Inverness Club eyes more majors

A massive restoration and being awarded the 2027 U.S. Women's Open, along with the U.S. Amateur in 2029, has put the venerable Toledo, Ohio, club back in any major discussion

 Inverness Club
The 2027 U.S. Women's Open will mark Inverness Club's first time hosting the championship and fifth different USGA event.

About three weeks before the LPGA made its return to action in 2020, there was only one problem — an idea existed for a new tournament, but there was no golf course.

The Tour, which had lost nearly half its events because of the COVID-19 pandemic, was ready to kick off again at the LPGA Marathon Classic in Toledo. But Mike Whan, then the commissioner of the LPGA, was keen to have a second event in the same city so then the golfers could limit travel.

Just like that, and in less than a month, the Inverness Club was brought on to host the best golfers in the world.

“We as a board had to get our minds around it,” said John Swigart, a member of Inverness Club’s board of directors and the chair of the future championships committee, “and then go back to the LPGA and say, ‘Yes, we want to help re-start your Tour.’”

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Inverness, long ranked as one of the top courses in the United States, went through a hearty restoration project in 2017 and 2018 and has jumped back into the forefront of places where one of golf’s oldest governing bodies wants to host its championships.  

On Friday, the USGA announced the club — which hosted the 2021 Solheim Cup to much fanfare — will host the 2027 U.S. Women’s Open. The Donald Ross design will also host the 2029 U.S. Amateur.

The course, built in 1919, saw architect Andrew Green renovate it along with support from superintendent John Zimmer — who had spent nearly two decades at Oakmont Country Club. Zimmer, Swigart says, has taken the condition of Inverness (both above ground and underground) to totally new levels.

Inverness is no stranger to hosting big-time golf events. The U.S. Open was played at the Toledo, Ohio, masterpiece four times (1920, 1931, 1957, and 1979) and the PGA Championship twice (1986, 1993). Craig Stadler won the U.S. Amateur there in 1973 and the U.S. Senior Open was played there in 2003 and 2011. But despite being a jewel of American championship golf, things had gone quiet at Inverness for almost a decade before the 2019 U.S. Junior Amateur came to Toledo.

“In 2019 we hosted our first USGA championship since the 2011 U.S. Senior Open and that got us back in the dialogue with the USGA,” said Swigart. “There are a lot of things that lined up to make this unfold, but us as a club, and the future championships committee, has been working diligently with the USGA to partner for the future.”

Also Friday, the USGA made a significant announcement regarding the future of the U.S. Women’s Open.

The purse, starting in 2022, would increase nearly 100 percent from $5.5 million to $10 million and a goal to reach $12 million in the next five years. The Women’s Open will also be played at some of the game’s most iconic courses over the next decade, including Pebble Beach, Riviera Country Club, Oakmont Country Club, Oakland Hills Country Club, Merion Golf Club, and of course, Inverness.

The U.S. Women’s Open will also have a presenting sponsor in ProMedica, a health-and-wellness nonprofit based in Toledo that helped take the LPGA’s DriveOn Championship at Inverness Club across the finish line in 2020.

“It’s part of our mission statement. We want to host national championships,” said Swigart. “We’ve been doing it since 1920, and the membership at Inverness … one of the reasons they want to be part of the Inverness Club is because they believe in that mission statement.

“They love the fact that there are two more championships on the docket, and I know there will be more after that.”

Swigart was mum when asked specifically about more events at Inverness. He did say the USGA has enjoyed partnering with the club since there’s lots of continuity (Swigart has been the chair of the Future Championships Committee for 10 years and says he’ll be seeing the two announced championships all the way to the finish) and it’s aware of the club’s desire to be in the conversation to host the U.S. Open on the men’s side.  

“You could do the Walker Cup, the Women’s Amateur, the Curtis Cup … they look at all those equally,” said Swigart. “And I think one of the reasons why our partnership is where it is today is because we continue to say, ‘Yes’ to every championship they ask us to host.”

At the USGA’s massive announcement, Danielle Kang was part of the platform party. Kang was the winner of the DriveOn Championship held at Inverness and pulled together in just three weeks.

Kang was asked about the Inverness Club, as it looks ahead to another decade of holding some of the biggest events in golf. 

“Everything,” she said, “just shouts major championships at you.”