It’s easy to get a little lost or overwhelmed at the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay. Walking around on Thursday, I realized I wasn’t really in a golf course. I was in a small, crowded city. I rode my bike down to the gate from my apartment in University Place, walked down to the winding trail that runs parallel to the steep hill at the southernmost point of the course, and made my way into the media tent.
Yes, technically a “tent,” but it was more like a village. People were hopping around merrily, looking busy but also relaxed. The interior had desks set up for more than 1,000 print journalists, photographers and radio hosts, all facing giant projection screens which featured Fox’s coverage along with live leaderboards. The volunteers were friendly and helpful, holding open the door and setting me up with a media credential.
Outside, people of all ages and both genders were working to navigate their way around the course, many of them with beer in hand. While there were complaints about the navigability of the course, most of the patrons I saw didn’t seem to mind; they all just looked happy to be a part of it.
There were other tents — hospitality tents, merchandise tents, tents for the golfers. There were concessions stands, a complimentary wifi spectator’s village, with viewing screens and picnic tables for eating and taking a break from the challenge of walking a course with plenty of elevation changes.
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As a resident of University Place, I was worried about traffic congestion. Grandview, a two-lane road, isn’t exactly built for heavy traffic volume. I figured the traffic would probably push back onto Bridgeport, the main drag. But it was never an issue. University Place remained calm and quiet.
Credit to the USGA: It was a well-oiled machine. The years of planning were evident in every small detail. The staff and volunteers were helpful, courteous and cheerful, and the event was exciting for our region. If Chambers Bay gets the opportunity to host another U.S. Open, there are sure to be some small improvements, most notably, making the spectator experience a bit more friendly, and shoring up the putting surfaces for the pros. It wasn’t a perfect experience, but it was pretty close.
The golf wasn’t bad, either. The drama was fantastic, especially on the back nine of the final day. Jordan Spieth edged out Dustin Johnson, Louis Oosthuizen and others to win his second major of the year. It was a special day for Spieth’s caddie Michael Greller, as well. Greller, a Gig Harbor resident, has had his story well-documented by the local and national media.
Greller got his caddying start at Chambers Bay. He married former Artondale Elementary kindergarten teacher, Ellie, there. And on Sunday, he adds Spieth’s U.S. Open title to his increasingly impressive resume.
“My dream when (the U.S. Open coming) was announced in 2008 … was to just caddie this week,” Greller told the The News Tribune. “I certainly never envisioned all the things in between.”
During the trophy presentation on TV, Fox Sports lead commentator Joe Buck gave a shoutout to Greller and to Gig Harbor during his interview with Spieth. The dream of a major golf tournament coming to the Pacific Northwest — specifically the South Sound — was finally realized. It wasn’t perfect, but it was about as good as it gets.