(North) Carolina On Their Minds
Three USGA championships coming to Tar Heel State in a five-week span this summer
The picturesque fourth hole at Bryan Park's Champions Course in Greensboro, N.C., site of this summer's U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship. (Fred Vuich/USGA)
April 6, 2010
By David Shefter, USGA
Every month a conference call takes place among three North Carolina golf clubs.
Under normal circumstances, such communication wouldn’t be necessary. Besides golf and a shared state, these clubs – two of which are private facilities – don’t have much in common. One is located in the Village of Pinehurst, another is in Greensboro and the third is in Charlotte.
But this summer all three will be members of the same society when they host a USGA championship.
In a five-week period, the Tar Heel State becomes the epicenter for elite golf. It begins in mid-July with the U.S. Amateur Public
Plenty of trouble lurks on the 11th hole at Charlotte Country Club, site of the 2010 U.S. Women's Amateur. (Fred Vuich/USGA)
“We’re very excited, of course,” said Kyle Kolls, the general manager/director of golf for Bryan Park. “It’s been incredible.”
With each site hosting 156 outstanding golfers competing in a similar format – two days of stroke-play qualifying followed by six rounds of match play to determine the champion – the courses have made similar preparations. Each venue wants the players to have a memorable experience participating in a USGA championship.
So in the months leading up to the championships, the clubs have been sharing information and, in some cases, resources, to ensure that their events run as smoothly as possible.
“We have little things to wrap up,” said Morgan Lang, who is the championship director for Charlotte C.C. “Like where are our garbage bags coming from? Who are we getting our transportation vehicles from? The bulk of it is in place. We all feel good.
“It’s wonderful to have that support with the other championships [in North Carolina]. We’re trying to help each other. CCNC and us are going to share signage. We’re sharing the Lexus [courtesy] vehicles. It’s great to be able to take advantage of that … especially in this economy.”
Three USGA championships in the same state certainly isn’t unique. In fact, 10 years ago, Oregon, and specifically the Portland area, became the national focal point with four championships – the Amateur Public Links, both Junior championships and the Women’s Amateur – conducted within a month.
Those events came at a time when Oregon seemingly was hosting a USGA championship every other week. Between 1996 and 2008, the state hosted 15 USGA events, nine of them in Portland. North Carolina, including the three events in 2010, will have hosted 27 overall and 13 since 1994. In 2014 the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open are scheduled to be conducted in back-to-back weeks at the Pinehurst Resort’s No. 2 Course.
“I think it’s important for the Carolinas, and in particular North Carolina, to bring [the USGA] together,” said Jack Nance, the executive director of the Carolinas Golf Association, which serves some 705 member clubs and 178,000 individual members in North and South Carolina. “We want the USGA to walk out of here, as we do every time [a USGA championship is played here] with a great taste in their mouth. I hope we can accomplish that again. People down here just love golf, period. It’s neat to be a part of that.”
With Jim Hyler of Raleigh assuming the USGA presidency in February, some have suspected that the reason North Carolina is hosting three championships in 2010 is because he’s a resident. Hyler quickly put that theory to rest, confirming that all the sites were selected long before he was nominated for the USGA’s top post.
However, that doesn’t mean Hyler isn’t excited for the three venues. He plans to visit all three championships in a supporting role and says it’s a unique opportunity for North Carolina residents to see elite golf in an intimate setting.
“They will have the opportunity to see the stars of the future, particularly with the Girls’ Junior and Women’s Amateur,” said
The 2010 U.S. Girls' Junior will be the second USGA championship for The Country Club of North Carolina. (Fred Vuich/USGA)
“It’s a chance to see these players up close and personal. The galleries are not as big [as at a U.S. Open] … and the public can walk down the fairway right next to the players.”
While the venues are in different cities, they are within driving distance of each other. Pinehurst is 75 minutes from Greensboro and a little more than two hours from Charlotte. It takes about 90 minutes to get from Greensboro to Charlotte.
Charlotte, Pinehurst and Greensboro are no strangers to hosting major competitions. The Pinehurst area has played host to two U.S. Opens (1999 and 2005), three U.S. Women’s Opens (1996, 2001 and 2007) and one U.S. Senior Open (1994) in the last 16 years. Charlotte (Wachovia Championship) and Greensboro (Wyndham Championship) are annual PGA Tour stops and each city has hosted the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship in men’s basketball and other top sporting events like the NFL (Carolina Panthers) and NASCAR.
Kolls and Lang said both PGA Tour events have been extremely cooperative in sharing volunteer lists. Each has spoken to local business and civic groups to get the word out about the event. Local high schools and colleges have also contacted Lang about assisting, whether it is golf teams or sorority houses looking for community-service projects.
“People [in Charlotte] are excited to have a women’s event,” said Lang. “We have corporate supporters who have given us anonymous donations because they can’t have their names on it. We’ve received a lot of phone calls. It’s so exciting.
“The membership at this club and the city are so behind us.”
CCNC also is familiar with big events. In 1980, the club hosted the U.S. Amateur, won by future PGA Tour star Hal Sutton. Recently, the 36-hole facility has been site for the Carolinas Junior and the 2008 Big I Championship. In 2012, the Southern Junior will be played at CCNC.
Many members have also been involved with the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open championships held in the Sandhills. The biggest job is educating some members on the talent that will be on display July 19-24.
“A lot of the folks don’t have a clue how good these girls are,” said Jeff Dotson, CCNC’s director of golf. “Obviously, I’ve been doing this for quite a while and have seen a lot of junior golfers. I was up at Hartford [Golf Club in 2008] and I was really amazed at the level of these girls. We’ve been talking about that for a long time here. The members are going to be quickly blown away at how good they are.”
Many of the girls in the field at this summer’s Girls’ Junior and Women’s Amateur likely will be competing in 2014 when the U.S. Women’s Open returns to North Carolina; ditto for some APL competitors, with the U.S. Open also at Pinehurst in 2014.
Since 1989, the APL champion also has traditionally received an invitation to compete in the Masters Tournament.
“That’s part of our message,” said Kolls. “This is a major, major championship, but it has an intimate feel to it.”
And because it’s a public facility, anyone can play Bryan Park before July 9, when the course officially closes for the championship.
“Everybody wants to play the golf course that your national championship is going to be at,” added Kolls. “How fast are the greens? What is the setup like? We won’t shut down the golf course until the USGA takes over on July 9 at 1 p.m.”
Nance and the CGA also are doing their part to get the word out. The lead item on its Web site is a link to learn more about being a volunteer. CGA staff will be assisting in a variety of capacities, including the rules.
“This is kind of a different feel in that they (USGA events) are hitting us all at once, and they are all very close to each other,” said Nance. “We’re being a mouthpiece of sorts. We want to help these clubs any way we can.”
Lang said that the Women’s Amateur already has 230 volunteers and is looking for about 70 more. Bryan Park has had 70 or 80 people sign up online and Kolls is hoping for 300. “We still have work to do,” he said. “It’s still early. It’s hard for people to commit three months out.”
Dotson said CCNC should fill its quota of necessary volunteers as well. “We just got going with that in the last month,” he said. “I’m confident we’ll have enough. We’re a national club in a lot of ways … but we have a pretty significant year-round membership of local players and a lot of those folks have signed up to volunteer.”
As the dates draw closer, the focus will be on the qualifying and then conducting the championships proper. And as the clubs have discovered, they are sharing a unique bond within the golf community.
“You want to support them and they want to support you,” said Lang. “I am looking forward to going to those events, too.”
David Shefter is a USGA communications staff writer. E-mail him with questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.