SBD/June 17, 2013/Events and Attractions

USGA's Davis Speculates Merion Could Host A Future U.S. Open, Was Pleased With This Year

Galleries at Merion Golf Club were said to be mostly supportive and respectful
The prospects of Merion Golf Club hosting a future U.S. Open were debated during this year's tournament, but USGA Exec Dir Mike Davis gave hope that the event could return to the course. Appearing on Golf Channel's "Morning Drive" today, Davis said, "I can't imagine that there won't be a day in the future or time in the future we wouldn't want to come back with a national open championship. This golf course in this community, the operations, it stood the test of time. It's done it time and time again, so I think it was just a marvelous event." He noted operations surrounding the U.S. Open "could not have gone better." Davis: "We always look back and say what things could have gone better. We will make pages and pages of notes should we come back to Merion again. But we were incredibly pleased how well things like parking and traffic (went), particularly given the wet weather we had coming in. But things even on-site ... worked incredibly well." This year's Open was the first at Merion since '81 ("Morning Drive," Golf Channel, 6/17). In Newark, Brendan Prunty writes Merion "won't have to wait another 32 years" if it wants another U.S. Open. Between '21 and '30, there will be "at least three more venues" in the northeast to host a U.S. Open, and "the chance exists for the USGA to come back" to Merion. Between next year and '20, the USGA will "more than refill its pocketbook, by going back to large-scale Open sites" (NJ.com, 6/17).

MORE THAN WHAT'S ON THE SURFACE: In Philadelphia, Frank Fitzpatrick notes the USGA regarding a return to Merion will be "tactfully noncommittal until it can crunch the numbers." A source said that the USGA "conceded before coming to Merion, with its 25,000-a-day crowd restriction and its smaller corporate and concession footprint," that it would earn as much as $10M less "than the typical Open." Also, there were "plenty of logistical headaches around Merion's edges: parking and traffic problems; moving even a limited crowd through such a claustrophobic layout; and, maybe most significantly for its fate as future venue, having to set up the practice range and players facilities at Merion West, 1½ miles down the road." Golfer Brandt Snedeker said, "As great as this week was, I think the U.S. Open has kind of moved past one of these venues." He added, "There's so much more that goes into the U.S. Open than just the golf, from an infrastructure standpoint, from the fan standpoint, from the whole global marketing standpoint ... I think this tournament needs more space to put on a championship in the right way" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 6/17).

GOLF CLAP: The AP's Jim Litke wrote the USGA may leave Merion "with a smaller haul than usual," but if it "came here in search of grand theater, the USGA got a steal." USGA Championship Committee VP & Chair Tom O'Toole last night "wasn't prepared to commit to any site beyond those already awarded through 2020." O'Toole said, "The question with Merion was always whether the other things that go into staging an Open -- infrastructure, logistics, those things mostly -- would work out. It took a lot of creativity. ... The naysayers dominated the early part of that conversation. But they've gone by the wayside now" (AP, 6/17). GOLF WORLD MONDAY's Jaime Diaz wrote all the "sacrifice in convenience and profits seemed more than worth it." Merion's "magical qualities far outweighed the mere mercantile, as championship golf regained a shrine" (GOLF WORLD MONDAY, 6/17 issue). In Pennsylvania, Gary Kicinski noted other than "a few barbs directed Sergio Garcia's way," the galleries at Merion were "reportedly supportive and respectful." The club's limit of 25,000 fans is "considerably less than, say, crowds of 40,000 at the Olympic Club," which hosted last year's U.S. Open. But some "thought it was a plus." Tiger Woods said, "Obviously there weren’t as many people as some of the U.S. Open sites. But this was, I think, more intimate. ... I think the galleries were a little bit closer than they have been in most U.S. Open sites" (WEST CHESTER DAILY LOCAL, 6/16).

FUTURE OPEN SITES PREPARING: GLOBAL GOLF POST's Ron Green Jr. notes Pinehurst Resort next year will become the "first site to host both the men's and women's U.S. Opens on consecutive weeks." Pinehurst President Don Padgett II said, "We feel really ready. By having the Open three times in 15 years ... there's excitement more than nervousness now." Green notes it will be the "first U.S. Open played at Pinehurst" since Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore restored the No. 2 course, "eliminating acres of Bermuda grass rough and replacing it with natural sandy areas dotted with wire grass." It gives the Donald Ross-designed course a "distinctive look and will create a U.S. Open with no rough on the course" (GLOBAL GOLF POST, 6/17 issue). A "small contingent" from Pinehurst traveled to Merion to "survey operations ranging from retail sales to course management" (Southern Pines PILOT, 6/16). Meanwhile, in Tacoma, Christian Hill noted the '15 U.S. Open will be played at Chambers Bay in University Place, Wash., and about "two dozen public officials" from the area visited Merion this week. The course is owned by Pierce County, and county Exec Pat McCarthy said, "The clock is ticking on us. Before you know it, we’re going to have this on our doorstep and we want to make sure we’re fully prepared.” Those preparations meant "sending 13 Pierce County employees to Merion, its largest delegation dispatched to a U.S. Open" since the USGA announced in '08 that Chambers Bay would host the event (Tacoma NEWS TRIBUNE, 6/16).
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