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Kansas Golf Associaition

Kansans at Pinehurst

Kansas was well-represented during the U.S. Open at the newly renovated Pinehurst #2 golf course.  PGA Tour member and Topeka native Gary Woodland along with Lawrence resident and Web.com Tour member Chris Thompson were in the field of 156 of the world’s best golfers.

Chris Thompson & Gary WoodlandThompson earned his spot in the field through local and sectional qualifying.  Woodland was exempt based on his PGA Tour win and his world ranking.

KGA Executive Director Kim  Richey was invited to serve on the Rules Committee and KGA board member and past president Scott Brooks of Wichita was invited to assist on the television escort committee (a function of the Rules Committee).  Both had “great seats” inside the ropes to view much of the action.  Richey was afforded the coincidental surprise of being assigned to walk with Gary Woodland’s group during the second round of the Open, which turned out to be his best of four rounds.

Also on site was KGA volunteer Charlie Pierce of Hutchinson.  He has been working with the USGA for several years to assist with volunteer management.   Long hours for Charlie!

The following article appeared in the Topeka Capital-Journal on Friday of US Open week.  The Kevin Haskin feature was as follows:

PINEHURST, N.C. — Rules officials working the U.S. Open cannot request certain groups.

Nor can they root on a player, a point Kim Richey reminded himself when he learned before the championship that he will accompany a group Friday which includes Topeka’s Gary Gary Woodland Woodland.

Richey just happens to be the executive director of the Kansas Golf Association. Woodland just happens to be one of the most celebrated players to ever come out of the state, a two-time winner of the Kansas Amateur before joining the PGA Tour.

“When I found out I’d be with his group, I thought it was awesome,” Richey said. “Of course, I can’t cheer for him or anything, but it’s kind of neat.”

Richey has headed the KGA since 1993. He is working for the 16th time as a rules official at the U.S. Open, and now is part of a rotation in which he takes part in the event three out of every four years. His trip to Pinehurst No. 2 marks the end of a current three-year stretch.

Golf being golf, officials are allowed to interact with players, families, fans, and yes, the media, when they are not actually charting a group. Hey, it’s an honorable game, where friendships run thick and so do the rules.

Once Richey was finished Thursday with his first-round assignment — tagging alongside a group that included Kevin Na, who fired a 2-under 68 and is tied for second place, as well as Patrick Reed and Ryan Moore — he and his wife, Roberta, tracked the course and met up with the Woodland family.

“I can’t begin to tell you how much the KGA has done for Gary over the years,” said Gary’s KGA Executive Director Kim Richeyfather, Dan. “They’ve just been wonderful.”

Dan and Gary just happened to capture the KGA Father-Son championship one year. Now, Gary is in position to use his profile to help the association. He plans to be on hand in October to introduce his collegiate coach at Kansas, Ross Randall, when Randall is inducted into the KGA Hall of Fame.

Before then, Richey and his staff must complete a busy summer of tournaments. In addition to the usual assortment of KGA events, including the Kansas Amateur at Mission Hills Country Club, the state was the proud host of the Men’s NCAA Championships at Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson. Also, the final USGA Publinx is scheduled next month at Sand Creek Station in Newton.

“Prairie Dunes was quite the show,” said Richey, “and the course just looked great on TV, the best I’ve ever seen it. It was U.S. Open quality. Then, with the U.S. Publinx, that’s going to be a big deal. … This is probably the busiest year we’ve had.”

Busy, yet good. Kansas features golf courses the country wants to use for premiere events.

And, in Woodland, it has a rising star fans of the sport recognize and want to see launch a Chris Thompson  golf ball.

“For a long time, Kansans had Tom Watson to watch, root for and follow,” Richey said. “Obviously it’s been a long time since Tom played on the regular tour, so it’s really pretty special to have somebody like Gary, who still calls Kansas his home, he comes back a lot, and spends time here in the summers.”

Woodland will even host an event next week when 96 of the nation’s top junior golfers arrive at Alvamar Country Club. The Under Armour/Gary Woodland Championship is a 54-hole, stroke play tournament. Before the event begins, Woodland will host a youth clinic on Monday.

“It’s just neat that Kansans have someone to follow, and I really just have this feeling that Gary’s going to hit it good. He’s almost there now. I go around the country and people know who he is. I think he’s got a major in his future.”

As much as he might want to expedite that goal, Woodland better avoid asking for a favorable ruling from Richey in Friday’s second round.

Not that it will happen. Both know to stick to the rules. Golf is just that way.