SBD/June 19, 2014/Events and Attractions

USGA Reaping Benefits Of Back-To-Back Opens As Women's Merchandise Sales Soar

As soon as the men's U.S. Open ended Sunday, the USGA "began tweaking its setup at Pinehurst Resort for this week’s U.S. Women’s Open," according to Ted Natt Jr. of the Southern Pines PILOT. The grandstand by the 18th green is "being shrunk from 4,000 seats to 2,000 so it doesn’t appear half-full for the women’s championship." The USGA expected "as many as 55,000 spectators for peak days during the U.S. Open, but only about half that number for the U.S. Women’s Open." USGA Championship Dir Leighton Schwob noted that about 75% of the 6,400 volunteers for the U.S. Open also will "work the U.S. Women’s Open." USGA Exec Dir Mike Davis said that hosting the men's and women's U.S. Opens back-to-back "has generated more talk about the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open than any of the previous 68." He added, "We’re excited about that. They’re excited about that. In a lot of ways, this next week is going to be showcasing women’s golf. That’s one of the reasons we wanted to do it. It’s going to be neat to see them on the same iconic golf course here at Pinehurst" (Southern Pines PILOT, 6/19).

LADIES DAY: GOLFCHANNEL.com's Randall Mell noted the back-to-back U.S. Opens is "a grand experiment, really, because the USGA isn't sure they will do this again." Davis said, "There's no way this could be done on an annual basis. If we did that, we would lose some of our most favored venues. But we will look at it when's it's over and say, 'How did it go?' And, one day, 'Should we do it again?'" Mell wrote too often it is a "losing proposition for the women when their game is compared to the men's." Yet that is "what this week is all about." While the USGA is "aiming to set up this course in relatively the same conditions the men played it, the real intent goes beyond comparing the men’s game to the women’s." When former USGA Exec Dir David Fay "came up with the plan, his idea was bigger than that for the women." Davis said, "It’s really all about a celebration of women’s golf." Golfer Juli Inkster said, "I think the publicity we've gotten, it’s all positive. Everybody is talking about it" (GOLFCHANNEL.com, 6/18). In New Jersey, Andy Vasquez writes if Pinehurst "passes the test, the USGA should look to pull off the double Open whenever it can." It "elevates the women's game into some much-deserved spotlight" (Bergen RECORD, 6/19). In Raleigh, Luke DeCock writes women's golf "will never have a better showcase than this." This is a "real chance to attract attention to a sport that has, despite a recent spike in growth, largely failed to keep pace with the PGA Tour" (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 6/19). LPGA player President Vicki Goetze-Ackerman said, "From a standpoint of exposure, it's huge. There have been so many positives already in terms of publicity. We should have increased viewership, which could get us more fans and interest in women's golf and hopefully will lead to more young girls playing the game" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 6/18).

FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING: USGA Senior Dir of Licensing & U.S. Open Merchandising Mary Lopuszynski said that Tuesday was the "best day of sales at a merchandise tent for any U.S. Women's Open." She added, "I wish we did it every year, but I think the only way it would happen is if the two Opens were back to back again." GOLF DIGEST's Keely Levins noted this is the "first time the USGA has been directly overseeing the merchandise tent for the U.S. Women's Open." In years past, outside vendors have "been in charge of the operation of all things merchandise, but since the USGA was running the show for the men's Open, doing the same for the women's already made sense" (GOLFDIGEST.com, 6/18).
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