When the 2021 tournament returns to the Nebraska club, which also hosted it in 2013, it will tie the record for fastest return of a Senior Open. The 2022 tournament will be a record third for Saucon Valley CC and will coincide with the Bethlehem, Pa. club’s 100th anniversary.
The United States Golf Association (USGA) has awarded the 2021 U.S Senior Open to Omaha (Neb.) Country Club and the 2022 Senior Open to Saucon Valley Country Club in Bethlehem, Pa.
The official announcements were made as the week began leading up to the 2017 Senior Open, which will be played at Salem Country Club in Peabody, Mass.
The Omaha World-Herald reported that the return of the 2021 Senior Open to Omaha CC, which hosted the 2013 Senior Open, will tie the record for fastest return of the tournament to a previous site. Saucon Valley CC hosted Senior Opens in 1992 and 2000, and Inverness Country Club in Toledo, Ohio, hosted Senior Opens in 2003 and 2011.
Saucon Valley will be the first club to host three Senior Opens when the tournament returns there June 23-26, 2022. The tournament will coincide with Saucon Valley’s 100th anniversary year, The Morning Call of Allentown, Pa. reported.
The dates for the Omaha CC’s next Senior Open will be July 8 to 11, 2021. The tournament could bring 20 hours or more of live telecasts on Fox and Fox Sports, the World-Herald noted.
“Omaha Country Club is honored to be the host club for the 2021 U.S. Senior Open Championship,” said Patrick Duffy, tournament co-chairman. “The entire community embraced the championship in 2013 and is excited to have the USGA return to Nebraska for this global event.
“This weeklong championship, featuring the world’s best senior players, will again provide significant economic impact to the local community,” Duffy added.
The economic impact from the 2013 Senior Open was reported in a USGA press release the following February as exceeding $50 million, the World-Herald reported. Those numbers helped to explain why the USGA wanted to come back to Omaha. For the 2013 Senior Open, corporate hospitality sales were a record $5.6 million, ticket sales topped $2 million for only the third time, the weeklong attendance of 157,126 ranked second all-time, and the volunteer force of 3,000 was lined up nine months in advance.
The 32,994 spectators for the Saturday round, then the 34,354 on Sunday for the final round, set records for the largest single-day attendance at an Omaha sporting event, the World-Herald reported.
“We’ll love to come back anytime,” then-USGA Vice President Tom O’Toole Jr. said after the 2013 tournament. “We couldn’t be any happier with the week.”
Senior Opens have been best received in Midwest markets such as Omaha, Des Moines and Wichita (when held at Prairie Dunes Country Club in nearby Hutchinson, Kansas), the World-Herald noted.
Des Moines, in its only year, 1999, set the tournament’s attendance record. The city now is on the Senior Tour, with a tournament at the Wakonda Club in June. This year, the Solheim Cup for women will be held in August at Des Moines Golf and Country Club, which held the 1999 Senior Open.
Prairie Dunes CC, which hosted the Senior Open in 2006, hasn’t held a USGA championship since then, the World-Herald reported.
Since 2013, none of the subsequent Senior Opens has come close to Omaha’s large galleries, the World-Herald noted, citing news reports of weeklong attendance of 107,217 at Oak Tree Country Club in Edmond, Okla., in 2014; 115,006 at Del Paso in Sacramento, Calif., in 2015; and no more than 100,000, caused in part by unfavorable weather, at Scioto Country Club in Columbus, Ohio, last year.
The biggest draw to when the Senior Open returns to Omaha CC in 2021 could be Phil Mickelson, who will turn 50 the year before, the World-Herald noted. Mickelson has been runner-up at the U.S. Open six times without winning. Others who weren’t old enough in 2013 to be in Omaha include Ernie Els, Jim Furyk, Jose Maria Olazabal, David Toms, Steve Stricker, Retief Goosen and John Daly.
Kenny Perry, who won the 2013 tournament, will be 60 in 2021.
It will be the second USGA open championship for the state, and only the fourth USGA event in state history, the World-Herald noted, with Firethorn Golf Club in Lincoln, Neb. hosting the 1996 U.S. Women’s Amateur and the Field Club of Omaha hosting the 1941 U.S. Amateur.
Duffy said the USGA did not ask in its new contract for changes to the Omaha CC course, which opened in 1926 and was updated in the mid-2000s. For the 2013 Senior Open, the course played 6,800 yards long and had a par of 70.
The 2022 Senior Open at Saucon Valley will be held one week after the 2022 U.S. Open at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., The Morning Call reported.
“We’re very excited about this,” Saucon Valley’s President, David Kennedy, said. “It’s good for the Lehigh Valley, with national recognition, and with the players coming online in those years, it will be a very positive event.”
Saucon Valley also played host to the 2009 U.S. Women’s Open, The Morning Call reported, and the 2022 event will be the club’s eighth USGA championship overall. Following the 2009 Women’s Open, Saucon Valley took a break from bigger tournaments but remained in the USGA queue by holding the 2014 U.S. Mid-Amateur, an event for players 25 and older.
In bidding for the Senior Open, The Morning Call reported, club officials researched the upcoming wave of players turning 50 and liked the potential field they could assemble.
“We’re reminding our members of the names who are coming online,” said Kennedy, who has been a Saucon Valley member since the 1970s. “The players coming out are going to make it much more interesting. It definitely made us interested, and the Mickelson thing certainly gets people more excited.”
Saucon Valley, which hosted its first USGA event in 1951, long has been a favorite of golf’s American governing body, which is based about 45 minutes east in Far Hills, N.J., The Morning Call noted. The USGA favors the club’s size (it has 60 holes) and facilities infrastructure that can handle a large event.
USGA officials also rave about the club’s history, which dates to 1920, and its three main courses, all of which appear on Golf Digest‘s recent list of Pennsylvania’s best.
“Saucon Valley sets up so well for this championship and has such marvelous space from a spectator standpoint and logistics standpoint, which is critical for us,” said Mike Butz, USGA senior managing director of Open championships. “It’s also the ultimate test of golf for this group of players. Then there’s the general beauty of the place, for spectators and players. It’s the perfect combination.”
Because the Old Course, where all of Saucon Valley’s USGA championships have been contested, opened in 1922, club officials thought the 2022 Senior Open would be a fitting centennial tribute to their first course, The Morning Call reported.
“It’s going to be interesting how this generation of players plays the Old Course,” said Gene Mattare, Saucon Valley’s General Manager and Director of Golf.
The Old Course will stretch longer in 2022 than the 6,749 yards it played in 2000, when one of the lowest-scoring Senior Opens was contested, The Morning Call reported. That year, Hale Irwin won at a record 17-under par (matched by Kenny Perry at Omaha CC in 2013), while Bruce Fleisher (14-under) and Tom Kite (12-under) had the two lowest scores ever among non-winners.
Saucon Valley conducted a major restoration to the Old Course prior to the 2009 U.S. Women’s Open, which Eun Hee Ji won at even par. The course was lengthened to 7,076 yards for the 2014 U.S. Mid-Amateur and can stretch longer than 7,200 yards if necessary, The Morning Call reported.
“You’ve got the length and degree of difficulty you need for a Senior Open, and under [club superintendent] Jim Roney and his crew, the course just seems to get better and better every year,” Mattare said. “With firm fairways, fast greens and robust rough, I think it will hold up against the best players in the world.”