U.S. Open rep has many irons in the fire

Danny Sink doesn’t have much down time these days.

When he has a few moments to himself, he likes to stroll to the patio overlooking Chambers Bay Golf Course, and take in the vision he has for the U.S. Open next June.

As the United States Golf Association’s championship director for the 2015 U.S. Open, he has been in charge of organizing one of golf’s premier professional major championships at the 18-hole Scottish links-style course in University Place.

Areas such as transportation, parking, corporate hospitality, tournament merchandise, volunteer services, ticket sales, gallery concessions and player accommodations fall under Sink’s jurisdiction.

For his past five U.S. Opens as championship director – the last being at The Olympic Club outside San Francisco in 2012 – Sink has largely followed a previous USGA set-up model since past U.S. Opens had been contested on those sites.

But this is different and far more challenging: Chambers Bay is the first new course to host a U.S. Open since 1970, and no set-up blueprint exists. That is why Sink was sent to University Place a year earlier than normal.

Wednesday marks his two-year anniversary on this project.

“I sort of compare this to building a new house,” Sink said. “You start with this piece of land. You have this vision of your dream house and you hire everyone to build it. Then you have everyone come to your open house – and end up giving the house away the next day.”

Ever since the USGA began looking at Chambers Bay as a prospective U.S. Open site, Sink has been very familiar with the site.

In fact, in 2009 – one year after the USGA announced it was bringing the U.S. Open to the Northwest – Sink was the one negotiating hotel contracts in Tacoma for golfers and tournament officials.

It wasn’t too long before the U.S. Open at The Olympic Club took place that Sink was asked whether he’d take on the job of planning the first U.S. Open at Chambers Bay – meaning he would be in the area for nearly three years.

“I saw it as a challenge – and I like to be challenged,” said Sink, 42. “I knew it would be different working with a county organization that does not run golf events. At Olympic, every person I dealt with on a daily basis knew the golf course better than I did. Here, it is vice versa.”

In his first few weeks in University Place, Sink said he did a lot of listening, sitting down with Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy, Chambers Bay general manager Matt Allen and former County Executive John Ladenburg to see what their visions of this U.S. Open were.

Next – and perhaps as important as any step in the building process – Sink met with civic groups locally, statewide and regionally. Within a year’s time, he estimated he gave 150 presentations, dispelling false pretenses while educating folks on what a U.S. Open tournament is and is not.

“I wanted to engage people,” Sink said. “I didn’t want people to think this was all being done in a black box.”

Sure, much of his daily responsibilities – and endless worries – is engineering and refining the infrastructure of the upcoming U.S. Open.

“It is stressful, but it is kind of addictive,” Sink said. “It is a weird thing where you have a lot of pressure on you, but at the same time you’ve got a lot of support, too. When something goes wrong … it is on you.”

Sink admits 95 percent of his day is spent thinking about this U.S. Open. While nearly finished, the blueprint he envisions is “still all in the clouds.”

Next March, that will change. That is when some of the infrastructure will start to be constructed on the grounds.

“Part of the reason I was excited to come to this venue was the opportunity to be the boots on the ground, and the face of the championship – good, bad or ugly,” Sink said.

“Ultimately we are not going to let this fail. That is hard to tell people, because they don’t understand this is a huge engine (at the USGA), and we are not going to embarrass ourselves around the world.”