Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck will be the site of the 2020 U.S. Open Championship.
The U.S. Golf Association (USGA) hoped to return to the elite Westchester County course in 2015, but after a series of negotiations with Winged Foot leadership and its membership, they determined 2020 would be appropriate.
The U.S. Open was last held at Winged Foot in 2006 when the world watched the historic collapse of PGA Tour golfer Phil Mickelson, a winner of four PGA major golf championships. The drama of that memory is part of the lure for the USGA to return to Winged Foot. It’s one of the most relevant clubs in the country without adding anything to the courses’ landscapes, said Thomas J. O’Toole Jr., USGA vice president and championship committee chairman. Regarding preparation for the major tournament, “You don’t want to do too much to the Mona Lisa,” said O’Toole. “That’s why it’s so great to come back here because it can test the greatest players in the world.”
The 14-year gap between the last time Winged Foot hosted the U.S. Open and the next time the club will play host is directly related to the sacrifice that ties any club to a major. John Schneider, who began his one-year term as Winged Foot club president in January, said the challenge that comes with hosting a June tournament is the time constraint. “It takes them a month to get off the property,” he said. “Now you’re in the middle of July, which is not a great growing season. Even though we do the restoration and we sod the fairways and work on the drainage, it’s still going to be fall … before we can play on all 18 holes,” said Schneider.
Despite the difficulties, “It’s something we feel is our heritage and the bylaws of the club to hold national championships,” Schneider said. “We’re excited. You look at the tradition of Winged Foot – you’ve got (Robert T.) Jones, (Billy) Casper in his day, Hale Irwin playing championship courses better than anybody at that time, Fuzzy Zoeller. You have a chance of adding to the history of the books and it’s cherished by the membership.” And the monetary value of hosting such an event is substantial.
In the past, the U.S. Open has brought in roughly $150 million to regions that have held the four-day event, according to the USGA. O’Toole said it’s hard to speculate on how big that number might be in 2020, but he said from a corporate hospitality perspective, the U.S. Open is the largest production of golf in the world. “And this is a great region to produce our national championship in New York for a lot of reasons – corporate America is here, vibrant New York golf fans,” said O’Toole. “So there will be a significant economic impact, one that will be great for the club and great for Westchester County.”
Between now and 2020, Winged Foot Golf Club will have time to come up with a game plan. Schneider said the club also has work to do on the course itself. A few months ago, the legendary golf course was visited by Hurricane Sandy. “We did lose a couple of trees that we’re replacing and we might relocate a couple of bunkers,” Schneider said, but added that would pretty much be the extent of it. The club prides itself on general upkeep, which helps it remain among the most prestigious golf courses in the nation.
Ideally, Winged Foot will have nine holes available on its West Course for members to continue their play immediately after the U.S. Open ends, said Schneider. The tournament is scheduled for June 18-21, 2020. Other issues are also being investigated, including shuttling fans to and from the event. But Schneider and O’Toole agree they have sufficient time to come up with needed solutions. O’Toole said the USGA is happy they found “the right balance” of time for Winged Foot members, and added “we look forward to coming back.”