams Hart Memorial Seniors Championship will be played on the remaining five clay courts July 9-11, presented by the Williamstown Tennis Club.
The competition was started in the ’50s by the late Williams Coach Clarence Chaffee, who died in 1986 after winning some 50 senior national championships on all surfaces.
His doubles partner for many years, Billy Hart, was a top-ranked doubles player with Chaffee, and later Curt Tong, who is a member of the tournament committee as well as a competitor.
The tourney is sanctioned by USA Tennis New England, and there will be men’s and women’s and mixed play in various categories from the 40s to the 70s.
Players come from all over New England and include several from the Berkshires and Vermont.
Present William coach Dave Johnson meanwhile directs the annual Nike Junior Tennis Camp on the 18 Williams hard courts.
There is also a Nike Junior Golf School at Williams, with practice on Cole Field and play at Waubeeka, North Adams CC and Skyline.
John Hitchcock of Williamstown writes frequently about the area sports scene.