New tournament director bringing changes to Wichita Open experience for golf fans

Changes are coming to the Wichita Open this week under new management.

Dusty Buell inherited a prime situation as Wichita Open tournament director after his predecessor, Roy Turner, spent decades making Wichita a top-tier stop annually on the Korn Ferry Tour and turning hole No. 17 at Crestview Country Club into a premier party hole.

The one guiding principle Buell learned under Turner’s tutelage, however, was to never remain complacent, to always push the envelope.

“When you have a chance, if you don’t swing for the fences, then you let an opportunity pass you by,” Buell said. “So we are going to take risks. Some of them are going to be home runs and some of them may not pay off, but sitting back and doing the same thing year after year is not who I am and not who I ever will be.

“As long as we have the support from local businesses and from Wichita and our surrounding communities, we’re going to continue to make this thing bigger and better and give people a great time.”

Buell is confident that fans who come out to the Wichita Open, which kicks off Thursday on Crestview’s North course, will appreciate the upgrades he has made to the fan experience.

Better quality tents with air conditioning, a better view for VIP customers, a new fan zone and an interactive experience for hole No. 17 watchers are among the things Buell is billing as improvements for this year’s tournament.

General admission tickets begin at $10, while fan zone tickets are being sold for $30. VIP tickets are being sold for $100 and are only available for Thursday and Sunday.

The upgraded tents actually began as Buell’s biggest obstacle early in his tenure, as the company that rented the double-decker stands previously used by the Wichita Open went out of business, leaving the new tournament director scrambling to find a replacement to host the event’s largest crowd behind the green on the par-three No. 17.

It turned out the answer was in Scottsdale, Arizona, in the same double-decker stands used for the Phoenix Open, the PGA Tour event that Wichita has tried to replicate on the Korn Ferry Tour. It cost an extra $450,000, but Buell said sponsors rose to the occasion to help make it possible to rent the same stands for this week’s tournament.

“And now that we see it, it is well worth every single penny,” Buell said. “It looks different, it feels different, it just looks professional and it’s going to add to our experience. The air-conditioned areas are going to be much better this year. It’s going to be like the (Phoenix Open) is right here in Wichita.”

Feedback from last year’s tournament on the VIP chalets was that they were a great social experience but lacking in terms of viewing the golfers play the No. 17 hole. Buell listened and has made the proper changes to improve the viewing experience.

“It’s going to be the best view on the course,” Buell said. “I don’t think anybody is going to have a complaint on what they can and can’t see this year.”

Another feature being added this year is an interactive experience featuring a website that will allow viewers to pick which golfer they think will make a birdie on the No. 17 hole before they tee off. Spectators can earn points throughout the day and the Wichita Open will dole out prizes to the top-three point-scorers on each day.

“Just like with everything else we do, we want to make sure we are the standard when it comes to innovation and trying new things here in Wichita,” Buell said. “We’re going to be the first to do this, but we’re not going to be the last.”

The fan zone will also be a new addition to the 2023 version of the tournament, as the $30 ticket-holders will receive complimentary soda, water and Anheuser Busch products — and have a shaded upper-deck area where fans can watch the U.S. Open beginning at 11 a.m. each day.

As for the golf, a field of 156 players will compete for a purse that totals $1 million with the winner receiving a $180,000 check. Defending champion Norman Xiong returns for the 34th rendition of the tournament, while former champions Jared Wolfe (2020), Ollie Schniederjans (2016) and Rob Oppenheim (2015) are also playing.

A local highlight will be the grouping of former Wichita Independent star Dodge Kemmer and Andover Central graduate and current K-State golfer Cooper Schultz, both of whom punched their tickets to the event at Monday qualifiers, as they will tee off on No. 1 at 9:01 a.m. Thursday and No. 10 at 2:16 p.m. Friday.

Wichita Area Women’s Golf Association crowns champions

Denise Desilet won her 14th title as overall senior champion at the 2023 Wichita Area Women’s Golf Association senior golf tournament at Sim Park on Monday and Tuesday. Desilet shot rounds of 73 and 77 to win the overall gross championship in the senior division.

The overall net champion in the senior division was Doris Kramer, who shot rounds of 75 and 71, while Paula Routon was the overall gross champion in the super senior division with rounds of 73 and 75 and Pat Totten won a playoff for the overall net championship in the super senior division with rounds of 75 and 71. Meanwhile, Deb Slater was the overall gross champion in the 9-hole division with Deb Williams winning the overall net championship.

2023 WAWGA winners (at Sim Park)

Senior division

Overall gross champion—Denise Desilet, 150. Overall net champion—Doris Kramer, 146. First flight gross winners—1. Annie Johnsen, 161; 2. Deb Hager, 170. First flight net winners—1. Stephanie Welk, 151; 2. Nancy Knopp, 153. Second flight gross winners—1. Kelli Dome, 175; 2. Diane Paul, 177. Second flight net winners—1. Deb Messamore, 155; 2. Paula Kirk-Hoose, 157. Third flight gross winners—1. Marla Lindenmeyer, 190; 2. Ann Wagner, 200. Third flight net winners—1. Denise Denning 152; 2. Laura Engels, 153.

Super senior division

Overall gross champion—Paula Routon, 148. Overall net champion—Pat Totten, 146. First flight gross winners—1. Deb Christiansen, 160; 2. Marcia Alterman, 167. First flight net winners—1. Mary Troy, 151; 2. Sarah Allender, 158. Second flight gross winners—1. Alice Kaul, 174; 2. Bev Dilsaver-Millan, 178. Second flight net winners—1. Jan Schraeder, 148; 2. Sharon Hamrick, 151.

9-hole division

Overall gross champion—Deb Slater, 90. Overall net champion—Deb Williams, 76. First flight gross winner—Terri Wittrig, 95. First flight net winner—Judy Carlson, 82. Second flight gross winner—Cindy Langlois, 98. Second flight net winner—Linda Mease, 78.