Chambers Bay outside Seattle prepares for 2015 U.S. Open

ccripe@idahostatesman.comJune 12, 2014 

MARTIN MILLER — Provided by Chambers Bay

The USGA usually spends several months recruiting the 5,000 volunteers it needs to work the U.S. Open.

For next year's event in Washington - the U.S. Open's first visit to the Northwest - that process lasted 36 hours.

And the USGA has another 4,000 volunteers on a now-closed waiting list.

"Really since we signed the agreement in 2008, our phones have been ringing with people asking questions and wanting to be involved," said Danny Sink, the championship director for the 2015 U.S. Open. "It's really unprecedented, the amount of requests and the amount of folks looking to get involved in the championship."

Sink, who has run six previous U.S. Opens, expects the attention to intensify beginning Sunday or Monday, when the last putt drops in this year's tournament at famed Pinehurst No. 2 in North Carolina.

The 2015 site is a relative unknown nationally - Chambers Bay on the shore of Puget Sound in University Place, Wash., a suburb of Tacoma.

"There's going to be a media frenzy of, 'Wow, we're next. We're on the clock,' " Sink said.

Here's a primer on the event, which will be June 15-21, 2015.

A BOISE VOLUNTEER

At least one of the fortunate 5,000 who landed volunteer gigs lives in Boise - Jay Minor. The 2013 Idaho Golf Association Volunteer of the Year was sent an application because he worked the 2010 U.S. Senior Open at Sahalee Country Club in Sammamish, Wash.

"I sent it off the same day," Minor said. "I have family in Washington and I had a good time in 2010. I thought it'd be fun to see some of the big boys play. … I was a little disappointed (when the USGA said the volunteer spots were filled) and excited when I found out I'd been selected."

Minor, who is retired, worked in caddie hospitality at the Senior Open. His responsibilities included making sure the caddies possessed the proper credentials, arranging bibs by tee time and providing the caddies anything else they needed, such as clean towels.

The USGA requires volunteers to work four shifts of 5 to 6 hours. Minor did that before the actual competition began. The volunteer package - which costs $165 for the U.S. Open - includes a weekly ticket, a uniform (two golf shirts, wind jacket and hat) and meal vouchers for workdays.

"I got to watch a lot of golf," Minor said.

In Idaho, Minor is a volunteer rules official. He started as a general volunteer but developed an interest in the Rules of Golf.

"I love doing it," he said. "It's fun."

He hasn't received his U.S. Open assignment yet. He was able to request four areas. His choices: caddie hospitality, walking scorer, the driving range or delivering items around the property.

"I did not want to be somebody who stood there and said, 'Quiet,' " he said. "Or a forecaddie. My eyesight is not good enough to be a forecaddie."

BUY TICKETS THIS SUMMER

The U.S. Open used to distribute tickets through a lottery. That was abandoned nearly a decade ago, Sink said.

The public got its first crack at 2015 U.S. Open tickets Monday. Daily tickets are $50 for practice rounds, $110 for Thursday and Friday and $125 for Saturday and Sunday. Weekly packages are $400 (competition), $450 (all days) and $100 (practice rounds). There are pricier options that provide access to extra amenities. Tickets are available at usga.org/tickets or usopen.com.

Pinehurst is expected to become the 29th straight Open sellout.

Chambers Bay likely will be No. 30 - but Sink is unsure how long that will take.

There are 30,000 tickets available per day. About one-third of those have been sold already, through programs like USGA member purchases.

"Volunteering is one thing; ticket sales are another," Sink said. "I would say realistically, several weeks. … I don't want people to wait around and miss out."

The USGA also has sold more than half of its corporate-hospitality packages.

BEST TIME TO PLAY THE COURSE? THIS SUMMER

If you want to play Chambers Bay before the U.S. Open, book a tee time now. The weather is usually good July through September and most pre-Open renovations have been completed.

Beginning this fall, noticeable restrictions on the number of rounds will be instituted through next summer's event.

The base green fee for out-of-area players is $239 through September.

"The best bet is to plan ahead," said Matt Allen, the general manager of Chambers Bay. "It's difficult to find availability at this point on less than a month's notice, depending on your flexibility. If you have a specific day or time, you better try to get us 60-90 days in advance."

Chambers Bay - a municipal, links-style course designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. (Osprey Meadows at Tamarack) - opened to rave reviews in 2007. It's No. 25 on Golf Digest's ranking of public courses and No. 14 on Golf Magazine's list.

But after the 2010 U.S. Amateur, a series of 33 changes were made to the course to prepare for the Open. They include renovated green complexes on Nos. 1, 7 and 13; new championship tees on Nos. 1, 3, 6, 8, 9, 14 and 16; and changes to accommodate the gallery or concessions on Nos. 3, 4, 10, 14 and 16.

"Mostly the changes that have been made were either to introduce variability to the setup options and thus the number of new tees, and/or things we learned during the U.S. Amateur in 2010," Allen said, "where at the firmness and speed of those sorts of championships the contours on some of the greens or approaches just didn't really play as they were intended.

"Most people think construction or changes in preparation for the U.S. Open make it harder. I would say in most cases the changes we've made have probably made every-day play a little easier on those holes."

In part because of the construction, Allen will be careful with the course over the next year. Chambers Bay set a new record with nearly 39,000 rounds in 2013.

"We had a short-lived taste of what the volume can be like," Allen said. "There's tons and tons of demand still, but we're not putting as many rounds out now in an effort to make sure the putting greens in particular are ready for next June."

Two greens were reseeded last fall. They will be used this summer, but Allen will continue to mix in some temporary greens to cut down traffic on the most fragile surfaces.

Play will be reduced significantly over the winter and to some degree in the spring months of 2015. As the event gets closer, Chambers Bay will institute some premium pricing. Allen hopes to remain open until Memorial Day 2015 and likely re-open the weekend after the tournament.

By then, the demand likely will far exceed pre-Open levels.

"When 200 million people are introduced to the golf course next June on television," Allen said, "that's exposure you simply can't buy."

SO HOW WILL IT PLAY?

Chambers Bay is an unusual golf course for the U.S. Open - it has some characteristics more commonly found at the British Open.

"There are not many places in the United States that are going to be more challenging than Chambers Bay," said Sink, who last ran the 2012 Open at The Olympic Club in San Francisco. "It's a links-style course, the weather will come into play, the golf course is tough and it is something different than (the PGA Tour pros) are used to playing. … The shotmaking ability is really going to be highlighted here. We want them to be creative, we want them to think about every shot when they're standing over it. We want to not only physically but mentally test these guys on every shot. Nothing equals Chambers Bay when it comes to that.

"Our golf course setup guys, they just get giddy when they come to Chambers Bay and see all the opportunities here."

Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat

Idaho Statesman is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service