Sitting in the bleachers above the 15th hole at Chambers Bay golf course, Angela Quinn admired the difficulty of the terrain as she watched more than one golf ball land in the bunker.
“I really like this course,” said Quinn, a Puyallup resident. “Each course has its unique fingerprint; that’s what makes golf so challenging.”
On this first day of U.S. Open week, Quinn was joined by husband Kevin Quinn, her brother Bryan Huff and his wife, Trish Huff. The Huffs came from Olympia. They’re all retired except Trish Huff, who took the day off from her job as general manager at the Olympia Country & Golf Club.
Monday served a dual purpose for the foursome. They came to watch some of the world’s best golfers warm up for championship play while also plotting the best spots to watch golf later in the week.
“This is our practice round day,” Bryan Huff said.
At 8:30 a.m., the group arrived at the designated parking lot at Fort Steilacoom Park in Lakewood. Thinking they’d hit traffic, they were surprised to find roads leading to the park mostly empty.
A nonexistent security line allowed them to board a school bus shuttle and be on their way to the course within 10 minutes of arriving.
After a quick, scenic ride through Steilacoom, the group walked through the gates to the University Place course and into the landscaped pavilion before 9 a.m.
They hit the bathrooms, grabbed water and made their way to the 18th hole to watch Tiger Woods as he finished up for the morning.
Then it was time to scout ideal viewing locations.
Along the way, they saw last year’s U.S. Open champion, Martin Kaymer, two-time Open champ Retief Goosen and University Place’s Michael Putnam, among other notable golfers.
With tickets for the entire week, the Quinns and Huffs plan to divide their time between the grandstands and walking the course.
“I want to be able to experience all of it,” Angela Quinn said.
The Quinns and Huffs are all avid golfers, though the Quinns said they’ve played less this year because they’re helping baby-sit their grandkids.
None of the four adults has played Chambers Bay.
From the 14th hole, they overlooked the former gravel mine.
“It’s amazing how they built this out of this hole,” Kevin Quinn said.
Joking that he prefers courses that allow golf carts, he said he was content to see the undulating, links-style course from the perspective of a fan, not a player.
“This would be a course that would just eat you alive,” he said.
By noon, the group had walked more than half the course, moving from the waterfront up the hill to an overlook by the seventh hole.
Stops at the concession stand for beer and hot dogs broke up their walk. When he plays golf, Kevin Quinn joked, he likes to keep the drink cart within one hole of where he is at all times.
While admiring the views, the group commented how empty the course felt, making it easy to move around.
“There is so much acreage, there is probably more people here than we realize,” Trish Huff said.
That will likely change by Friday, she said.
From the seventh hole, the group meandered to the 17th hole, their last stop of the day.
Bryan Huff summed up his plan for the rest of the week: “We’re going to park ourselves. We’re not going to walk as much.”
Around 2:30, they swung through the merchandise pavilion where Bryan Huff joked his wife spent a small fortune on jackets and shorts.
Outside the 41,000-square-foot pavilion, they admired the transformation the United States Golf Association made. What once was a grass area filled with park users flying kites and kicking soccer balls is now the central gathering place for golf fans from around the country.
Paved bricks cover the ground. Landscaped outcroppings add pops of color. Tents line both sides, offering fans the chance to duck out of the sun to do things such as take a photo with the U.S. Open trophy.
With minimal areas of shade Monday, fans sought it out where they could.
Around 3 p.m., with their USGA memorabilia in hand, the Quinns and Huffs retraced their steps to the shuttle and headed to their cars.
They ended the day at the Topside Bar & Grill in Steilacoom, where they enjoyed appetizers and one last view of the golf course, and made it home by 5:45.