ROLAND, Ark. — The Little Rock businessman who built The Alotian Club presented a record $150,000 check to the Western Golf Association on Wednesday and both Warren Stephens and WGA officials left little doubt the Western Amateur Tournament would return to the exclusive course west of Little Rock.
Before discussing the future, Stephens and Jim Bunch, chairman of the board of the WGA, talked about the tournament held this summer at The Alotian — the first time the Western had been in the South in almost 50 years. Stephens, who described himself as "a bit competitive," said he had wanted to know the largest amount the host course of the Western had ever given to the WGA and officials acknowledged that the record of $138,000 was set in 2011.
"Wow," was Bunch’s initial reaction to the check which Stephens said was made possible by tournament sponsors.
Every penny will go for Evans Scholarships awarded to caddies by the Evans Scholars Foundation, Bunch said. This year, 240 such scholarships were awarded, he said.
Bunch and Stephens raved about the phenomenal support of the community for the Western Am and Bunch followed up his mention of the 47-year drought since the tournament was in the South, with, "Shame on us."
"Given the opportunity, I promise you we will be back," Bunch said. "No matter what the odds are, I wouldn’t bet against us."
The Western is booked through 2018 at courses in the Greater Chicago area, but Stephens said he would be open to hosting the tournament again. He said the only shortcoming this year was the lack of a place for patrons to go during inclement weather and praised the 650 volunteers who filled 1,200 time slots.
Stephens, a staunch supporter of the scholarship program, also said he would urge Alotian members to support the WGA.
The "size and sophistication" of the crowds was most impressive, Bunch said, adding that the spectacular course evoked effusive praise from players who called the layout unbelievable and the experience unforgettable. Some courses lend themselves to stroke play and others are perfect for match play, but The Alotian "is clearly good for both," Bunch said.
Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson or any of the other world’s best who came up through the amateur ranks will tell you the Western is the most difficult to win, Bunch said. Part of that is the format, which includes 72 holes of stroke play and four rounds of match play.
"You’ve got to make two cuts, and then you’ve got to play four good players who have been playing well all week," Oklahoma State’s Jordan Niebrugge said after he won the tournament in early August. Prior to that, Niebrugge won the U.S. Public Links and the Wisconsin State Amateur.