The remarkable growth of senior golf
prompted the USGA to establish the
Amateur Championship in 1955. Many
senior golf associations had come into
being on the local, state, and regional
level, proving that the competitive instinct
among golfers was not diminished by age.
In 1955, the notion of a tournament only
for seniors was not a new one. Fifty years
earlier, the Apawamis Club, in Rye, N.Y.,
had started the oldest senior competition
still in existence, which led directly to the
formation of the U.S. Senior Golf
Association, a private organization not
linked to the USGA.
Apawamis extended invitations to golfers
60 years of age and older. When the
response was not overwhelming, the age
minimum was dropped to 55 to gather a
representative field. Thus was the
definition of a senior amateur golfer
The U.S. Senior Golf Association conducted
a fine tournament, but membership in the
organization was limited, and a long
waiting list developed. Because there was
no one event open to all senior amateurs,
the USGA was asked to start a true
national championship. The Senior
was added to the schedule in 1955.
were open to golfers age 55 and over
had handicaps not over 10 strokes.
Addition of the Senior Amateur gave the
USGA exactly twice as many
as it had conducted before World War II,
when there were just four: the Amateur,
Open, and Women's Amateur, started in
1895, and the Amateur Public Links
From World War II until 1955, the USGA
added four more: the Junior Amateur
(1948), the Girls' Junior (1949), the
Women's Open (1953), and the Senior
Amateur (1955). The USGA now conducts
13 national championships, 10 of which
strictly for amateurs.
The first Senior Amateur, at Belle Meade
Country Club, in Nashville, Tenn., drew
entries from 30 states and the District of
Columbia. J. Wood Platt, 56, the eight-
time Philadelphia Amateur champion,
defeated George Studinger of San
Francisco, Calif., 5 and 4, in the final.
In 1959, J. Clark Espie, who had won in
1957, became the Senior Amateur's first
two-time champion. Lewis W. Oehmig, a
record six-time finalist, is also the only
three-time winner (1972, 1976, 1985).
Senior Amateur contestants may ride in
carts, a concession not allowed when the
championship was first played.
Traditionalists, who believed walking was
vital to a valid national title, finally gave
in because the championship is played in
the fall, when it is difficult to obtain
caddies. Carts have been allowed since