ANDOVER, Kan.—Flint Hills National adds another elite amateur championship to its impressive resume when it plays host to the 112th Trans-Mississippi Championship on July 7-9.
The scenic Tom Fazio course, designed in 1995 and opened two years later, was the host site for the 2001 U.S. Women’s Amateur and 2007 U.S. Senior Amateur. The windswept track stretches across 640 acres of tree-lined terrain dissected by creeks and other natural water hazards. Ranked among Golf Digest’s Top 100 Courses, Flint Hills National twice has played host to Trans-Miss Championships (2003, ’09). The 2017 U.S. Junior Amateur is scheduled to be played at Flint Hills National.
The course is nothing short of a masterpiece, one which Fazio counted among his best when it opened.
“I have built a hundred golf courses,” Fazio said in 1997. “Everything I learned from the first 99 when into this. Flint Hills is as good a course as I’ve ever designed.”
As evidenced by the championships contested on the grounds, amateur golf is extremely important to Flint Hills National, its members and its staff.
“Amateur golf is who we are,” General Manager Bobby Conner said. “This is our third Trans-Miss Championship to host, and we’re excited to be in the rotation.”
Drawn from 28 U.S. states and five other countries, the field of 144 elite amateurs from North America and abroad, will play 72 holes of individual stroke play. Eighteen holes are scheduled for July 7-8, after which a cut will be made to the low 54 scores and ties. The remaining competitors will play 36 holes, contested over two rounds, on July 9 to identify the champion.
Flint Hills National was the vision of local business titan Tom Devlin, who in 1973 as a 25 year old co-founded Rent-A-Center and developed the company into the country’s largest rent-to-own business. A longtime Trans-Miss Golf Association Director, Devlin in a 2014 Wichita Business Journal interview called the course and club his “gift back to Wichita and the surrounding community,” but it’s become much more than that.
A top attraction for passionate golfers, Flint Hills National is one of the premier championship tests in the country. The devotion to amateur golf – particularly the high-level competitive variety such as the Trans-Miss Championship – underscores Devlin’s original vision.
“Tom has made a huge commitment to amateur golf, and so has the club,” Conner said. “Our motto around here is ‘Respect the Game,’ and I think amateur golf respects the game. That’s what Flint Hills National is all about.”
Defending champion Will Zalatoris from Plano highlights the select field. Recently recovered from appendix surgery that kept him sidelined during U.S. Open qualifying, Zalatoris won the rain-shortened 111th Trans-Miss Championship at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Okla.
Prior to last year’s championship Zalatoris broke through with a victory at the 105th Texas Amateur. He capped off his successful summer with a win at the 2014 U.S. Junior Amateur. After his strong freshman season at Wake Forest, Zalatoris was named to the PING All-American Third Team. The Atlantic Coast Conference Freshman of the Year, he had five top-10 finishes and a team-best 70.07 stroke average, the second lowest for a Wake Forest newcomer behind PGA Tour veteran Bill Haas’ 68.93 in 2003-04.
San Diego’s Byron Meth, the 2014 U.S. Amateur Public Links champion, also committed to the Trans-Miss Championship, as well as eight of the top-30 finishers in the 2014 Trans-Miss Championship.
They’ll all face a demanding examination in Flint Hills National.
“Fazio’s design of the golf course has very roomy fairways,” said Dave Henson, Flint Hills’ Director of Golf. “If a player can keep it in the fairway, he has a chance to do well around the greens. If he can’t keep it in the fairway, he’s going to have some problems.”
Oklahomans in the field include Sam Johnston of Oklahoma City, Jacob Bishop of Edmond, brothers Alec and Nick Heinen of Edmond, Draegen Majors of Tulsa, Anthony Marchesani of Oklahoma City, Max McGreevy of Edmond, Garrison Mendoza of Clinton, Sam Russell of Oklahoma City, Conrad Walcher of Oklahoma City and Hayden Wood of Edmond.