Most of the golf world’s attention next week will be on famed Pinehurst No. 2 in North Carolina, host to this year’s U.S. Open.
Closer to home, something big also is happening: Tickets go on sale to the public Monday for the 2015 U.S. Open at Chambers Bay in University Place.
People have been waiting for this day for a long time.
“This is my 16th U.S. Open, and the excitement level is unprecedented,” said Danny Sink, the 2015 U.S. Open championship director. “For months, I’ve been getting dozens of emails each day from people, wanting to know anything and everything about the championship.”
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The national golf championship, to be held on the waterfront links course that Pierce County built on the site of a former gravel and sand mine, will include practice rounds June 15-17, 2015, followed by tournament play June 18-21.
About 235,000 are expected during the week at Chambers Bay, with the region expected to get a big economic boost — a very big boost if it’s anything like this month’s men’s and women’s U.S. Opens at Pinehurst.
Caleb Miles, chief executive officer of the Pinehurst, Southern Pines and Aberdeen area visitors and convention bureau, said the estimated economic impact to that region is at least $169 million. “And that’s a conservative figure,” he said.
Both daily and weekly passes will be available for the 2015 U.S. Open, but the United States Golf Association (USGA) is capping paid admission at 30,000 — and 7,500 weekly tickets already were sold in presale promotions.
If the call for volunteers is any indication (6,000 people applied for 4,500 spots in 36 hours when the USGA put out the call earlier this spring), the remaining tickets might go quickly.
Among the most excited are city and county officials, who have been preparing since the USGA picked Chambers Bay in 2008.
“We are thrilled and can hardly wait,” said Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy. “I think the excitement is really palpable to golfers and to those who know it’s happening at Chambers Bay.”
An advance team of 29, including staff from the golf course, Pierce County, University Place, tourism groups and other local agencies, will be at Pinehurst next week to watch and learn. They’re looking for anything that will help them next year when the world is watching.
No detail is too small — and there are lots of details to consider, like making room for big trucks full of food and merchandise, having enough Porta-Potties and being ready for any emergency.
McCarthy said there is another important reason for local officials to be at Pinehurst.
“Our ultimate goal is be part of the rotation of the U.S. Open, and we want to continue to build on our relationship with the USGA, with folks inside and outside the ropes,” she said.
McCarthy won’t travel with the county delegation but has attended previous U.S. Opens and will debrief representatives when they return home.
“I’ve had the opportunity to go to a number of them, and we have gained a tremendous amount of knowledge at each Open we have been to,” she said. “I have been impressed with not only the logistics of what the USGA does to put on the championship, but just the fact that it is a great sporting event with great athletes.”
The logistics are Sink’s specialty, and he said the excitement of the fans, plus the cooperation from city and county officials, have made his job easier. Time he might have spent trying to recruit volunteers and drum up community support has been spent instead on challenges such as how to get people to the course and where to put them when they get there.
Although the USGA will not announce transportation details until next spring, plans for a Sound Transit stop next to the entrance of Chambers Bay are all but finalized.
“All the macro pieces are in place, including security, transportation and parking,” said Sink, who is in charge of everything outside the ropes at the 2015 Open and is taking a brief break from Chambers Bay to help out at Pinehurst next week. “The bones are there. Now it’s a matter of tweaking. The devil is in the details, and we are sticklers on the details. We want to make sure everyone gets here, in a timely fashion, and that they have a great experience.”
Meanwhile, work continues on the course. Early last fall, the greens on the 10th and 13th holes were reseeded because the fescue had become contaminated with other grasses. Reseeding greens about 20 months before an Open was unprecedented.
Larry Gilhuly, the USGA director of the Northwest Region, has been closely monitoring the work and had high praise for Chambers Bay director of agronomy Eric Johnson and course superintendent Josh Lewis.
Gilhuly, whose expertise is in agronomy, said he is confident the greens will be in great shape for the Open.
“Yes, I think the greens will be fine, and I have never swayed from that,” said Gilhuly, who recently did a routine check of the entire course, including measuring the greens for their firmness and examining the rough.
Both Sink and Gilhuly say the greens are the biggest challenge. Fescue grass is particularly vulnerable during winter, and does not do well with heavy traffic. Because of that, play will be limited at Chambers Bay during the next year, and particularly in the winter.
Several greens were damaged last winter because of heavy traffic, Gilhuly said. Cutting back on the number of golfers reduces course revenue, but Gilhuly said county officials have agreed to what the USGA has asked — and more.
“It’s been a collaborative effort to do what we can to ensure the course is in great condition, particularly the green surfaces,” said Sink. “We want to do what we can to make sure the putting surfaces are in perfect shape. We don’t want the championship to come down to getting a bad read on the green because of the condition.
“We want the course to be the star of the week at the Open. We want it to play fair and consistent. So we wanted to limit play by limiting tee times, but still give the public a chance to play.”
Sink expects excitement to keep growing.
“I am excited to be at Pinehurst (next week) and my attention will be there, but the moment the last putt drops, we’re up,” he said. “All eyes will then be on Chambers Bay.”
Scott Hanson: 206-464-2943