Last week’s U.S. Open at Chambers Bay Golf Course will go down in history for many reasons: the dramatic ending with Dustin Johnson’s three-putt on the 18th hole; the controversy about greens that some players compared to broccoli; the victory by 21-year-old Jordan Spieth, the youngest player to win the championship since 1923; and one of Tiger Woods’ worst performances.
A lone artist in the media corps, I couldn’t possibly draw every aspect of the championship while I was there, but the scenes I sketched —some colored on the spot, others colored in the media room— hopefully added a different flavor to the daily coverage.
I’ve just udpated the report to add a few more sketches I failed to post from Chambers Bay. They show a father and son who celebrated Father’s Day watching from the grandstand on hole 18, a view of hole 17 with McNeil Island on the background, the guy who drove my media shuttle and a friendly fan collecting autographs by the practice range.
Whether you were among the thousands who attended daily or watched from home, I hope my sketches help you relive in a different way the first U.S. Open ever to be held in the Northwest.
Sketched June 21, 2015
On Sunday, I hung out with 6,000 new friends at the largest grandstand in U.S. Open history. Who would have thought a little ball could attract such huge crowds?
Some people had arrived at 7 a.m. to claim their spot in the grandstand. That was the case for John McCumsey and his dad, John, of Bremerton, who were celebrating Father’s Day watching their favorite sport together.
John and other spectators around him shared what many fans told me throughout the tournament. There’s little access on the course for spectators to get close to the players, and despite this being the largest grandstand in the history of the U.S. Open with 6,000 seats, organizers should have provided more of them. John still had positive words to describe his experience. “It’s a beautiful course,” he said. “We’ve seen spectacular shots.”
I saw others waiting in line mid afternoon as I was heading back to the Media Center to file my sketches for the print edition of the newspaper. My deadline made it impossible for me to sketch Jordan Spieth as he completed his round, but I colored the golfer in my lead sketch with Spieth’s dark blue shirt and white pants to acknowledge his victory. He is the youngest player to win the U.S. Open since 1923.
Here are some of the shots I captured thanks to my handy binoculars.
Sketched June 20, 2015
The U.S. Open folks have it all so well planned. In case you forgot your binoculars, you can watch the championship (don’t dare call it a tournament!) on the jumbotrons conveniently set up near the food concessions at “Spectator Square.”
I watched dozens of fans come and go carrying hot dogs and beer as I made my sketch by the giant TV screens. If you are tired of walking the course or exhausted from baking under the sun on the grandstands, this is the place to be. The Dog House, The Seafood Shack, Chambers Grill and Starbucks are some of the food tents just around the corner.
After spending all morning and part of the early afternoon seeing players on the course, Tyler Faligowski, of Portland, and his friends appreciated a little rest and relaxation within viewing distance of one of the jumbotrons. Faligowski said he bought his one-day ticket to the championship for the experience of being at Chambers Bay, but when it comes to knowing how every golfer is doing, “you can’t beat TV.”
And here’s another way to keep up with the leaderbord while shopping, drinking or taking a power nap on the dry grass elsewhere at Chambers Bay: “CourseCast” earpieces connected to a live radio broadcast via Sirius XM. Jerry Walker, a friend of Faligowski’s, said they were giving them away at an American Express booth. The broadcast is five seconds faster than the TV screens and Walker is enjoying getting to know the outcome of the shots before anyone else.
Jumbotrons with massive high-definition pictures and earpieces hooked to satellite radio probably make my SketcherCast seem very 19th century, but I’m grateful for the opportunity to sketch at the U.S. Open and hope’ll stay tuned for more of my illustrated report.
Sketched June 19, 2015
Now that my merchandise shopping is done, how do I go about watching a golf tournament?
Compared to soccer, where only 22 players share the field over a couple of hours and the ball is big enough to see without squinting, golf requires spectators to have a viewing strategy. You can pick a grouping of players and follow them as they cover the course, or you can pick a hole you like and let the players come to you. I decided to go with the second option and headed to the grandstand facing hole 16. That’s the view Lee Wybranski chose for his poster, so I thought I’d better check it out. The views of Puget Sound, the Olympics and trains passing by are so spectacular that you don’t even need to be a golf fan to enjoy this U.S. Open. You can just sit there and take it all in.
From my vantage point atop the grandstand on hole 16, I could also see golfers tee off from hole 17. McNeil Island, a former prison site, was visible in the distance.
