I’d never been to a Media Day, that is, until yesterday. I went to the 2010 U.S. Senior Open Press Conference & Golf Outing at Sahalee Country Club, and it was a pretty amazing experience.
Chris Falco, the President of Sahalee, began with opening remarks; Mike Zinga, the Championship Director followed with an overview of the U.S. Senior Open; and Tim Flaherty, the Director of the U.S. Senior Open & U.S. Amateur Championships discussed the USGA, “outside the ropes,” and ticket program.
First of all, the U.S. Senior Open IS a major championship. (Who would have thought?) In 2010, Sahalee will play similar to how it did in the 1998 PGA Championship and the 2002 WGC-NEC Invitational. The course will be set up as a par-70 with a yardage of 6,854, which is only about 60 yards shorter than it played in ‘98. The only notable difference from ‘02 is that the 18th hole will play as a par 4 rather than a par 5. Like other recent USGA Championships, the graduated rough will be in effect.
When I asked Mr. Flaherty if we should expect to see any significant changes to the set-up, he said, “Some trees have naturally come down since [1998 and 2002], you’ll notice on the 11th hole.”
Like I mentioned yesterday, the players have talked and heard a lot about Sahalee’s tight tree-lined fairways. Yes, those evergreens are quite tall and omnipresent. They’re also what makes the course so beautiful and phe-no-me-nal.
The PGA Championship was scheduled to return to Sahalee in 2010. However, the PGA believed that there weren’t enough corporate sponsors available in the Northwest because of the 2010 Winter Olympics held in nearby Vancouver, Canada. The USGA didn’t see it as a problem, and despite the economic downturn, they’ve been happy with corporate participation.
Falco said, “These types of events are truly stimulus packages for the community. Many businesses now look at sponsorships as a strategy to enhance support.” Tournament backers include local-based gargantuan companies such as Bluetooth, Nintendo, Expedia.com and Fred Meyer and most notably, Microsoft. YES! Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer like golf!
Expect to see more major championships coming to the Pacific Northwest. In 2010, Chamber Bay is hosting the U.S. Amateur. The 2015 U.S. Open has also been awarded to Chambers Bay. It appears that out of nowhere three USGA championships will take place in the area over the next five years.
That’s great news. Growing up in the area, I know that there are many incredible courses. It sounds like the response from the players after the ‘98 PGA Championship was overwhelmingly positive. And after USGA officials visited the area, they knew that they were on to something. Well played.
Fred Couples, the honorary chairman and a Seattle native, agrees. In a taped interview from the Byron Nelson Classic, he said, “I think [Sahalee} can hold any tournament, it’s had a PGA and now it’ll have a Senior Open. I’m sure they’ll go back and hopefully I won’t be dead by the time they go back again.”
You gotta love Freddie. I mean, how can you not? I think that everyone involved is excited about his pivotal role in the tournament and return to the Northwest – It’s a huge selling point to maximize both corporate and fan support.
When I caught up with Flaherty, I also asked him if Freddie being eligible for his first Senior Open in 2010 was a factor in the USGA’s decision to hold the tournament at Sahalee. He said, “The decision to bring the Championship to Sahalee had already been made. We were looking at 2009, 2010 or 2011. But when Couples’ name came up, it was no question that it’d be 2010.”
I figured. Another excellent decision.
**For more information, visit the official home page. The USGA is presenting a major ticket package for the Senior Open that will guarantee fans advanced opportunity to purchase tickets for the 2015 U.S. Open. Offer ends June 30 while supplies last. Get ‘em HERE!**