The United States Golf Association expects to sell enough hats at June’s U.S. Open to cover the heads of all 32,000 University Place residents three times.
Hats tend to be the most popular souvenir at the U.S. Open golf tournament, said USGA merchandise director Mary Lopuszynski, and 100,000 are expected to be sold when the merchandise tent is open at Chambers Bay June 11-21.
“They’re always popular items,” Lopuszynski said of the $27-32 hats. “You don’t have to know somebody’s size to get them a hat.”
Judging by the excitement percolating regarding the South Sound’s first major golf tournament, Lopuszynski is expecting merchandise sales to break par at the U.S. Open.
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She forecasts selling 80,000 golf shirts ($39-80), 25,000 towels ($16-22), 40,000 ball markers ($2) and numerous other souvenirs.
“And we are trying to cover every price point,” said Lopuszynski, who says the most expensive merchandise will include $400 jackets and $500 pieces of golf art.
The palatial U.S. Open merchandise tent has already been erected at Chambers Bay and it’s bigger than the one at least year’s tournament in Pinehurst, North Carolina.
The 41,000 square-foot tent is 2,000 square-feet larger because the USGA decided to add 10 more cash registers to reduce lines.
The tent opens for shopping June 11, four days before the first practice round. These four days will be the only time visitors can shop here without a ticket for the event.
Typically the USGA sells 5,000-7,000 items during this 4-day window, but Lopuszynski expects to sell even more this year.
“I’ve heard so much from the community about how excited they are,” Lopuszynski said. “I expect it to be one of our best (pre-tournament sales).”
Busy as it may be, it could also prove to be one of the best times to shop. As the week moves on it will only get more crowded.
On the final two days of the tournament it’s not uncommon for the doors to be closed regularly while the event staff waits for the crowd to thin out.
Unlike other major sporting events such as the Super Bowl in which local stores can be flooded with souvenirs, the USGA will limit where people can buy U.S. Open souvenirs.
Your options: The venue’s merchandise tent, a few temporary shops around the South Sound (these locations have not yet been announced), a small selection of Ralph Lauren shirts at Macy’s, and the event’s online store ( usgashop.com).
Why the limitation?
“We just try to keep it more special, for those coming to the U.S. Open ,” Lopuszynski said. “More exclusive.”
And don’t expect a slashing-prices, everything-must-go sale on June 22, the day after the tournament.
“We’re only going to be open (June 22) if there’s a playoff,” Lopuszynski said.
12’s, COUGS & UW
Lopuszynski has worked for the USGA for 21 years and says the Northwest’s passion for their local sports teams is at level higher than most areas who’ve hosted U.S. Opens.
Fans of the Seahawks, University of Washington and Washington State University fans in particular caught the USGA’s attention as they planned merchandise for the event.
“So you will find merchandise that is purple and crimson and blue and lime green,” Lopuszynski said.
She says the only other market she remembers being so interested incorporating their passion for other sports into their golf merchandise was football-crazed Pittsburgh.
The Pittsburgh suburb of Oakmont hosted the 2007 U.S. Open (16 months after the Steelers beat the Seahawks in Super Bowl 40) and fans eagerly scooped up black and gold tournament merchandise.
LET IT RAIN
On an April morning, somebody mentioned to Lopuszynski it was raining at Chambers Bay.
“That’s OK,” she said. “Outerwear sells better when it’s raining.”
From $3 plastic backpacks to $400 Gortex jackets, there will be plenty of merchandise designed to keep fans dry. Much more of these items than most U.S. Opens.
Washington’s famous reputation for wet weather led to a drastic shift in the way the USGA will stock the souvenir tent.
Most years the USGA stocks one piece of outerwear for every eight shirts. At Chambers Bay it will be closer to one piece of outerwear for every 2.5 shirts.
“We’re shifting to what it (weather) will likely be,” Lopuszynski said.
She says the USGA made a similar shift at the 2012 tournament in San Francisco. There, it was concerned more about cooler temperatures than precipitation and Lopuszynski said it stocked one piece of outerwear for approximately every three shirts.
Lopuszynski says the USGA tries to bring local companies into the fold when it comes to U.S. Open merchandise.
Seattle-based Cutter & Buck and Oregon-based Nike already gave the USGA a strong tie to the Northwest. But some smaller Northwest companies will also find a spot in the merchandise tent.
Seattle’s Blowing Sands will make blown-glass souvenirs with the U.S. Open logo. Lopuszynski says items will range from $25 ornaments to $200 vases.
Beaverton’s Seamus Golf will sell ball markers ($20) and golf club head covers ($79) that buyers can have personalized at no additional charge, Lopuszynski said.
Merchandise for children has proven to be one of the fastest growing categories of U.S. Open souvenirs, Lopuszynski said.
Little golf shirts (“They are adorable,” Lopuszynski said) go quick with pink ones especially popular for girls.
Perhaps the most popular item for kids is the $12 over-sized rubber golf balls manufactured by Renton-based Baden Sports.
The balls can be used as a toy or, more commonly, as an item for collecting autographs.
Lopuszynski says the tournament will offer several perks for shoppers. A bag check area will allow them to stow their purchases so they don’t have to lug them around the hilly course.
And a UPS tent is set up for shipping gifts right away. This could be particularly beneficial for last-minute shoppers. Father’s Day is June 21, the final day of the tournament.