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Turning Into Amateur Golf Capital

Barrington's Rhode Island Country Club hosting U.S. Women's Amateur Championship starting this weekend and running all next week with best golfers from 18 countries.

The best women amateur golfers in the world will gather in Barrington for the next 10 days or so.

The Rhode Island Country Club is hosting during its 100th year the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship of the U.S. Golf Association. You may have seen the colorful banners hanging on the County Road lamp posts that announce the event to motorists.

The championship runs officially from Aug. 8-14. But all of the 156 players from 18 countries, including the reigning champion from California, will be playing practice rounds and participating in other events at the club on Nayatt Road over the weekend until the official start of play on Monday.

David Piccerelli, the chief organizer as the vice-chair of the event, said the amateur championship “is the complete opposite of the CVS tournament.”

He was referring, of course, to the annual CVS Caremark Charity Classic that raises hundreds of thousands of dollars for New England charities by drawing professional golfers to Barrington for two days.

“It’s pure golf,” said Piccerelli, the past-president of the country club. “That’s the beauty of this event.”

“It’s less entertainment and more competition,” added David Chaffee, the communications director for the country club.

You won’t see grandstands and luxury boxes bearing names of big-name sponsors. You won’t see ropes lining the fairways to keep spectators separated from the golfers. In fact, just the opposite.

“Spectators, most of them family members, are encouraged to walk the fairways with the players,” Piccerelli said. “The USGA actually wants spectators to stay in the fairways and out of the rough.”

Too many fans trampling down the high grass can have a negative impact on scoring, he said. Work for the volunteer marshals, as a result, Piccerelli said, is primarily “finding balls.”

He certainly isn’t downplaying the value of about 150 volunteers who have stepped up to help the club host the championship next week.

“I wish we had about 300,” Piccerelli said, primarily because the amateur event runs for so many days. And many of those days will run from 12 to 14 hours.

Club members began working in earnest last October to prepare for the championship. The club’s request to host the championship was made seven years ago. They were selected to host the event in 2007.

“It’s our 100th anniversary,” said Piccerelli, “we thought it would be a nice event to have again.”

RICC has hosted the event three times before, the last time in 1987 during its 75th anniversary year. It continues a commitment to women’s golf that goes back decades, said Chaffee.

The 6,350-yard course, in fact, fits the women’s game to a tee. Most men’s tournaments are held on 7,500-yard courses or longer. The women, in effect, will be playing off the men’s tees at RICC.

The club has budgeted approximately $300,000, most of it raised through fundraising, to fund the championship. It is using “a road map” provided by the USGA to put together the event, but that still leaves club officials with picking and choosing what they want to do for the players beyond meeting the minimum USGA requirements.

For instance, Piccerelli said, the club will host a “players’ welcome dinner” on Sunday night. But it will not sponsor a cocktail reception for the players because of the significant cost. Many of the players also are underage.

“Many of them are college players,” said Chaffee, although the age range is 13-54. “It’s a much younger field than years ago.”

For many of the players, Piccerelli said, the event turns into a mini-vacation in Rhode Island, although everyone hopes to be playing as much golf as possible. Indeed, the players who make it to match play later next week could play as many as eight rounds of golf over six days.

“It’s an insane amount of golf,” said Piccerelli.

All 156 players start with stroke play on Monday and Tuesday, which qualifies them for match play starting on Wednesday. Only 64 players will make it to match play, which runs through Sunday, Aug. 14.

Approximately 10,000 spectators are expected to turn out for the championship. Admission is free.

Helping RICC organize the championship is Caroline Jordan, a former USGA official, who now works as a consultant.

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