When it comes to golf, Frank Ford III is about as close to Charleston royalty as it gets.
One of South Carolina's longtime top amateur players and a former golf administrator in South Carolina and Georgia, he's also the grandson of the legendary Frank Ford Sr., friend and playing partner of World Golf Hall of Famer and Masters and PGA winner Henry Picard, who spent his later years teaching golf in Charleston.
That history, plus his long-running love affair with the game, made Ford an ideal choice to serve as general chairman of the 74th US Women's Open, being played May 30-June 2, 2019 at his home course, the Country Club of Charleston.
"Without a doubt, (the Open) is the most prestigious women's golf event in the world," said Ford, as the US Golf Association kicked off a year's run-up to the championship with a display of the US Women's Open trophy at Charleston Municipal Golf Course, a stone's throw from the Country Club of Charleston. Also on hand for the mini-ceremony were Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg and USGA Director of Championships Matt Sawicki.
The Open couldn't take place at a more fitting venue. Not only is Charleston one of the world's premier tourist destinations, it boasts an impressive golf history. The city's Harleston Green is considered the first golf site in America, dating to the 1740s, and the first clubs imported to America from Scotland were shipped to Charleston.
In 1991, the Ryder Cup was held at Kiawah's Ocean Course, stamping Charleston as a world-class place to play golf. Kiawah also hosted the 2012 PGA Championship. The tournament will return to Kiawah in 2021.
"The Charleston area is a hotbed of passionate golf fans, and we're excited to bring the 74th Open to their backyard," Sawicki said.
Built in 1924 by legendary architect Seth Raynor and updated twice since then, the Country Club of Charleston has hosted more than 150 major amateur events, including the 2013 US Women's Amateur, which served as a test run for the 2019 Open.
"It proved itself with the Women's Amateur," Sawicki said. "The US Women's Open is golf's ultimate test for females, and we're confident this classic venue will test the world's best players."
Women's golf also has a history in South Carolina. Myrtle Beach's Dunes Golf & Beach Club hosted the 1962 Open, won by Murle Lindstrom, and the Country Club of Charleston produced Beth Daniel, a World Golf Hall of Famer, two-time US Women's Amateur champion and longtime LPGA star.
"Women's involvement (at the club) goes back to 1925," Ford said. "We've always taken care of our players, and Beth is a shining example."
With its must-see reputation for tourism, Charleston promises to take care of golf fans too. Sawicki said the USGA expects crowds of around 100,000 to enjoy the tournament, as well as the city's culinary and historic delights.
Tickets for the Open start at $40 a day; $100 for weekly ticket packages. Practice-round tickets also are available. Youth 18 and under attend free when accompanied by an adult, and active-duty military personnel receive complimentary gallery tickets. To purchase tickets, visit USWomensOpen.com.
"We expect full grandstands," Sawicki said. "This community will be spotlighted."
Buses will provide transportation to the course, located on James Island roughly 10 minutes from downtown Charleston. Fans should expect to see players out and about the fairways - and in the city.
"Players want to experience downtown Charleston, so we'll be locating their accommodations there," Sawicki said.
The club grounds will feature the Palmetto Pavilion, a climate-controlled venue offering open seating, live TV network coverage in a sports bar-style setting, plus food and beverage options. Gallery tickets offer access to the grounds and all concession locations, with grandstands throughout the course and "spectator experience facilities."
Prime viewing locations include the course's signature par-3 11th hole with its difficult elevated green, areas between the 13th green and 14th tee, and the 15th green and 17th tee.
Looking for a more personal experience? The USGA is seeking about 1,500 volunteers to work as marshals, in player services, leader boards and merchandise sales, with assignments made on a first-come basis. Volunteers will need to purchase an $85 package that includes a golf shirt, championship jacket, hat or visor, water bottle and volunteer credential, and work four shifts of five-six hours. Food, snacks and beverages will be provided on the days they work.
To sign up via the Women's SC Golf Association, click here.