The countdown begins today on a story that will come to fruition a year from now — the 2015 U.S. Open at Chambers Bay.
We’ve already covered it for more than six years. As stories go, this one is taking longer than the building of the Tacoma Narrows bridge.
On Feb. 8, 2008, we announced (in a News Tribune exclusive) that the United States Golf Association was bringing the U.S. Open here.
It was shocking at the time. Our county-owned course, built on a former gravel pit and opened only eight months earlier, would host one of the biggest sporting events ever held in the Pacific Northwest. The U.S. Open could generate millions for the economy and showcase our community as a tourism destination. Plus, the announcement began to ease protests against the county spending so much on a high-end course that many local golfers found unaffordable.
Even then, we had sports reporter Todd Milles covering golf, in large part due to the rising career of Puyallup’s Ryan Moore. Milles wrote extensively about the opening of Chambers Bay in 2007, focusing less on the politics and more on the course. He got to know USGA officials, which helped us land the siting announcement story.
Milles has attended every U.S. Open except one since 2005.
“The U.S. Open is a massive endeavor – the biggest golf event in the world,” Milles said. “It might not draw the mass audience of the Super Bowl, but it’s outreaching tentacles are just as substantial – inside and outside the ropes.
“It is imperative we have a thorough understanding of how a U.S. Open is put on — from the way the courses are redesigned, to the players’ experience, to the fans’ experience and what role the USGA has in all of that.
“Of course, it is also a benefit for the golfers and USGA officials — especially executive director Mike Davis, who ‘discovered’ Chambers Bay — to see a familiar face covering that each year leading up to the 2015 U.S. Open in University Place.”
This year, as noted on the front page, we’re also sending county government reporter Steve Maynard to the U.S. Open. The two arrive Sunday (June 8) in Pinehurst, North Carolina, as two of 2,000 journalists credentialed for the event.
Maynard played golf in high school and continues to follow the sport, but will focus this week behind the scenes, exploring the fan experience and the logistics.
“Pinehurst will provide an example of what to expect,” Maynard said. “It’s the last chance for local officials who are attending to learn firsthand what it will take to put on next year’s championship in University Place.”
Maynard plans to attend meetings between Pierce County and Pinehurst officials as they exchange information.
How do more than 35,000 people get to and from the golf course? How will law enforcement manage security? Who pays for it? What do 5,000 volunteers do at the tournament?
He’ll also talk to people from around the world attending the event. What did they buy at merchandising tents? Where are they staying? How well did the food catering work? Did they attend the free “U.S. Open Experience?” We anticipate the USGA will host one of these off-site carnivals again next year, so we’ll take a look.
The 2015 U.S. Open will be a sports spectacle and international showcase for Pierce County. We’ll spend this week and the next year writing about this Super Bowl of golf from every angle, both sports and news.
Let us know if you have stories you’d like to see covered.
Two staff reporters recently were honored in the 2014 Best of the West contest. It is open to journalists from 14 states west of the Rocky Mountains.
• Investigative reporter Sean Robinson took first place in Explanatory Reporting for his stories about Washington’s treatment of people with mental illness.
The judges wrote: “This meticulously reported series of stories offered a jolting look at a mental-health system in crisis that exposed gaping holes in the way those with mental illness access treatment, and what the repercussions of those failures are.”
• Business reporter Kathleen Cooper took second place in Business and Financial Reporting.
The judges said about her story: “In an interesting take on the recovery from the housing bust, this report used a combination of data-crunching and old-fashioned knocking on doors to show how a few national investment companies with deep pockets bought up nearly one in 10 homes in Pierce County during the space of a year, with plans to turn all of them into rentals.”
The TNT also took home honors in the large paper division of the 2014 Society of Professional Journalists Northwest Excellence in Journalism Awards:
• Jordan Schrader took second place in the education category for his explanatory piece on Western Governors University.
• Jessica Randklev took second place in page design.
• TJ Cotterill took third place in the sports feature category for his story about Sumner High School student Austin Gregg, who returned to play football after a near-death accident.