By Ron Balicki, Golfweek
Since it opened in 2004, the Alotian Club in Roland, Ark., just outside of Little Rock, has been an ultra-private facility, one that pretty much has been closed off to the general public.
It has hosted a handful of special events and exhibitions, but attendance for those have been by invitation only to the outside world.
That, however, will be changing this summer when the Alotian Club opens its gates not only to some of the world’s best amateurs for competition, but for the first time to the spectating public in general.
It will happen when the Western Golf Association brings its premier amateur championship, the 111th Western Amateur, to the Natural State on July 30-Aug. 4.
For those who want to see some of the world’s best amateur golfers and maybe even more so this world-class Tom Fazio-designed course, it will come at a price.
During the tournament’s media day at the Alotian Club, March 27, the WGA and club officials announced that a limited number of Patron Badges for the public will be made available starting 9 a.m. Central time, April 15, the Monday after the Masters.
The cost of a Patron Badge will be $100 and will provide access from Monday through Sunday of tournament week. All badges will be transferable during the week.
Badges can be purchased at the tournament's web site (www.thewesternamateur.com) and all badges will be mailed.
Officials did not put an exact number on the badges that will be made available, but it’s expected to be between 1,500 and 2,000.
“The main thing we want to do is make sure the players and the spectators have a good and memorable experience that week,” said John Zieske, Alotian Club director of golf. “By limiting the number of badges, we feel they will have the opportunity to do just that.”
Also, those who volunteer during the week will be asked to pay $100, but not only will they get a tournament access badge, they also will receive two Alotian golf shirts, an Alotian cap and a meal ticket for each shift they work. This fee will be waived for those volunteering who are 18 years old or younger.
The good news from this is that the money raised from the badges will go toward the WGA’s highly successful Chick Evans Caddie Scholarship Fund.
“Caddies are an integral part of the history and tradition of golf. That’s why I wanted a caddie program at the Alotian Club,” said Warren Stephens, president and CEO of Stephens, Inc., in Little Rock and Alotian Club owner. “Since 1930 the Chick Evans Scholarship program has sent some 10,000 caddies to college on full scholarships. So the decision to host a first class competition and support scholarships for caddies and welcome the Western Amateur to Arkansas was an easy one.”
Originally, the 2013 Western Amateur was scheduled to be played at Olympia Fields Country Club south of Chicago as part of an announced eight-year rotation of the championship among Chicago area clubs. With the Alotian Club extending an invitation to host the Western Am, the WGA decided to shift the tournament out of the Chicago rotation for this year.
Olympia Fields, a loyal partner with the WGA and its Evans Scholars Foundation, is hosting the U.S. Amateur in 2015 and the decision will allow club officials to focus primarily on course preparations and logistical planning for that national championship.
From 1971 through 2008 – 38 years – the Western Amateur was held at Point O’Woods Golf and Country Club in Benton Harbor, Mich. It began its eight-year Chicago rotation in 2009. While in early years the WGA took the championship to various clubs around the country, the move to Arkansas in 2013 will mark the first time since Tom Kite won the title in 1970 at Wichita (Kan.) Country Club that the event will be played outside the Michigan/Illinois area.