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Despite its beautiful natural setting, Chambers Bay is not a spectator-friendly course, according some of the fans I talked to. Unlike other courses where people can get closer to the players, here many areas close to the greens are restricted, including grassy ridges that offer the best vantage points. The flimsy ropes separating those areas aren’t stopping fans from sneaking in, though. The number of spectators on the out-of-limits ridge where I made these two sketches only got bigger and bigger as a I drew. When I saw a man with a hiking stick I was reminded that the sandy terrain can be dangerous. Then, a minute later, I saw someone take a fall. Maybe that’s the reason why these areas are limited to the public. Steep slopes of slippery grass and soft sand aren’t a safe combination.
Michael and Chris Johnson had the best answer when I asked for advice on a golf viewing strategy. They said the best way to follow the tournament and know what players are doing is to look at your smartphone. That leaves you time to enjoy a mandatory Pacific Northwest micro-brew and to soak up the atmosphere of beautiful Chambers Bay.
Sketched June 18, 2015
It’s never too early to get your shopping done at the U.S. Open. The merchandise tent in “Spectator Square” was bustling with people buying hats, T-shirts, accessories and art prints of the official poster. Here are some of the sketches I made there while the golfers kicked off the tournament on the fairways.
Arizona-based artist Lee Wybranski is the author of the event’s official poster, a hand-drawn watercolor that shows a view of Chambers Bay looking out to Puget Sound with the “Lone Fir” tree in the distance. I found Wybranski signing prints at a booth located in the center of the pavilion and took the opportunity to ask him some questions about the poster and his inspiration for it.
He said it’s a composition he arrived to after spending several days taking photos and sketching at the course in May of 2014. The figurative concept isn’t without a little artistic license, though. He moved the Olympic Mountains and the Tacoma Narrows Bridge a bit to make them fit. The final design comes with some hidden surprises that only those who look closely will catch: the BNSF freight train going by is branded USGA instead, and the sails of the little boat nearby resemble the Chambers Bay logo.
Wybranski isn’t new to this job. He has been creating the official poster of the U.S. Open for the past eight years, becoming a golfer himself in the process. And that’s a good thing, he said, because “the more you love your subject, the better art you make.”
I think shopping can be contagious. After sketching and talking to a couple of happy customers, Sharon Atherton, who purchased a handy periscope to see above the crowds, and Michael Berg, who bought a print of Wybranski’s poster for a friend, how could I resist reaching for my wallet? I convinced myself that getting a hat for the sun was justified.
Sketched June 17, 2015
Fox Sports has camera-drones buzzing over the scene at Chambers Bay. I have a pen, a sketchbook and some watercolors. Let’s hope I can compete for your attention!
Over the next few days, I’ll be capturing the first U.S. Open ever held in the Northwest, the best way I can, making quick line drawings of people and moments that catch my eye. On Wednesday, I unfolded my three-legged sketching stool by the “Lone Fir” on hole 15 to watch some golfers practice. When that drone appeared, my motivation to sketch only grew bigger.
Below are some other sketches from Wednesday. Whether you are watching the U.S. Open on TV or from the course, I hope you’ll stay tuned to my SketcherCast.
Tyler Fromm, of Spokane Valley, is a special golf fan with an inspiring story. I found him holding onto the railing that separated a crowd of fans from the practice range. It was his third day coming to this spot on his scooter, and he had collected signatures from 18 players so far. Fromm can’t walk more than a few feet due to a congenital condition and he said golfers are an inspiration to him because they walk thousands of miles during their careers.
Old concrete walls in the heart of the golf course are a nod to the site’s past as as a sand and gravel mine. I watched a few spectators walk by as I decided where to go next. John and Carla Alley, of Seattle, suggested I take the shortcut by the train tracks and go to the Trophy Club area for a good view of the Lone Fir.
Just a few feet and a fence separate the train tracks and the shoreline of lower Puget Sound from the rest of the course.
Don Houghton, of Portland, said he’d be here only on Thursday, but the visit will help him follow the TV coverage with a better understanding of the course. Like many people I saw on the grounds today, Houghton was holding a cold, refreshing beer in his hand.
Terry Maxton, the friendly driver of one of the media shuttles, was the first person directly involved with the U.S. Open event that I talked to. He used to drive those big semis that carry cars, but since he retired he takes easier gigs that involve shuttling media to golf tournaments or celebrities on concert tours. He’s given rides to the likes of Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel, he said, but being sketched on the job is not something he ever experienced before.