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Originally published June 15, 2014 at 4:25 PM | Page modified June 16, 2014 at 7:15 AM

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U.S. Open golf: Chambers Bay ready as Pinehurst wraps up

The baton has been passed to the Pierce County-owned course on Puget Sound in University Place, which will host the 2015 event from June 18 to 21. It will be the first U.S. Open to be played in the Northwest.


The Seattle Times

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PINEHURST, N.C. — There was no need for a loudspeaker to make the announcement, as is customary at a golf course.

The message was heard clearly on both coasts.

“Next up on the U.S. Open tee: Chambers Bay.”

When Martin Kaymer made the final putt on the 18th hole to win the U.S. Open at Pinehurst on Sunday, the baton was passed to the Pierce County-owned course on Puget Sound in University Place, which will host the 2015 event from June 18 to 21.

Intently watching the action from the Chambers Bay clubhouse was Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy.

“I was absolutely thinking of Chambers Bay while I was watching, and am very excited that in one year the world will get to see this little piece of heaven in the Pacific Northwest,” she said.

Danny Sink, the United States Golf Association’s (USGA) championship director for the 2015 U.S. Open, has been busy the past two weeks helping out at Pinehurst in virtual anonymity. The spotlight now moves to him.

“Sunday was a big day for Pinehurst, but it’s also a huge day for Chambers Bay,” Sink said. “There are a lot of milestones in the buildup, but I think this one-year-out one is the biggest.”

Matt Allen, the general manager at Chambers Bay, said the reality of hosting in 2015 sank in for him last year while he attended the U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club outside Philadelphia.

“This just takes it to a whole different level, and you can tell by the amount of media interest I am getting this week,” said Allen, one of 29 members of the advance site delegation who made the trip to Pinehurst.

Buildup for the 2015 U.S. Open could be the biggest in the history of the event for many reasons.

Fox will be televising its first-ever golf tournament and undoubtedly will promote the event to the hilt. That promotion began with a spot from Chambers Bay during January’s NFC Championship Game between the Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers.

The U.S. Open also won’t have to share the sports stage with soccer’s World Cup next year, as it did this year.

Several pieces of history will be made at Chambers Bay. It will be the first U.S. Open played on a true links course, the first played on fine fescue grass and the first to be played in the Northwest. The USGA surprised the golf world by selecting the course in 2008 after it had been open only for about eight months.

“People from the East Coast still think the Northwest is Southern Alaska,” said Sink, who has been working at Chambers Bay since the fall of 2012 preparing for the tournament. “They are going to want to see it.”

And never discount the Tiger Woods effect. After a back injury forced him to miss this U.S. Open, Woods figures to be back for the Open at Chambers Bay as he continues his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 wins in major championships. Woods has been stuck at 14 since winning the U.S. Open in 2008.

Maybe then it should be no surprise that when the call for volunteers was made in February for the 2015 U.S. Open, more than 6,000 people signed up in the first 36 hours for the 4,500 slots. At most venues, it takes months to fill the slots.

The USGA is similarly happy with the pace of ticket sales. Corporate ticket sales have been well ahead of the normal pace, as were presale promotions. The remaining 22,500 tickets went on sale to the general public last Monday and about half reportedly have been sold.

About 235,000 people (including volunteers, media and nonpaying children) are expected to attend the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay, including three days of practice rounds.

The transportation plan, which likely will include mass transit, is close to being set but won’t be announced until next spring. Plans also have been made for the other major logistics, from security to first aid to fan viewing, with just tweaking needed to be made.

“It’s 365 days until the start of the practice rounds, so the clock is ticking but we’ve been preparing for this for six years,” McCarthy said.

Bruce Kendall, CEO and president of the Economic Development Board for Tacoma-Pierce County, said the U.S. Open will be a “seven-day commercial that money can’t buy.”

University Place Mayor Denise McCluskey was taking it all in at Pinehurst this week, learning what she could. She said she can hardly wait for her city to be on the world stage.

“They are going to be blown away,” she said.

Scott Hanson: 206-464-2943 or shanson@seattletimes.com



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