A Look at the host venue of the 2020 U.S. Women’s Open Championship
There is a complete generation or perhaps three that have never heard the names of Burke and Demaret competing at the Masters, the US Open or any other PGA tour event – and I readily confess that I am one of them. In fact, you would have to be in your 60s or older to remember these names competing for glory on the PGA tour.
Jack Burke Jr. turned professional in 1941, just before the United States entered the Second World War. During the war, Burke served in the Marine Corps until 1946. A native of Texas, Burke picked up the game at a young age, having access to golf through his father, Jack Burke Sr. who was the club professional at the Houston River Oaks Country Club until 1943. Jackie Burke’s best season on tour came in 1956, winning two majors – the PGA Championship and the Masters at Augusta National.
His Masters win is still something of a record to this day, as Burke overcame an 8-stroke deficit to the overnight leader, Ken Venturi to capture the 1956 Masters. Venturi, an amateur at the time, entered the final round with a four-stroke lead over Cary Middlecoff sitting in second at the time with Doug Ford in the third-spot sitting 7-strokes back. One stroke back of Ford sat Burke and fellow Texan, Lloyd Mangrum tied for fourth.
The Sunday round experienced very inclement weather with only Burke and Sam Snead the only players able to finish under par. Leader Ken Venturi, fell victim to the poor weather, carding a final round 80 to lose by one-stroke to Burke.
Jimmy Demaret, a fellow Texan, had a successful career on the PGA Tour with 31 career wins, including 3 – major championships. The three major champions came in 1940, 1947 and 1950 – all at the Masters, making Demaret the first player to win the event 3-times. A 3 – time Ryder Cup player for the United States, Demaret was marked by good friend Ben Hogan as being the best player in windy conditions among other compliments by Hogan. The two players often partnered for the four-ball events on the Tour at the time, winning six times with Hogan.
For Demaret and Burke, being professional players from Texas in those days meant playing and traveling with fellow Texans such as Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, brothers Ray and Lloyd Mangrum, and Ralph Guldahl. So, it was no surprise that Masters Champions, Demaret and Burke, would eventually join forces, founding the Champions Golf Club in 1957.
The 36-hole course would go on to host several prestigious events such as the Shell Houston Open from 1966 to 1971, the1967 Ryder Cup, 1969 U.S. Open, the PGA Tour Championship on five occasions and the 1993 U.S. Amateur Championship. With a rich pedigree such as this, women’s professional golf is the real winner as the 75th U.S. Women’s Open continues the trend of moving championship events into some of the most storied courses in golf history.
Here is brief overview of the storied venue that plays host to this special anniversary of the U.S. Women’s Open.
This year’s edition of the championship will be played on two courses at the Champions Golf Club – the Cypress course and the Jackrabbit course for the opening two rounds. The Cypress course will be played for the post-cut, weekend rounds.
In its regular set up the Cypress course plays longer and more difficult with a course rating/slope index of 75.1/135 compared to the Jackrabbit course at 74.2/135. For the U.S. Women’s Open Championship, the course yardage will be 6,731 (Cypress) and 6,558 (Jackrabbit).
The following is the official course yardage provided by the USGA but will vary from day to day as tee locations may be moved from round to round.
Cypress Creek was originally designed by Houston resident, Ralph Plummer, opening in 1959. The course underwent a substantial restoration of the greens and bunkers in 2018 under the direction of architect Chet Williams with assistance from the Burke's (Jack and Robin) and Superintendent Chris Ortmeier. The painstaking restoration allows golfers to putt from the same lines as players such as Hogan, Snead, Nicklaus and Woods.
Opened in 1964, the Jackrabbit course was designed by famous architect George Fazio and was completely renovated in 2002 by George's nephew Tom Fazio -- an even bigger name in course architecture and design.
Cypress Creek course will be in play for all Four Rounds of the U.S. Women's Open whereas the Jackrabbit course will only be in play for Rounds One and Two (Thursday & Friday) to accommodate the large field of players with the reduced daylight of December as opposed to the traditional June date.
Regardless of the eventual outcome, in hosting the 75th U.S. Women's Open the partnership between the USGA and Champions Golf Club is reminiscent of the partnership between founders Burke and Demaret -- both partnerships focused on providing a test of golf worthy of a champion.