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Stevens Point ready for spotlight as pro golf fans arrive for USGA Senior Open

The golf tournament is expected to bring some 50K visitors to central Wisconsin in coming days

A sign welcomes people to the U.S. Golf Association's 43rd Senior Open Championship in Stevens Point
A sign welcomes volunteers, attendees and golfers to the U.S. Golf Association’s 43rd Senior Open Championship in Stevens Point, Wis. Tuesday, June 27, 2023. The event is expected to bring tens of thousands of visitors to central Wisconsin. Rob Mentzer/WPR

Central Wisconsin will see an influx of visitors this week as one of professional golf’s major tournaments plays out in Stevens Point.

The golf course at SentryWorld is hosting the U.S. Golf Association’s Senior Open, where some of the world’s best golfers ages 50 and up compete for $4 million in prize money. Practice rounds opened Tuesday; the competition runs Thursday through Sunday.

The population of Stevens Point is about 26,000, and in the coming days the tournament is projected to bring some 50,000 visitors to the region. Sara Brish, director of the Stevens Point Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the flow of visitors will likely be around 10,000 to 12,000 per day, with the highest number of attendees during the competition on the weekend.

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A billboard on the side of a bus in downtown Stevens Point advertises the USGA Senior Open.
A billboard on the side of a bus in downtown Stevens Point, Wis. advertises the USGA Senior Open on July 27, 2023. Rob Mentzer/WPR

On Tuesday morning, businesses around Stevens Point had put up signs welcoming golfers and fans and advertising food and drink specials for tournament attendees. Jerry Moore, a former city council member who lives near the course, said the event is exciting for the city and for the region.

“Any money coming into the community is good money,” Moore said. “We welcome them, I hope they have a great time and have a fun week and stay for all the other festivities going on.”

This weekend will also see Stevens Point’s annual live music event, the Riverfront Rendezvous Festival.

At the Olympia Family Restaurant, owner Pete Ananiadis said he added staff and ordered extra food in anticipation of increased traffic.

“It’s pretty exciting for the community — not just for Stevens Point, but for all of central Wisconsin,” Ananiadis said.

Among the competitors are Wisconsin natives Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly. Stricker, 56, has won four PGA Tour Champions events so far in 2023.

Stevens Point's SentryWorld golf course hosts the U.S. Golf Association Senior Open from June 29 through July 2.
Stevens Point’s SentryWorld golf course hosts the U.S. Golf Association Senior Open from June 29 through July 2. Rob Mentzer/WPR

Landing the tournament was the work of years for SentryWorld. The course, established in 1982, is associated with Sentry Insurance, a major employer in the region. The USGA announced its selection of SentryWorld in February 2021. The course, which was closed through much of the COVID-19 pandemic, reopened with major renovations in 2022.

In 2019, the course hosted the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship.

This week’s tournament is the second time the Senior Open has been held in Wisconsin. Sheboygan County’s Whistling Straits Golf Course, which has also hosted other majors, was the site of the Senior Open in 2007.

The event is also made possible by some 2,300 volunteers, including Sentry employees and golf enthusiasts from around the state, Brish said.

“When I went to the volunteer party on Saturday, I met people from Milwaukee and Appleton and Green Bay and throughout central Wisconsin,” Brish said. “It was really exciting to see some of those volunteers who just want to be part of the excitement and part of the action.”

The U.S. Senior Open will be nationally televised on the Golf Channel on Thursday and Friday and on NBC on Saturday and Sunday.