If Lisa Hyland had her way, she’d set the thermostat at 75 degrees and leave it there for the rest of the week.
But the Walla Walla Country Club’s head golf professional knows full well that she’s not likely to get her wish when the 59th edition of the 54-hole Senior Amateur is contested this week on the lush par-72 country club course.
The field of 107 men and 31 women — down substantially from a year ago — will be in town for a practice round today, with the first round of competition slated for Thursday. Subsequent men’s round will be played Friday and Saturday, with the women’s 36-hole tournament set to conclude Friday.
Starting times are slated from 7:30 to 9:30 each morning and again from noon to 2 p.m.
The hot spell that lingered in the Walla Walla Valley through last weekend is expected to subside, with a high of 85 degrees forecast for today and considerably cooler temperatures to follow.
Thursday’s forecast calls for showers and a high of 65. It’s expected to be mostly sunny and a high of 66 degrees Friday, and partly cloudy skies and a high of 70 degrees are anticipated for Saturday’s final round.
There’s a 20 percent chance of participation Friday and Saturday. And winds up to 14 mph will be a factor as well.
“I think our senior players like it a little warmer,” Hyland said. “But once it gets in the high 80s and low 90s, that’s a little too warm.
“So perfect is like 75 degrees. If we lived in a perfect world, we could set the thermostat at 75 and that would be great.”
But early June weather is seldom perfect in this valley, and the Senior Amateur has seen its share of unsettled conditions. Two years ago players were driven off the course by lightning and a subsequent downpour that resulted in the suspension of one round of play.
But Hyland doesn’t believe that the tournament’s declining field is weather related. Last year’s tournament attracted 126 men and 40 women.
“Our Chapman tournament will be played June 21-23 and we are full at 190 players, with a waiting list 20 deep,” Hyland said. “I guess people want to play in couples events rather than in individual competition.
“But most tournaments are down,” she added. “Our pool of players who keep coming back year after year for our Senior Amateur is getting older. We need to recruit more 50-year-olds to start playing.”
Players must be 50 years of age to enter a senior event. Players in the 65-to-74 age group can compete as super seniors and those 75-and-older are eligible for the legends division.
Five of last year’s six men’s champions are entered this year as well as both women’s defending champions.
Jerry Close of Moses Lake will be in town to defend his men’s overall low gross crown as will overall net champion Gary Graybeal of Pendleton. Walla Walla’s Howard Crosby, last year’s super senior gross winner, and Scott Cruikshank of New Castle, Wash., the defending super senior net champ, are entered as well.
Cliff Trout of Walla Walla, who claimed last year’s legends net title, is also entered. But Walla Walla native and Spokane resident Jim O’Rourke, who has been a fixture in the Senior Amateur for many years and captured last year’s legends gross crown, was not entered as of Tuesday morning.
“I can’t find his name,” Hyland said. “Maybe he’ll be a late entry.”
Walla Walla’s Joan Schille won the women’s gross championship in 2018 and Michele Bender of Anacortes, Wash., took net honors. They are both entered again this week.
Even though weather conditions might not be perfect this week, the golf course will be, Hyland promised.
“Right now the course is in awesome shape,” she said. “And the greens are running smooth and fast.”
Just stay out of the roughs, she advised.
“The roughs have been cut down, and I believe they will be mowed a couple of more times this week,” Hyland said Tuesday morning. “The problem is they will be up by Saturday because there won’t be any time to mow them once the tournament starts.
“And those roughs can be rough.”