PINEHURST, N.C. – They have made the journey here for the U.S. Open, but to them this is about much more than golf.
They are the 29 members of the U.S. Open advance team for the 2015 event at Chambers Bay.
They are here to watch, listen and ask questions. They are here to learn, because once the final putt drops here, Chambers Bay is next. And the work to get ready for next June intensifies.
Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor, for one, is excited. Not about the golf tournament itself, as he isn’t a golf fan. What gets him excited is security logistics and watching it all take place from the command center.
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For Kevin Phelps, Pierce County’s deputy executive, being here further assures him that the USGA knows what it is doing when it comes to putting on a championship event.
For University Place Mayor Denise McCluskey, it’s a glimpse of what her city can expect in a year, when it is suddenly thrust upon the world stage.
And for Bruce Kendall, whose job is to drum up business for Pierce County, it is all about opportunity, both this week and next year.
Pastor would like to tell you how many people are working security at the event and some of the latest technologies they’re using, but then, as the joke goes, he would have to kill you.
But the affable Pastor is very serious about security, even though fans who come to Chambers Bay next year might have no idea what has gone into it. And that is how he wants it. Pastor wants the tournament to run like Disneyland: efficient, safe and secure, with the security part virtually invisible.
“Trust me, they have a great security system in place at Disneyland, but you don’t see it,” Pastor said. “This is a sporting event, not a security event. But security is an important element to it.”
Pastor said the length of the event (all day for seven days) makes it a much bigger job than planning security for an event like the Rose Bowl, which lasts a few hours. But Pastor is confident the event at Chambers Bay will be secure, thanks to federal, state and local jurisdictions and private companies.
Phelps is at his fifth U.S. Open and said this is the best one he has seen as far as planning and layout. People are getting from parking lots to entrances via shuttles in quick order with minimal local traffic backups.
“The USGA really knows what they are doing and they plan this so well,” he said. “Elected officials tend to be nervous about things like this, but the inconvenience and downside (to hosting the U.S. Open) is very minimal, while the upside is so big,” he said.
Phelps said the U.S. Open has ratcheted up its merchandising at Pinehurst, with two big stores on the course and a store in the Village of Pinehurst.
“I think the amount of merchandise they sell at Chambers Bay will break the record,” Phelps said.
Among McCluskey’s activities this week is meeting with officials from the Village of Pinehurst, focusing on such things as governance, the city’s role, event permitting and community outreach. The USGA and the Village of Pinehurst are teaming together to put on the U.S. Open Experience in a park in the town, with live musical performances at night, a huge TV screen showing the tournament, a putting green and food vendors.
McCluskey was not a golf fan, but with the country’s national championship coming to her city, she began studying the game. She became fascinated with golf-course agronomy (the science of growing the grass), but also the math and the angles and everything that takes place before a swing. She is a convert and says, “I might even take lessons.”
McCluskey, who walks on the public trails through Chambers Bay each Sunday morning, no matter the weather, said there is some anxiety among her constituents because of the unknown, and about any inconveniences the tournament might create.
“But overall, we’re amped,” she said. “People around the world are going to be blown away by Chambers Bay.”
Kendall, the CEO and president of the Economic Development Board for Tacoma-Pierce County, said his job this week is about 60 percent getting ready for next year and 40 percent recruiting. He looked at a list of corporations attending the event as sponsors, vendors or entertaining clients, and to him, each name on that list is an opportunity to try to get some more business at home.
“There just isn’t a sport that is as universal among corporations like golf,” he said.