PINEHURST, N.C. – Danny Sink is back where it began for him with the United States Golf Association.
In 1999, he worked as a USGA intern at the first U.S. Open held at Pinehurst No. 2.
Fifteen years later, he is here with a much bigger profile, having been the championship director for six U.S. Opens and getting ready for his seventh, the 2015 Open at Chambers Bay in University Place.
For the big event, it’s all hands on deck, and that is why Sink is at Pinehurst this week, where it is anything but a break.
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“It’s 20-hour days,” Sink said Tuesday. “I got four hours sleep last night. That was actually pretty good.”
Sink has spent much of the first week working with the players as they arrive, getting them registered, helping set them up any way possible.
As the week progresses, he will be spending time with delegations for future U.S. Open sites, including Pierce County and University Place officials.
Enthusiasm continues to run high for the event next year, with the opening of public ticket sales Monday “off the charts … phenomenal,” in Sink’s words.
“We sold about $2 million of tickets in the first six hours.”
Sink said he didn’t know how many tickets the $2 million equated to, but said the dollar figure exceeded his expectations, which were already high based on the unprecedented pace at which volunteers signed up.
“I would say if you want to secure your tickets for the championship, don’t wait,” he said. “We’ve sold out 27 consecutive years for our championship rounds, and there is no doubt in my mind that Chambers Bay will. When that happens, I don’t know, but I think it’s safe to say it will certainly be in 2014. So the message is, ‘Don’t wait.’ ”
This week, though, Chambers Bay is getting 10 percent of Sink’s attention and Pinehurst 90 percent. And his days always begin early.
“Our gates open at 6 a.m., so we have our staff meetings at 4 a.m.,” said Sink, who grew up in Granite Quarry, about an hour northeast of Pinehurst, and went to college at North Carolina-Wilmington. “Then I try to get out of here around 11 p.m. or midnight. This is a 24-hour operation. There are a lot of things you can’t do during the day, like getting trash out, vendor deliveries, things like that.”
Sink said perhaps the biggest difference between Pinehurst and Chambers Bay is space. With five courses on the property here and hundreds of acres, the USGA capped daily paid attendance at 42,500, but with volunteers, credentialed individuals and nonpaying youths, that number swells to well over 50,000.
Total attendance for the week is expected to be about 275,000 to 300,000, with at least another 100,000 expected for the Women’s U.S. Open next week that is also at Pinehurst No. 2.
At Chambers Bay, the USGA is capping daily ticket sales at 30,000, which will mean about 40,000 on the course when volunteers and others are included.
Pinehurst and Chambers Bay look nothing alike. Pinehurst is a relatively flat course, and with such expansive space, it is easy for great numbers of spectators to walk and follow groups of golfers. With Chambers being quite hilly with sand dunes throughout, following one group of golfers will not be recommended. Instead, the plans are to build plenty of bleachers. One set of bleachers on the 18th hole will seat 7,000 to 9,000 people, making it one of the biggest bleachers in U.S. Open history.
“We are going to make a conscious effort to give people a great venue to watch from if they don’t want to venture out into the golf course,” Sink said. “We want to give them a place to be near the gate.”
A mini-city has been built for the event at Pinehurst, from huge merchandise pavilions to fan-experience tents where people can get free swing evaluations, to huge corporate tents for the well-heeled fans.
Construction of the city began in early March, and the timeline will be similar next year at Chambers. But what goes up must also come down.
“Everyone focuses on the buildup, but a lot of our hosts are more concerned about the tear-down,” Sink said. “They need their parking lots back, and for example, this media center was built on tennis courts. They want those back. We try to be out by August.
“At Chambers Bay, we’ll try to be out as soon as we can, but if it takes four months to build, you can’t be out in six days,” added Sink, who was the first USGA staffer on site full time at Chambers Bay and will be the last to leave.
Scott Hanson: 206-464-2943