With U.S. Senior Open, Omaha leaves USGA in awe - Omaha.com
Published Monday, July 15, 2013 at 10:47 pm / Updated at 1:17 am
With U.S. Senior Open, Omaha leaves USGA in awe

If Omaha Country Club is willing to invite it back, the United States Golf Association is eager to return for another national tournament.

This year's U.S. Senior Open, which ended Sunday, generated record revenue and had the second-largest attendance since its conception in 1980.

“We'll love to come back anytime,'' said Tom O'Toole Jr., vice president of the USGA, on the 18th green Sunday. “We couldn't be any happier with the week.”

Omaha Country Club's president, Mike Kelley, said it will be up to the club's membership, as it was for the Senior Open, whether to seek future USGA events.

“We probably would entertain the idea,'' he said, but a factor could be how fast the course recovers from the tournament.

Patrick Duffy, who was the general chairman for the Senior Open, said Omaha Country Club and the USGA have a strong relationship. At the very least, he expects OCC would support the USGA by holding local and sectional qualifying events for its national championships.

The USGA sets championship sites for the Senior Open, Women's Open and its amateur-only events based on invitations it receives from prospective host clubs. The Senior Open has been best received in Midwest markets such as Omaha, Des Moines and Wichita (Prairie Dunes at nearby Hutchinson).

O'Toole said last week that Tim Flaherty, who's the senior director for the Senior Open, “has tried to take those invitations and somehow or other massage them and move them around the play board so we could get markets that fit with this and our Women's Open championships so we can enjoy the success we've had here in Omaha.”

Eight years is the soonest the U.S. Senior Open has returned to a course, with Saucon Valley at Bethlehem, Pa., in 1992 and 2000 and Inverness in Toledo, Ohio, in 2003 and 2011.

In 2021, Phil Mickelson would be eligible for the Senior Open as an over-50 golfer. So would Ernie Els, Jim Furyk, José Maria Olazábal, David Toms, Steve Stricker, Retief Goosen and John Daly. Go to 2023, and David Duval, Justin Leonard, Stewart Cink and Padraig Harrington are in the mix.

It's easy to see why the USGA would want to come back to Omaha. For a Senior Open, corporate hospitality sales were a record $5.6 million, ticket sales topped $2 million for only the third time, the attendance of 157,126 ranked second only to 1999 at Des Moines and the volunteer force of 3,000 was lined up nine months in advance.

Becky Petro of Bruno Event Team, which managed the Senior Open, said Saturday was the first time a Bruno event parked more than 10,000 cars in a day and Sunday topped it.

The 32,994 on the course Saturday, then the 34,354 on Sunday, set records for the largest single-day attendance at a sporting event in Omaha.

“It exceeded expectations,'' Duffy said Sunday. “This community knows how to back an event and the weather turned out great.”

O'Toole, also on Sunday, said the home run Omaha hit with the Senior Open turned out to be a grand slam.

“This is as good as it gets,'' he said.

Contact the writer: Stu Pospisil

stu.pospisil@owh.com    |   402-444-1041    |  

Stu Pospisil has been The World-Herald's lead writer for high school sports since 1990 and for golf since 1988. He primarily covers football in the fall, basketball and wrestling in the winter and track and field in the spring.

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