The sports world is always hungry for the next big thing. It has just that in the winner of the recent Masters, Jordan Spieth, and in the venue for the next major tournament he’ll play in, the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay Golf Course in University Place.
In addition to Spieth, the world’s top golfers – including Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickleson and Tiger Woods – are expected to descend on the South Sound. The region better be ready for a close-up come June 18-21, because it will be in the kind of national spotlight it has never experienced before.
Many viewers will form their opinion of the area by what they see on television and read about the tournament. By the time it’s over, more people will have a better idea of the course’s location. “Outside Seattle” is the best some reporters can do right now.
There’s been buzz already about the links-style course with its dazzling views over Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains. But now that the golf world’s attention has shifted from the Masters, that buzz will continue to grow because Chambers Bay is such an unknown quantity to many – the first Pacific Northwest course to host the U.S. Open.
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Designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr., it’s only been operating for eight years; few of the pros have played it. Expect some of them to be dropping by in coming weeks to check out the course before the Open.
Spieth may have a leg up on the competition. He played the course during the 2010 U.S. Amateur, and his caddie, Michael Greller, is a former University Place schoolteacher who knows Chambers Bay.
Another favorite with locals in the tournament gallery likely will be Puyallup’s Ryan Moore, who tied for 12th at the Masters.
With the Open only 63 days away, signs of preparation are everywhere. Road repair, sidewalk work and landscaping are in full swing along entrance routes to the venue. TV towers, pavilions and other structures are being erected around the course, requiring closure of some of the public amenities around Chambers Bay – the off-leash dog park, the beach and the pedestrian bridge over the train tracks.
More closures are coming. On Monday, Soundview Trail access ends. And the Playground by the Sound and Grandview Trail will close May 26. By June 10, the Chambers Bay Grill, the pro shop, upper parking lots and the parking lot of Pierce County’s nearby Environmental Services building all will have closed.
That’s a lot for park users to bear, and some have been vocal with their displeasure. That’s understandable. But they need to remember that the trail and dog park might not be there in the first place were it not for the golf course – and for the decision by then County Executive John Ladenburg to speed up the former strip mine’s development timeline of 50 years.
Instead of a big, ugly gash in the landscape, the South Sound has a premier park with a golf course that the world’s best will play in about two months’ time. That should be a point of pride, not a source of rancor.