Bethesda, Md.—Alison Lee was waiting to hear from the United States Golf Association, but the call she received Tuesday evening was not the one she had been expecting. Lee is an alternate for the 2011 U.S. Women’s Open, a championship in which the 16-year-old from Valencia, Calif., already has played twice, making the cut in 2009 at Saucon Valley Golf Club in Bethlehem, Pa.
Although she has yet to make the field of the upcoming championship at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colo., Lee was ecstatic to learn that she is starring in one of the USGA’s six new public service announcements that will air on Golf Channel, ESPN and NBC during the U.S. Open telecast. Each 30-second spot highlights a key pillar of the organization’s mission: “Rules,” “Turf,” “Level Playing Field” (handicapping), “Foot Soldiers” (volunteerism), “Greatness” (championships/history) and “Excellence” (women’s golf).
The ads will replace the popular spots that had run for years during the U.S. Open. Even the most casual golf viewer had become intimately familiar with the boy making a late-afternoon hole-in-one on a deserted course and the intrepidly optimistic golfer waiting out heavy rains.
The previous generation of plot-driven vignettes had been effective in conveying the appeal of golf—beauty, challenge, camaraderie, passion. Produced by New York-based JB Siegel Inc., the new campaign similarly showcases golf’s timeless spirit, offering impressionistic scenes of how the USGA impacts the experiences of all golfers around the country.
Instead of using actors for the new ads, the USGA used everyday players, not only to imbue the messages with authenticity but to celebrate the amateur golfers who embody the missions and ideals of the USGA. Following a casting call sent out to USGA members in Southern California, dozens of volunteers gathered for two days of shooting against the scenic backdrop provided by Pelican Hill Golf Club in Newport Coast, Calif.
“It took me a split second to say, ‘What do you want to do?’” said Steve Friedlander, the general manager of Pelican Hill, a resort facility with a pair of courses designed by Tom Fazio. “We’re big supporters of the USGA and this is a great way to give back to the golf world.” In addition to offering the courses for the shoot, Friedlander also donated his time and appears in “Rules.”
The USGA complemented the scenes from Pelican Hill with material from its archives: photos and footage of players like Cyril Walker, Babe Zaharias and Payne Stewart. The ads’ mix of old and new, professionals and amateurs, icons and Average Joes makes for a compelling overview of the USGA’s crucial role in American golf.
Lee did not know how her scenes would be used when she hit 20 drives in front of a large crew. “I’ve never done anything like that,” said Lee, one of the top-ranked junior girls in the country. ”We only had about 20 minutes to shoot in the late afternoon.”
“Excellence” leads off with Lee’s swing and ends with Paula Creamer celebrating her victory in the 2010 U.S. Women’s Open at Oakmont (Pa.) Country Club. The ads also will be broadcast during that championship, as well as the U.S. Senior Open and U.S. Amateur. So the good news for Lee is that even if she doesn’t get to tee it up at The Broadmoor, she will still make an appearance at the U.S. Women’s Open.