Preview: Back-to-back Golfweek events bring nation’s best senior amateurs to Palm Desert

When a week-long run of senior amateur golf begins at Desert Willow Golf Club in Palm Desert, California, on April 1, the contenders list will be deep.

The Golfweek Senior Division National Championship field of 90 players, ages 55 and older, will compete in one division from one distance over 54 holes. The past two champions of the event, Jerry Gunthorpe and Gary Albrecht, will return, and that only scratches the surface. The field also includes three of the top six players in the current Golfweek Senior Rankings: top-ranked Kevin VandenBerg plus Matt Avril (No. 3) and Steve Maddalena (No. 6).

Desert Willow is a public facility owned by the city of Palm Desert that includes the 18-hole Mountain View layout, where the Golfweek event will be played, as well as another 18 holes, named Firecliff. Both layouts opened in the late 1990s and have been extremely popular among community members. The design team responsible for Desert Willow includes Michael Hurdzan, Dana Fry and former PGA Tour player John Cook, plus local landscape architect Eric Johnson.

Mountain View features more water than Firecliff but also mountain views all around. The entire facility was designed to both highlight the desert landscape on which it sits – starting with the mile-long approach to the resort that allows visitors to acquaint themselves with the landscape — and operate in an environmentally sensitive way.

A year ago, Albrecht, a 66-year-old who had dropped down an age division for this event, needed an extra hole to claim his title. After winning, Albrecht got right back to it, teeing it up a day later in the Golfweek Senior Amateur. Again this year, the Senior Amateur will directly follow the Senior Division National Championship at Willow Creek on April 5-7, but will feature four separate divisions for ages 55-64, 65-69, 70-74 and 75 and over.

The Golfweek Senior Amateur also has the distinction of being one of 10 events at which senior players can earn points toward a spot on the U.S. team in the Concession Cup, a Walker Cup-style match put on by the Amateur Golf Alliance that pits the best mid-amateurs and senior amateurs from the U.S. against those from Europe.

Two-thirds of the field at the Golfweek Senior Division National Championship field will stay in Palm Desert to compete in the Golfweek Senior Amateur. That includes Albrecht, Avril and VandenBerg. Other notable names in the senior division include longtime Louisiana-based amateur Grady Brame, who has appeared in several USGA championships; Craig Hurlbert, a playing captain at the Golfweek Challenge Cup in 2022; and Allen Peake, a former member of the Georgia State House of Representatives who has become the marathon man of senior golf.

Golfweek’s top-ranked super senior Jim Starnes plus defending champion Jeff Burda highlight the 65-69 year-old division.

John Seehausen is back to defend in the Super Legends division.

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek