When the 117th New Jersey State Golf Association Amateur Championship comes to renovated Echo Lake Country Club in Westfield for the first time in 51 years, it will be played on a date later than usual.
The State Amateur takes place on July 10-12 as part of a revamped championship schedule for 2018 that includes later dates for the Mid-Amateur and the Open, among other changes.
Echo Lake has hosted important national and state championships over the past century. Many golf stars and future stars have played the layout. At the USGA Junior Amateur in 1994, it was dubbed by Golf World as a “hidden gem.” LPGA star Inbee Park won the 1999 U.S. Girls’ Junior there.
In recent years, Echo Lake has implemented a master plan that has refurbished nearly the entire course, but the finishing touches included a massive rebuild and reconfiguration that included the first five holes. The work was performed by noted golf architect Rees Jones of Montclair.
The new dates for the State Amateur come a month later than later the previous year. The 2017 State Amateur Championship was conducted June 6-8 at Tavistock C.C. in Haddonfield.
“Our objective in revamping the schedule was to specifically increase the participation of our younger players in our Amateur championship. By moving the championship from early June to mid-July, we are able to move the qualifiers from late May to mid-June, thereby making them available to college and high school players who previously had conflicts with their school schedules,” said NJSGA vice president and Tournament Committee Chairman Eric Houseknecht of Hamilton Farm.
There are other changes in store for much of the 2018 NJSGA Championship schedule.
The Open is two weeks later than in 2017, and is scheduled for July 24-26 at Montclair Golf Club. The 2017 State Open was played July 11-13 at Metedeconk National in Jackson.
“Reconfiguring the championship schedule was a very thoughtful and thorough process. We were very considerate of the schedules of other local, regional and national organizations. The end goal of restructuring the schedule was to maximize participation,” said Mike McAneny, NJSGA Director of Tournaments and Media Relations.
Other significant changes to the NJSGA Championship schedule for 2018 were made. They included moving the Men’s Four-Ball Championship from the second week in August to the second week of May (May 8-10 at Rumson); and the Men’s Pre-Senior from the first week in October to the third week in August (Aug. 21-22 at Roxiticus in Mendham).
The repositioning of the annual NJSGA Boys Championship away from the William Y. Dear Junior Championship will enable young men, ages 14 and under, to participate in both championships this summer.
The 48th Boys Championship will be played on Wednesday and Thursday, June 27-28 at Neshanic Valley Golf Course in Neshanic Station, held concurrently as the 64th Junior Girls' Championship at Neshanic Valley. The format will be 36-Holes of Stroke Play.
The 97th Junior Championship takes place August 6-8 at Raritan Valley Country Club in Bridgewater.
“By moving the State Open two weeks later, we do not anticipate much of an impact on participation in the event,” Houseknecht stated. “While the schedule, in general, benefits the NJSGA as an organization, it will certainly benefit our younger players the most since they represent the future of golf in our state.”