Golf | Bradenton Country Club to host U.S. Women's Open sectional qualifier

BRADENTON -- Female golfers who hope to play against the best in the world at the U.S. Women's Open in July must first navigate the treacherous 36-hole sectional qualifier.

Bradenton Country Club is one of 21 American courses hosting a sectional qualifier this year.

"It's a pretty big honor to be chosen to host it, and it has a lot to do with the quality of the golf course," Bradenton Country Club general manager Terry Cross said.

The public is welcome to attend Monday's 36-hole qualifier, which will feature local players such as Bradenton's Nelly Korda, former Manatee High star Jennifer Neville and IMG Academy's Rinko Mitsunaga, who recently captured the U.S. Women's Amateur Four-Ball title with Mika Liu.

The morning tee times range from 7:15 a.m. to 9:15 a.m. off both Nos. 1 and 10. The afternoon tee times are tentatively scheduled for 12:45 p.m. to 2:45 p.m.

Female professionals and amateurs with a handicap index not exceeding 2.4 are eligible to compete. Qualifiers advance to the U.S. Women's Open, to be held July 9-12 at Lancaster (Pa.) Country Club.

Bradenton Country Club was selected as a host last October based off the success the club enjoyed co-hosting the 59th Florida State Boys' Junior Championship with Sara Bay Country Club in 2013.

And like Sara Bay, BCC is a Donald Ross-designed course featuring the usual Ross trademark of mounded, bowl-shaped greens that put a premium on short-game prowess.

Because to its similarities to Sara Bay, players who competed in last month's LPGA Symetra Tour Guardian Retirement Championship should have an advantage, Cross said.

Former three-time U.S. Women's Open champion and World Golf Hall of Famer Hollis Stacy is a Bradenton Country Club member, was chosen as the host of the event, which will gather top professionals and amateurs from around the world for the chance at snagging a handful of berths available into the third women's major championship of the year.

"The LPGA is bigger over in Asia than the men's tour over there, so you'll see a lot of Asian Tour players coming over to try and qualify," Cross said. "It's a pretty cool event."

To succeed Monday, players will face a difficult test on a layout with an approximate yardage of more than 6,300 yards.

The toughest challenges, Cross said, are with the par-3 18th measuring 222 yards and the par-4 fifth, which is 436 yards.

Getting the local women's sectional comes on the heels of Manatee County playing host to the Symetra Tour annually at Sara Bay Country Club and The Concession Golf Club set to host the NCAA Division I men's and women's national championships later this month.

Other courses such as Waterlefe Golf & River Club have held collegiate and U.S. Open local qualifiers. Sara Bay will get the 100th Women's Southern Amateur from May 31 to June 5, and Palm-Aire Country Club is slated to host the LPGA Legends Tour next November.

It all adds up to Manatee County gaining traction as the can't-miss spot for Florida golf.

"Historically, it's been mostly all of Orlando and a little bit of stuff in Miami," Cross said. "... So now this coast is sort of getting recognized as having some great golf courses and great golf tournaments."