Larry Gilhuly has been on a lot of golf courses all over North America, but there is something about Chambers Bay that the others can’t claim.
“That view. My goodness,” he said. “It just takes your breath away.”
A Gig Harbor resident, Gilhuly, 63, is an agronomist with the USGA. He covers the western United States and Canada, traveling to courses throughout the year to test and suggest improvement so course managers can produce the best possible golf turf their budget can accommodate.
Not only does Gilhuly spend his work days on golf courses, he lives on one, too. That wasn’t the plan when he found a lot in Canterwood when he first moved to Gig Harbor.
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“It just happened; the plan was to get (a lot with) a view,” he said.
Gilhuly travels often for his work, but it’s never a vacation trip. It’s strictly business. When he goes to Hawaii, he is on the course, not the beach. It’s important to him to turn around reports quickly so courses can put suggestions into action right away.
“It’s work. It’s absolutely work,” he said.
It’s a work that incorporates science, experience and a deep knowledge of the game of golf. Course evaluations cover greens, bunkers, fairways and rough. Gilhuly also factors in elements such as sun glare and wind. He breaks it down to every last detail — even the sound on the course.
He’s excited not just to see but to hear the Chambers Bay course.
It doesn’t have trees except that lone standing one and the way the course is shaped amplifies sound. A big tournament will make a big sound, Gilhuly said.
“When those roars go up, it’ll be fun to hear it,” he said.
He’ll be out on the course early in the morning. The work on the course is all done in the dark to prepare for each day’s rounds.
Golf has been in Gilhuly’s life since he was very young.
He was introduced to the game when he was 6 years old while growing up in Kelso. He played with his parents, forming a bond and a love for the sport.
“It’s been 57 years now and I’ve always enjoyed it,” he said. “It’s a really neat bonding deal; of all the sports it’s probably the best.”
Gilhuly shared the bonding experience with his son and daughter, both of whom learned the game. His daughter won a Class 3A state title with Gilhuly as her coach at Peninsula High School.
“I remember every shot,” he said of coaching her.
Gilhuly never knew golf could become his career, but that is exactly what happened. With a degree in agronomy from Washington State University, he worked as assistant superintendent of Seattle Golf Club from 1975 to 1983. He joined the USGA in 1983 as its western director.
He’s been around a few USGA championships (this is his fifth U.S. Open) in his time and he can make a prediction about the upcoming U.S. Open: Some players are going to hate the course, but they won’t make the second round. Some players will like the course just fine. One player will forever love Chambers Bay.
The 2015 U.S. Open tees off June 15 at Chambers Bay in University Place.