SCARBOROUGH – This place has serious curb appeal.
In a landscape that includes a multitude of courses golfers know by name and reputation, Sleepy Hollow Country Club is a unique property. The desire to host an open house of sorts prompted the membership to inquire about the possibility of hosting a USGA championship seven years ago. It was only a matter of time before the contract was signed and planning for the 42nd U.S. Mid-Amateur was under way.
And here we are.
“We take pride in our golf course and our club and wanted to show it off and see how it stands up to some of the best players in the world,” said Mickey Anania, the championship general chair and the former club president who pitched the idea of hosting. “We feel lucky to be part of such a wonderful club and wanted to give back and let people come out here to play it competitively and see it.”
The 112-year-old club was founded by gentlemen named Astor, Rockefeller and Vanderbilt. It sits prominently on 338 acres above the Hudson River with postcard views from every window of a stately Victorian mansion that is an unparalleled clubhouse.
Even the Headless Horseman logo is visually striking.
The original golf course was laid out by renowned Golden Age designer Charles Blair Macdonald. Alterations were made over time by the likes of A.W. Tillinghast and Robert Trent Jones. Recognizing the result was a challenging but disjointed layout, the club enlisted Gil Hanse and George Bahto to put the ideals and intent of Macdonald back in play.
“There wasn’t a lot of continuity in the course,” Anania said.
The lengthy project concluded in 2017. Reviews of the new sightlines and redesigned greens were overwhelmingly positive and Bill McCarthy, the USGA’s championship director for Mid-Amateur and Amateur Four-Ball championships, was all in from the initial walk-around.
Finding a co-host for stroke play was the next step.
“Mickey and I were throwing around a couple of club names and having some history in this area, I was like, ‘What about Fenway? Would they be interested?’ ” McCarthy said. “He was like, ‘We know some folks over at Fenway, let’s give them a shout,’ and everything just came together.
“I think without a doubt this is the best combination of courses we’re ever had for a championship.”
Sleepy Hollow is ranked 40th on Golfweek’s Top 200 Classic Courses list. Even though it’s more receptive than usual due to the rain, the scoring average for the 6,840-yard, par-71 layout is 74.8.
“I think it’s right there with anything I’ve seen,” said Nathan Smith, a four-time U.S. Mid-Am winner and future captain of the Walker Cup team who’s played in 51 USGA championships. “Through the years, anyone I’ve spoken to about Sleepy Hollow has raved about the club, so it’s nice to finally get up here and experience it. It’s a lot of fun.”
Only the weather is drawing objections so far.
“I’m not holding up very well, but the course is great, the course is fine,” added Smith, who finished up a 3-over round of 74 on Sunday. “It’s hard even without the weather and when you play it in a downpour, it’s a lot. The challenges are everywhere.”
Sleepy Hollow member Brad Tilley hit the first shot of the championship on Saturday and signed for a 71 before play was suspended.
“I have been thinking about this round of golf for three years,” he said.
Scott Harvey, 45, is back in position to medal, something the 2014 U.S. Mid-Am champion has done four times already. He carded a 69 on Sunday at Sleepy Hollow and is the clubhouse leader with a 5-under total of 136.
Admission to the championship is free so when the weather did break on Sunday, a number of spectators came to the club for a look around. The afternoon wave at Fenway never got off the tee and will come back Monday to complete stroke play, leaving the start of match play up in the air.
Hosting a USGA championship typically comes with a price tag. An event with a limited footprint like this one can run between $200,000 to $400,000.
“The members paid a portion and we have two generous sponsors, Major League Baseball and Grant Thornton,” Anania said. “The USGA helps out a little, too.”
Giving up the course for a week can be an unpopular decision for a busy club, but Sleepy Hollow delivered more than 200 volunteers for the week so there is support. Might the membership look into hosting a more prominent USGA championship like a U.S. Amateur or U.S. Women’s Amateur if the feedback is positive?
That’s usually the next step and those events come with national television exposure.
“I can’t really speak for the club on that, but we will have conversations with the USGA,” Anania said. “Our goal here was threefold, for the USGA to have a wonderful tournament, for the players to walk away from this week and say, ‘Wow, they left us wanting for nothing,’ and for our members to have a really good time.”
Mike Dougherty covers golf for The Journal News and lohud.com. Follow along on X @lohudgolf.
This article originally appeared on Rockland/Westchester Journal News: 42nd U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship at Sleepy Hollow Country Club