Special Reports

U.S. Open is in the bag

It doesn’t matter if Chambers Bay Golf Course is losing money. It doesn’t matter whether there’s a permanent clubhouse. The U.S. Open is coming to Chambers Bay in 2015. And it might not be the last time.

Believe it, Pierce County.

So says Mike Davis, senior director of rules and competitions for the United State Golf Association.

The association picked Chambers Bay to host the U.S. Open and this year’s U.S. Amateur Championship. It’s Davis’ job to make sure the course is ready for the best golfers in the world.

“We’re elated with the progress,” Davis said in a recent interview.

Two years ago, when the association said Chambers Bay would host the U.S. Open, it caught many by surprise.

Chambers Bay had gained national attention, but it was less than a year old. It had been 38 years since a relatively new course had hosted the championship. The U.S. Open had never been held in the Pacific Northwest. And only two other public courses had ever hosted the championship.

Since the announcement, the accolades have continued. But some locals still think it’s too good to be true.

Hunter George, Pierce County’s communications director, said he sometimes hears doubts that the U.S. Open will really happen here when he speaks to community groups. The skeptics cite Chambers Bay’s lack of a permanent clubhouse or its recent budget problems.

Neither is a concern for the United States Golf Association, Davis said. In this economy, public courses, private clubs and golf resorts all are suffering, he said.

Even if Chambers Bay lost money for years, revenue from the U.S. Open would keep the course afloat, Davis said.

Pierce County has tried – so far in vain – to find a private developer to build a permanent clubhouse, lodging and other facilities at Chambers Bay. The county is negotiating with a California developer who is trying to finance the project.

But if the deal falls through, it won’t affect the U.S. Open. Davis said the association doesn’t need the clubhouse.

“If they have a clubhouse will that add something to the U.S. Open? Absolutely,” he said. “But it’s not as if we have to have it.”

The bottom line, according to Davis: “Unless there’s some disaster, it absolutely is going to happen. There’s not one little aspect of what’s been going on with Chambers Bay that would give us any kind of hesitancy.”

In fact, Davis said, the 2015 U.S. Open may not be the last for Pierce County.

“I can’t imagine we wouldn’t want to keep coming back to Chambers Bay,” he said.

Related stories from Tacoma News Tribune