It's hard to imagine a better way to spend a weekend in late September than at Pine Valley playing in the George A. Crump Memorial Tournament, which is widely known as the Crump Cup.
The Crump Cup is the preeminent amateur event and one of the most sought-after invites in all of golf. No points systems or rankings are used to decide the field. It's strictly an invitational. Play well on the national stage for a couple of years, and you'll be on the radar. Then keep playing well, and maybe an invite will arrive in the mail.
The tournament's namesake, George Arthur Crump, was the visionary behind what many believe is the best, and most ruthless, course in the world.
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There will be 36 holes of stroke play qualifying to determine match play brackets of 16 for the mid-amateurs and eight for the seniors. Only those in the championship bracket are eligible for the overall title.
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Thursday, Sept. 21
Round 1 of stroke play qualifying
Friday, Sept. 22
Round 2 of stroke play qualifying
Field flighted according to 36-hole score, with the low 16 in the Championship Flight and low 8 in the Senior Championship
Playoff if necessary for the final spot(s) in the Championship bracket
Saturday, Sept. 23
Match Play Round of 16 (A.M.)
Match Play Quarterfinals (P.M.)
Sunday, Sept. 24
Match Play Semifinals (A.M.)
Match Play Final (P.M.)
The goal of every player is to crack the top 16 and lock up a spot in the Championship Flight.
Last year's Championship Flight winner, Stephen Behr was a first-timer in 2022.
"I watched the Byron Nelson and Gene Littler match from Shell's Wonderful World of Golf on YouTube," Behr said. "But then I shot a million in the practice round."
Behr returned to his room after dinner on that Wednesday night, reviewed his notes, and found Golf Digest's "Every hole at Pine Valley" flyover video.
The homework paid off, as he marched through match play to earn a victory on a rainy Sunday afternoon.
Another first-timer last year, Nick Maccario, raved about the experience. He was fortunate enough to play Pine Valley in the spring of 2022 before his invite arrived in the mail.
There aren't many things that take precedence over a Crump Cup invite, but Maccario has to pass up playing this year as he'll be getting married on September 23 in Western Massachusetts.
He hopes they keep some turtle soup warm for him next year.
When both Behr and Maccario were asked to name a hole that stood out to them, they both pointed to the short par-4 8th hole.
The 8th is a blind tee shot where players can hit anything they feel comfortable with off the tee. Balls collect down a slope, but the real challenge is the second shot. The hole actually has two green sites; traditionally, the left green is the one that is used, but the green to the right offers Pine Valley a chance to mix it up. The 9th hole also has two different greens.
"It's a hole that can swing a match," Behr said. A good wedge shot can award players with a very good birdie chance, which are few and far between at Pine Valley. However, an uncommitted wedge shot could lead to disaster.
The 8th at Pine Valley
Behr was also also wide-eyed talking about the 15th hole, a tough par 5 that requires three excellent shots.
He credits a birdie during the second round of stroke play for his berth in the Championship Flight. He hit his second shot into the trees but hit a solid recovery onto the green and rolled home a birdie putt.
"That shot was almost worth three shots," Behr said.
Such is life at Pine Valley.
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Life at Pine Valley is tough on the course. Double and triple bogeys lurk in every bunker, but life off the course is pretty great. The players stay on the property for the duration of the event in various houses and lodges. When players are ousted from the match play bracket, they enjoy fun rounds on the par-3 course which has greens and approach shots that mimic the ones on Crump's masterpiece.
On Sunday morning, when the semi-final matches are played the eliminated players team up for an alternate shot tournament.
Players do have to pack a jacket and tie for their dinners. On Friday night, the players in the Championship Flight sit with their Round of 16 partner who they'll play the following morning.
A very cool tradition at the Friday night dinner is that 16 players in the Championship Flight have a Pine Valley flag at their place setting. The club does not sell flags, so this is the only way to procure one. Behr was the 4 seed, and thus received the flag from Pine Valley's devilish par-3 fourth hole. He proudly displays it on his home office wall.
While the field is a who's who of Mid-Amateur and Senior golfers, it's hard to look past the month that Stewart Hagestad could have if he's able to capture the Crump Cup. He's won the Walker Cup and the U.S. Mid-Am already this September. A third trophy in as many weeks would be quite an achievement for the 32-year-old who has already cemented himself as a legend of the amateur game.
Last year's Senior Flight was decided in a battle between two Pine Valley members. Tommy Brennan defeated 2023 Walker Cup captain Mike McCoy. It took 19 holes to decide the match. It's rumored that Crump designed the first hole to be a challenge in order to end tied matches quickly.
We'll have daily recaps from the Crump Cup, so be sure to check back Thursday evening to see how the competitors fared in their opening round.
ABOUT THE Crump Cup
The George A. Crump Memorial Tournament --
hotelier and course architect most famous for
Pine Valley -- is arguably the premier mid-
event in the United States. The invitational field
made of of top players from around the United
and the UK. The format for the four days is two
of stroke play qualifying, followed by four
match play. Players are flighted according to
qualifying position, and a separate Senior flight
includes three of those flights. Jay Sigel has won
event the most times, with nine victories
1975 and 1993.
Normally, the public is invited to attend the Sunday
final matches but that tradition has been suspended.
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