Scott Alexander was astonished at what he was seeing at Trump National Golf Club. The host club of the 2009 U.S. Junior Championships had spared no expense in providing the 312 participants (156 boys and 156 girls) a memorable experience at its Welcome Party.
Alexander, the director of golf at Gold Mountain Golf Club in Bremerton, Wash., had arrived in Bedminster, N.J., on a scouting mission for the 2011 U.S. Junior Amateur. He immediately wondered what his publicly owned facility could do to create an equally memorable experience for the contestants in two years’ time.
Not only did Trump National put on a carnival for the participants, the players’ dinner a day later took place at USGA headquarters in nearby Far Hills and included a speech by Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam and a tour of the USGA’s recently renovated Museum.
How could Alexander and his group at Gold Mountain top that?
“We certainly don’t have the money [Donald] Trump has,” said Alexander, whose facility hosted the 2006 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship. “What are we going to do to make sure we make a great impression with the juniors?”
Upon returning to the Pacific Northwest, an idea hit Alexander. With a U.S. Navy base just down the road from Gold Mountain, he wondered about the possibility of hosting a pre-championship function on board one of the ships.
“We’re a big Navy town,” said Alexander, who played on the golf team at the University of Oregon. “That’s really what our heart and soul is because of the Naval Base Kitsap. My thought was, let’s see if we can team with the Navy. The Navy and the city [of Bremerton] try to collaborate on things that are good for the community.”
It took 18 months of hard work and planning to get the necessary approvals, but the effort paid off for Alexander and the 2011 U.S. Junior Amateur committee. The players’ dinner for the 2011 championship will take place July 17 aboard the USS John C. Stennis, the seventh Nimitz-class nuclear-powered supercarrier in the U.S. Navy fleet.
The Stennis, which was launched on Nov. 11, 1993 and commissioned two years later, is a 1,092-foot vessel capable of holding 85 aircraft. It stands 20 stories above the water level and is named for Senator John C. Stennis (D-Mississippi), who served in the U.S. Senate from 1947-1989. The ship is basically a floating city, with 6,000 crew members. It has its own hospital and post office – even its own zip code.
To see a video of the Stennis, click here.
Approximately 750 people, including players, parents, USGA and championship officials and other invited guests, are expected to attend the dinner. Johnny Miller, one of two players to win a U.S. Junior Amateur and U.S. Open (Tiger Woods is the other), will serve as the guest speaker. Miller won the 1963 U.S. Junior at Eugene (Ore.) Country Club before claiming his U.S. Open title 10 years later at Oakmont (Pa.) Country Club with a memorable final-round 63.
Some guests will receive a tour of the USS Stennis. John B. Baker, the Navy’s director of fleet and family readiness programs for the Northwest region, said the tours will be in groups of 20 to 30.
“They will get a little orientation of the ship,” said Baker. “They will get a little taste of how the guys live. They will see the mess (dining) deck, which I am sure they can relate to. I’m sure they will take them up to the tower, where they can get a view of the flight deck and how the captain runs the ship.”
This won’t be the first USGA endeavor aboard a U.S. Navy vessel. At the 1987 U.S. Open in San Francisco, a players’ dinner was held aboard the USS Enterprise.
And Baker said this isn’t the first time the Stennis has had a community-related function, but getting approval wasn’t an overnight process.
“This had to go through the highest levels of the Navy to get approval and have all the lawyers [review] it,” said Baker.
In November, the Navy approved an NCAA men’s basketball game between Michigan State and North Carolina aboard an aircraft carrier in San Diego, tentatively scheduled for Veterans Day. The Holiday Bowl in San Diego also holds an annual luncheon aboard ship for the two football teams participating in the late-December contest.
Though a USGA players’ dinner has never before been held aboard a nuclear-powered ship, this pre-championship staple has been hosted at the Basketball Hall of Fame (2005) and Nike headquarters (2000).
The Stennis will depart Bremerton in late July for a six- to eight-month deployment in the Persian Gulf/Indian Ocean.
“This is a great deal,” said Baker. “It’s a great opportunity for [the players] to see this part of the country and also to see the strategic value of the Navy and what it can do.”
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. E-mail questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.