2016 marked the return of the PGA Tour FedEx Playoff’s BMW Championship to Crooked Stick GC and the Web.com Tour’s United Leasing Championship at Victoria National GC. While Crooked Stick will remain in the BMW rotation and the ULC back at Victoria National next year, for the first time since the 1988 Mayflower Classic, the LPGA Tour announced it will also run here in Indiana, not once, but twice in 2017. The LPGA Tour created a new major championship, the Senior LPGA Championship, with the inaugural event to be held at The Pete Dye Course at French Lick Resort in July. In addition, the LPGA Tour has also added a regular season event, the Indy Women in Tech Championship to be played at Brickyard Crossing GC in early September.
A yearlong Centennial celebration kicked off at the 2016 PGA Merchandise show in January and was capped with the 100th PGA of America Annual Meeting in New York City in November. The year included the social media campaign #thxspgapro and spotlighted each of the PGA’s 41 Sections, including the Indiana Section PGA.
For the third consecutive year, the Evansville North Huskies took home the IHSAA Girls State Golf Championship, hosted at Prairie View GC. In the process, North became just the second school in history to win three straight Girls Golf titles.
Through programs such as The First Tee of Indiana, the Indiana Golf Foundation reached over 70,000 junior golfers in Indiana in 2016. The First Tee of Indiana is active in 15 programming locations across the state and operates the National School Program, which teaches golf, along with The First Tee’s Nine Core Values in over 225 Indiana elementary schools.
In conjunction with the BMW Championship, The First Tee of Indiana was one of the beneficiaries of the Pete and Alice Dye Championship, a fundraiser hosted by Jim Irsay and the Indianapolis Colts, which raised $65,000 for The First Tee of Indiana alone. Additionally, in January, The First Tee of Indiana license plate became available through the Indiana BMV as another way for Indiana golfers to show their support of the game.
2016 was not without its down moments for the Indiana Golf family. In September, former IGA Senior Player of the Year and Senior Amateur Champion Ted Smith died in a tree-cutting accident near his home. On Christmas Day, former State Amateur, State Open and State Junior Champion Stephen Conrad and his mother were killed in an auto accident near their hometown of Syracuse. Both Smith and Conrad leave behind outstanding career records along with friendships of many Indiana Golfers they touched along the way.
The Championship Match of the 2016 IWGA Match Play Championship gave us one of our most unusual events of 2016. Trailing Julia Potter through nine holes, Tobi Herron aced the 10th hole to cut the lead, however, just two holes later, Potter aced the 12th hole and went on to win the match 2&1.
In 2016 and or the first time in its 52 year history, the Indiana Golf Hall of Fame inducted an all-female class. The class included Ann Gregory, the first African-American woman to compete in a USGA Championship, along with former LPGA Tour members, collegiate National Champion teammates and collegiate coaches Therese Hession and Kyle O’Brien Stevens.
Prior to the 116th Indiana Amateur Championship at Elcona CC, very few, if any, people educated in the Indiana Golf scene could have told you who Matt Christensen was. In fact, Christensen only competed in the event after receiving an exemption as the host club’s reigning Club Champion and at the urging of Head Professional Tom Thome. Come to find out, after his victory, this was no fluke. Christensen relocated to Indiana three years ago for work, but played his college golf at Fresno State in California and spent two years on the Canadian Tour prior to regaining his amateur status and subsequently winning the Northern California Amateur Championship. Christensen has plans to defend his title in 2017.
Trailing the defending champion by three shots entering the final round doesn’t mean much when you post eight birdies and a course record seven-under par 63. That’s exactly what Country Club of Old Vincennes Professional Brett Melton did at The Donald Ross Course at French Lick Resort to capture his second career Indiana State Open title. In fact, Melton’s hot play began on the back nine of round three, where combined with his final round front nine, he carded nine birdies in 18 holes.
The State of Indiana continues to produce golf talent at all levels, which was evident again in 2016. Julia Potter captured her second USGA Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship, making her the fourth Hoosier to capture two career national titles. She is also the only left-handed player, male or female, to win multiple USGA Championships.
Indiana junior golfers also continue to make an impact nationally, and none more so than Erica Shepherd in 2016. The 15 year old rising high school sophomore competed in the US Women’s Open Championship at CordeValle in California. Shepherd also won the second of back-to-back Indiana State Junior titles.