With some 31,000 spectators on the course, the largest grandstand ever used at a U.S. Open still had room for only 20 percent of Sunday’s spectators.
UNIVERSITY PLACE — From spectator Jamie Jamieson’s position at 5 p.m., with more than two hours to play in Sunday’s final round at the U.S. Open, three broadcast towers wrapped in dark green fabric allowed him to see only two narrow slices of Chambers Bay’s 18th green.
Neither of those slices included the pin. Golfers approaching their putts passed by in brief flashes.
“I might wander somewhere else, but I’m not sure where,” said Jamieson, of Lakewood.
Options were rapidly disappearing.
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At that point, golfers leading the U.S. Open were still back on the ninth hole. But at the 18th, some 200 fans hoping to see the Open’s final hole were lined up behind the 6,000-seat grandstand when word came that the course’s largest grandstand was full, and they needed to look elsewhere for a view.
When the bad news arrived, those in the front of the line had been waiting an hour and a half for a seat. But spectators could be admitted only when others left; with each passing minute, the likelihood of anyone willingly relinquishing a seat was rapidly diminishing.
This was not unexpected, and was the result of pure mathematics: With some 31,000 spectators on the course, the largest grandstand ever used at a U.S. Open still had room for only 20 percent of Sunday’s spectators.
Fans who had claimed seats in the grandstand early in the day could get blue passes for re-admission if they left to grab a bite or a beer, or to answer nature’s call.
“We got here at 10 this morning,” said Brendan Smith, of Calgary, Alberta, carrying three beers — two for friends — as he headed back inside the grandstand.
His friend, Peter Tanchak, said, “We knew we had to pick a stadium and just stay there.” They took turns with the friends still inside to keep the group supplied with liquid refreshment.
Brad Steinfeld of University Place was one of those who got the word to look elsewhere when the grandstand filled.
He took the news in stride. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Steinfeld said.
His Father’s Day present to himself was tickets for him, his wife and his son to see the U.S. Open, which he purchased last year.
Rebuffed at the 18th green, they found a grassy patch near the 17th hole where they could see some action on the day’s penultimate hole, as long as they kept standing.
By 6:30 p.m., a good number of spectators were headed for the exit. Not only was the grandstand at the 18th hole full, but fans were lined up four deep alongside the hole, at a fence that offered a view of players’ approach shot.
A couple of hundred fans stopped in Spectator Square to catch the final holes on a large TV monitor. Some sat at white picnic tables, others stretched out on the lawn.
One of them was Mark Vleeming, who earlier in the day got a little closer to the action than he had intended. A shot by South African Branden Grace missed hitting him by just a couple of feet near the green on the 10th hole.
Vleeming said he recovered his breath, and Grace managed to par the hole.
Once all the golfers had passed the 10th, Vleeming knew his remaining viewing choices would not be choice.
“If we had stayed up there, all we would be seeing would be the backs of people’s heads,” he said.
Another reason for viewing finish from Spectator Square: It put him close to the exit, ready to make a break when the action was over — and to start the four-hour drive home.