U.S. Amateur promises big benefits for region

The U.S. Women's Amateur at Old Waverly Golf Course next year will bring international attention and thousands of visitors to the community. But it's going to cost as much $750,000 to put it on.
Staff Writer

The U.S. Women's Amateur at Old Waverly Golf Course next year will bring international attention and thousands of visitors to the community. But it's going to cost as much $750,000 to put it on.

Businesses and communities across the region and state already are getting on board to help, including West Point, which is chipping in $25,000 during the next 15 months.

They join cities like Columbus, Tupelo and Starkville that have committed to help financially, Rick Milburn, one of the organizing committee members told West Point Selectmen this week.

"Those other communities see the benefit it will bring to the region. They know their hotels and restaurants will be full, too," West Point Selectman Keith McBrayer said of the early support lining up for the nine-day event Aug. 2-11, 2019.

Milburn noted 156 players from the United States and 50 countries qualify for the 123-year-old tournament, which is one of the world's most prestigious international golf events. Each of those will have at least "three or four" people with them and some will have more. With practice rounds plus two days of qualifying, they'll be in the area at least four days.

In addition, the United States Golf Association, which puts on the tournament, will have at least 70 staff, plus dozens of media.

"The 70 USGA people will mean at least 6,500 room nights alone. And that is just the beginning when you look at all the other people," Milburn said, referring to the hotel taxes in place in West Point and surrounding communities to fund tourism promotion, business development, recreation and other government services.

"The city should get a huge payback from the event," he stated.

The tournament is the latest in a long line of big-name events hosted by Old Waverly, starting with the 1999 Women's U.S. Open, which set an attendance record with as many as 125,000 fans turning out.

While the U.S. Amateur won't generate those kinds of crowds, it will draw fans, especially since tickets are free.

"We want to get as many people as possible there. The USGA is putting a lot of confidence in the area since this usually is held in much larger cities," Milburn said, noting that in the last three years, it has been in Philadelphia, Pa., San Diego, Calif., and Nashville, Tenn.

Old Waverly hosted the U.S. Women's Senior Amateur in 2015 and that generated an estimated $4 million in free advertising for the community. Next year's event is expected to far exceed that, especially with hours of television coverage and live-streaming online.

"Just imagine how many millions of people will see it, will see the region," he added.

Fox Sports1 will broadcast much of the tournament which provides a special opportunity for Old Waverly. Next year will mark the 20th anniversary of the Women's U.S. Open being played there. Julie Inkster, who is now a commentator for Fox Sports1, won the championship that year and Old Waverly is trying to get her to come back for next year's Amateur Championship.

But hosting the tournament is expensive, from feeding and organizing more than 400 volunteers each day to meeting the USGA's strict rules for marketing, special events, and course standards.

"Frankly, Old Waverly can't handle it alone. That's why we are reaching out to the communities. The Mississippi Development Authority is helping us with industries across the state. We want this to be truly representative of the region and the state and what we have to offer," Milburn said, noting that if fund raising is successful, the city could be rebated part of its investment.