This year’s golf season features the inaugural Atlantic City World Amateur Open, which will capitalize on the area’s wealth of premium courses. Registration closes May 15.
The initial event spearheaded by the newly formed Atlantic City Strategic Planning Committee — the Atlantic City Boardwalk Rodeo — was a substantial success, and that’s no bull. Plans are in motion, and dates are already set, to bring the rodeo back to A.C. next year.
The committee’s second event, created in conjunction with the Greater Atlantic City Golf Association (GACGA), is called the Atlantic City World Amateur Open, and is designed to attract amateur golfers to an area ranked sixth in the nation by Forbes.com among golf destinations. It is scheduled for June 5-9 at about 10 area courses and, besides golf, will feature a party each night at a different casino-hotel — all 11 of which are aboard as presenting sponsors along with AtlantiCare.
The tournament is available to any amateur golfer with an established USGA handicap. It includes various age groups, from youths to seniors, with an 18-hole championship round for flight winners scheduled for June 9 at Dolce Seaview Resort in Galloway. It is structured similarly to the Golf.com World Amateur Handicap Championship held annually in Myrtle Beach, S.C., which last September drew over 3,000 golfers worldwide. The entry fees are similar ($450 per person in Atlantic City; $500 in Myrtle Beach), and while the hope is that A.C. sees similar success, a realistic inaugural draw would be about 500 golfers according to GACGA executive director Brian Hoey. Each player is guaranteed a minimum of three rounds of golf on three different courses.
“I honestly expect that in three years you’ll have over 5,000 players at this event,” says Jim Fraser, co-founder of the GACGA and owner of Mays Landing Golf and Country Club, at an April 14 media event. “I really expect that, with the way the casinos are getting behind this, Atlantic City’s getting behind this, all these wonderful people, this event is destined to grow into something really big.”
The event unfolded when Atlantic City Mayor Lorenzo Langford created the A.C. Strategic Planning Committee and put Resorts CEO Dennis Gomes in charge of a subcommittee to drive marketing and community events. Gomes’ sister-in-law, Dotsie Tuscano, is the former chairwoman of First Tee of Greater Atlantic City (a youth golf outreach organization) and was formerly the director of special events for the ShopRite LPGA Classic, which wraps up at Seaview the day the Open kicks off with a cocktail reception at the Borgata. As the Open’s inaugural chairwoman, Tuscano, through Gomes’ recommendation, secured Fraser’s help as a driving force and a powerful figure on the southern New Jersey golf scene.
“Jimmy Fraser was critical in implementing this one,” says Gomes. “It was just an idea in our heads, but he was way ahead of the ballgame in terms of what was needed to put it all together based on what we proposed.”
Participants in the Open will also be eligible for 50 percent discount tickets to view the LPGA Classic’s final round June 5.
“We wanted to butt it right up against the LPGA Classic to give some golfers a chance to be spectators at the professional event and then be participants in the amateur event Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday,” says Hoey. “We don’t want this to be just a tournament for visitors. We want locals to be able to participate too.”
“Parties, gambling, shopping, the boardwalk — it can’t get better than Atlantic City, and it’s only going to keep getting bigger and better,” says Tuscano. “We anticipate this event drawing in participants from all across the United States, and to help showcase Atlantic City for what it is — not just a gaming market but a truly world-class tourist destination with some of the best golf on the East Coast.”
Langford is optimistic that the Open will, like the rodeo, go far in helping Atlantic City regain status as one of the country’s premier domestic tourism destinations.
“The Atlantic City Strategic Planning Committee I think, in some respects, gave birth to the notion that we needed to collectively come together, pool our resources, exchange ideas and come up with creative ways to market Atlantic City and bring more business to our area,” Langford says. “I know that, when all is said and done, this is going to be a great event that helps put us back on the map, and reestablish us as a great place to live, work and visit. We’re number six now [by Forbes], but after the first World Amateur Open has concluded, we’ll be moving our way up to number one.”
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