The United States Golf Association recently introduced some qualifying modifications starting in the 2024 championship season. It marks the first time in over 20 years the USGA has significantly changed how golfers can qualify for national events.
The changes will start with the USGA’s “four premier amateur championships,” which include the US Men’s, Women’s, Boys’ and Girls' Championships.
One of the most significant revisions for 2024 comes to the US Amateur, moving from a one-stage, 36-hole qualifying format to a two-stage format. There will be 45 18-hole local qualifying sites and then 19 18-hole final qualifying sites.
A change that could affect all four of the aforementioned premier amateur championships is state amateur champions could automatically qualify for their respective national events.
Below, we’ll break down the changes by event and what it means for Tennessee golfers.
Starting in 2024, the winner of the Tennessee State Amateur will automatically receive a full exemption into the U.S. Amateur Championship. In addition, the winner will also receive a local exemption for the following year’s U.S. Amateur’s local qualifying, so they’ll go straight to final qualifying.
The 2024 Tennessee State Amateur champion would get full exemption into the 2024 U.S. Amateur Championship IF the state amateur ends eight days prior to the first day of the U.S. Amateur. If the state amateur is not completed in that time, all exemptions shift a year.
For example: In 2024, the U.S. Amateur begins on August 12. If John Doe wins the 2024 Tennessee State Amateur and it ended on August 4 or earlier, Doe would automatically qualify for the 2024 U.S. Amateur and get a local qualifying exemption in 2025. If the state amateur ended on August 5 or later, Doe would automatically for the 2025 U.S. Amateur and get a local qualifying exemption for 2026.
In addition to the champion of the Tennessee State Amateur getting an exemption, there is a possibility that the Top 3 or 5 finishers at the event would get a local qualifying exemption for the following year’s U.S. Amateur.
For example: John Doe wins the 2024 Tennessee State Amateur. Bill Smith, Steve Rogers and Peter Parker, who were the next three on the final leaderboard, would go right to a final qualifying site in 2025.
Exemptions into the national events for the U.S. Women’s, Junior and Girls’ Junior Amateurs follow slightly different criteria.
U.S. Women’s Amateur
In order for the 2024 Tennessee Women’s Amateur champion to automatically qualify for that year’s U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship, the event has to meet a certain threshold in the WAGR event power rankings.
WAGR stands for World Amateur Golf Ranking and it’s a service that ranks amateur golfers around the world based on their finishes in events. Depending on the strength of the field, an event will have a higher or lower WAGR Event Ranking. The stronger the field, the higher the WAGR.
For determining if the state amateur championship meets the USGA criteria, the average WAGR ranking for the event will be calculated based on the previous three years' ranks (2021-2023 for the 2024 championship).
If the Tennessee Women’s Amateur meets that criterion, next year’s champion would automatically be entered into the field of the next U.S. Women’s Amateur. Whether it’s the 2024 or 2025 championship depends on the end date for the Tennessee Women’s Amateur (state amateur must end eight days before the start of the US championship).
U.S. Junior/Girls’ Junior Amateurs
Like the Women’s Amateur, the Junior and Girls’ Junior Amateur Championships' automatic qualifying will be based on a rolling three-year average of the event's WAGR ranking.
Because of the smaller field size for the U.S. Women’s, Junior and Girls’ Junior, state events must meet the WAGR criteria in order to maintain a proper balance of qualifying to exempt players.
So big picture, what does all of this mean? First off, it heightens the respective Tennessee Amateur championships. The winner not only cements their name in Tennessee golf history, but can be rewarded for their play by having the opportunity to play on the national stage. It also gives Tennessee a great chance to highlight the elite golfers within its borders.
When it’s all said and done, over half the field will still come via the traditional qualifying route. With the inclusion of state amateur events, there will just be fewer overall qualifying sites, lessening the burden on the state Allied Golf Associations like the TGA that run the USGA’s qualifiers.
For any follow-up questions, here is the complete release from the USGA. All final exemption decisions for the 2024 Tennessee Golf Association championships will be announced in the fall of 2023 after the evaluation period is complete.