Planning Well Under Way for Back-to-Back Opens in Pinehurst
Pinehurst No. 2 would host the U.S. Open in perpetuity if it were up to Reg Jones.
“The championship at Pinehurst is different. It’s special,” said Jones, senior director of U.S. Open Championships for the United States Golf Association (USGA). “Of course, I’m biased. I’m the first one to admit it. But we have a chance to make history in 2014.”
Jones, who lives in Pinehurst, said Friday during a media briefing that planning is well under way for the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open, which will be played in back-to-back weeks at the same venue for the first time at the famed Donald Ross design in June 2014.
The events are expected to have a statewide economic impact of about $200 million.
“I’m not sure, conceptually, that we could do this anywhere else,” Jones said. “Pinehurst is, by far, the best place we go. It really comes down to how the event is embraced. If I had a vote, the Open would be here every year.”
The 2005 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 still holds the daily attendance records for Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.
“The 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in San Diego holds the Friday record, but it’s only about 100 spectators more than Pinehurst,” Jones said. “These two events will bring the total to 12 in Moore County in the past 20 years. I think it’s pretty obvious that the USGA likes to be here.”
Don Padgett II, president and CEO of Pinehurst Resort, recalled that resort owner Bob Dedman didn’t hesitate when Padgett called a few years ago to inquire about hosting back-to-back Opens.
“There was a long pause on the phone before Bob asked if it had ever been done before,” Padgett said. “After I told him no he didn’t hesitate to say, ‘We’re in.’ It was hardly a five-minute conversation, but it spoke volumes.”
Jones told the media Friday that his biggest concerns a little more than two years away from the Opens are parking and volunteers.
“The parking area we referred to as the ‘north lot’ in 2005 is now the Dormie Club, so we’re looking for an alternative location,” he said. “We’re going to need 6,500 to 7,000 volunteers, and we’re trying to get as many as possible to work both weeks.
“It’s two weeks. It’s two championships. But it’s one event. That’s really been our approach.”
Jones said ticket sales will begin next spring for USGA members and in June 2013 for the public.
“Prices haven’t been set yet, but I would expect the cost of a weeklong pass to be about the same as it is this year — $450,” he said. “The same pass for the women’s tournament will be somewhere between $100 and $150. Corporate hospitality sales will begin after the Open in San Francisco next month.”
Jones noted that the 2005 Open at Pinehurst No. 2 sold out in August 2004.
“The Open has sold out 26 years in a row. Obviously, it’s a very popular event,” he said. “The buzz is already starting for 2014. Even the waitresses at my favorite barbecue restaurant in Sanford know the events are coming.”
Bob Ferren, the resort’s director of golf course and grounds management, said the USGA will be in town next month and in June 2013 to see how the course is transitioning since the restoration completed last year by Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore.
The project restored the course’s natural aesthetic characteristics and brought back strategic play originally crafted by Ross, but that had been lost over time. The changes included returning sandy waste areas, native wire grass and natural bunker edges; widening the fairways to play as they did in the era from 1935 to 1960; and reducing the amount of manicured rough.
“We’re monitoring the natural plants and wire grass as they mature. It continues to evolve,” Ferren said. “We’ve also made some minor adjustments to the fairway lines, but it’s still all about the firmness, texture and speed of the greens.”
Jones said that he doesn’t have any specific logistical concerns because of his past experience running the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open, but there’s always a wildcard.
“You can have the best plan in place and Mother Nature can take care of that in a heartbeat,” he said. “We’ll be keeping our fingers crossed.”
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at (910) 693-2474 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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