Qualifiers in the men’s and women’s US Open?

Attention is focusing on whether this year’s U.S. Open will break the record for the largest number of applicants from the preliminary round in the U.S. golf competition.

The U.S. Golf Association (USGA) recently announced its schedule to hold the 123rd U.S. Open qualifying round at 109 golf courses, and the 79th U.S. Women’s Open qualifying round at 26 golf courses in four countries, including the U.S. Last year, a record 11,187 people applied to participate in the U.S. Open held at the Los Angeles Country Club in California. At the last year’s U.S. Women’s Open held in Pebble Beach, a record 2,107 people applied for the preliminary round.

The U.S. Women’s Open will be held at Lancaster Country Club in Pennsylvania for four days from May 30 to June 2, and the U.S. Open will be held at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club Course 2 in Pinehurst Village, North Carolina, two weeks later, from June 13 to 16. As it is the largest major competition where amateurs can also apply, expectations for success are high.

They will have two rounds of qualifying matches for the U.S. Open. The 18-hole regional qualifying matches, which will take place at 109 golf courses in Canada and the U.S., will be held from March 22 to May 20, and will be registered from February 21 to April 10. If they pass regional qualifying matches, they will have a final 36-hole qualifying match in the second round, which will take place on three courses including Britain and Japan on May 20 and ten courses including Canada on June 3.

The LACC in California, the venue for the U.S. Open last year, was popular as it was a private course. 11,187 applicants, 50 more than the previous record, applied for regional preliminaries. The previous record was 11,127 at the 2014 Pinehurst Championship 11 years ago. Amateur golfers can participate in preliminaries if they present a certificate with a handicap index of 0.4 or lower.

The state where the most regional qualifiers are held in the U.S. is California, with 14 golf courses. Florida will have 13 regional qualifiers. Marking its 124th anniversary, the tournament’s history has won only two regional qualifiers in 1969 by Ken Venturi in 1964 and Orville Moody, who also had three wins in Korea.

Pinehurst Resort, the venue for this year’s event, is a large-scale resort where the U.S. Open was first held in 1999, and Paine Stewart won, followed by Michael Campbell in 2005 and Martin Kaimer in 2014. Given that the previous record for most entries was held in this year, it is expected that the resort will break this year’s record.

Meanwhile, the preliminary round of the U.S. Women’s Open will be held from April 15 to May 20 at 23 U.S. golf courses and 36 holes in the second round in Canada, Japan and Germany. The preliminary round has been held in Korea for more than a decade, but has not been held since last year. A sharp decline in the number of Korean female professionals applying is presumed to be the reason why the number of Korean qualifiers has decreased.

Online applications began on April 14 and will continue until April 3. Anyone who is a professional golfer can apply and amateur golfers can participate if they submit a certificate of less than 2.4 handicap. This year’s tournament course, Lancaster CC, was first held in 2015 and Jeon In-ji won. Starting from the preliminary round, Buddy Kim Joo-yeon of 2005 won the U.S. Women’s Open.

According to the USGA tally, 2,107 people participated in the preliminary round last year, the highest number ever. The venue is Pebble Beach, the stadium of dreams, and it seems to have exceeded 2,000. There were 233 more applicants than the previous best of 1,874 in 2022. In the case of the women’s competition, it is interesting to see that the record of applicants has been broken every year for two consecutive years.

The preliminary rounds of both men’s and women’s competitions were the best ever last year thanks to the golf boom in the U.S. brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of golf rounds in the U.S. last year, which was announced by the National Golf Foundation (NGF) earlier this year, reached 531 million rounds, breaking the previous record of 529 million rounds in 2021. As more golfers play golf, the number of participants increases.

According to the NGF’s analysis, based on the natural growth of the golf population as a safe leisure sport brought about after the pandemic, the increase of young golfers online and offline through simulation golf, good economic conditions that break daily stock index records, and the impact of warm weather were combined.

It is the second time that the number of golf rounds in the U.S. exceeded 500 million times in a row since the Tiger boom when Tiger Woods was serving as the “golf emperor” in 1999-2001. It rose to 518 million rounds in 2001. However, golf fever has cooled since the U.S. financial crisis in 2008, and the number of rounds plunged to 441 million in 2019.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed golf conditions in the U.S. The number of participants in golf games, which had been frozen due to the surge in COVID-19 infections in early 2000, exploded as it was considered “the safest leisure activity in an infectious disease” with summer as a tipping point. In 2020 alone, the number of participants increased by 61 million to 502 million. The interest of ordinary golfers determines the success of qualifying matches for professional competitions.

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