USGA Reaches Agreement with Shinnecock Indian Nation Ahead of U.S. Open

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The United States Golf Association (USGA) will host the 2018 United States Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, New York on June 14-17. This will be the fifth time the national championship is held at Shinnecock, and the first time since 2004. The second ever U.S. Open was played at Shinnecock in 1896, which marked the start of a long standing relationship between the USGA and the Shinnecock Indian Nation.

Shinnecock Hills Golf Club was constructed on land once owned by the Shinnecock Nation, with most of the work being done by tribe members. For generations since, the Shinnecock tribe has been involved with the club. Tribal members served as grounds superintendents from the club’s opening in 1891 to as recently as 1999. The current president of Shinnecock Hills, Brett Pickett, has said the club has “profound respect for the Shinnecock Nation, and we try in all that we do to honor their history and heritage and their connection to this land. We also do many private things which financially benefit their community more directly.”

However, approaching this year’s U.S. Open, tension developed as the USGA and the Shinnecock Indian Nation struggled to agree on terms concerning the tribe’s participation in the tournament. Members of the tribe have conducted demonstrations that are scheduled to run throughout the tournament, protesting over deep-rooted claims to the land on which Shinnecock Hills was constructed. In February 2016, the tribe lost an appeal to reclaim the land containing the course. The Supreme Court later declined to review the decision, effectively ending the tribe’s claim to the land.

Just days before the competitors teed off at Shinnecock Hills, the USGA and the tribe released a joint-statement, announcing their plans for tribal participation in this year’s tournament and beyond. The USGA announced plans to construct the Oscar Bunn Golf Facility, named for a tribal member that competed in the first U.S. Open held at Shinnecock in 1896. The facility is set to “offer a place for Shinnecock golf enthusiasts and juniors to learn to play the game and enjoy it for a lifetime.”

In response to the agreement, the tribe “sincerely appreciates the USGA’s efforts to work with the Shinnecock Nation with this year’s U.S. Open.” Craig Annis, a spokesman for USGA said, “It is our hope that this effort binds the community in a meaningful way, honoring the past while providing opportunity for future generations to connect with the game we all love.”

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