Special Reports

Chambers Bay gets ringing endorsement from USGA

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – The United States Golf Association’s man in charge of picking venues and setting them up for the world’s toughest championships had one message to relay Wednesday in regards to Chambers Bay Golf Course.

The 2015 U.S. Open will remain in Pierce County – period.

Mike Davis, the USGA’s senior director of rules and competitions, visited the University Place course last month, and said he could not be more pleased with the way the course is coming together for the U.S. Amateur in August.

“They’ve made so much progress in terms of getting some of the construction things that hadn’t been done – done,” Davis said. “They’ve made incredible progress with the agronomics.”

Concern has been expressed over the greens. Last week, Puyallup’s Ryan Moore, the 2004 U.S. Amateur champion, was at Chambers Bay on Wednesday as co-host for this summer’s tournament.

He played an 18-hole round and appeared frustrated by the consistency of the fescue-grass greens, which had recently been dressed with sand. They were rolling slow. They were a bit bumpy.

A couple of days later, Moore placed a phone call to Davis in the USGA office in Far Hills, N.J., to discuss the condition of the greens. Davis returned the call, and said the two parties had a hearty conversation.

“Ryan was great because he genuinely cares about the event. When he (called), he did it in the kindest way to say, ‘Guys, I want to let you know I’m concerned,’ ” Davis said.

“His concern was really, ‘Hey, these greens … are nowhere near championship condition.’ ”

Davis explained that the fine-fescue grass on the Chambers Bay greens gets “real dry … and real firm.” But they don’t respond well to constant foot traffic, and therefore have to be allowed to grow, making the speed of the greens slower for daily play.

“We will start to prepare them the weeks coming into the U.S. Amateur,” Davis said of the Aug. 23-29 competition. “They’ll be cut lower and they’ll be rolled and all the things that I think will make them in marvelous condition.”

How fast does the USGA want the greens for the U.S. Amateur?

“Chambers Bay was not designed to be rolling 13 or 14 (feet) on the Stimpmeter,” Davis said. “… I’m hoping we can get them to 11, but I’m not sure that’s not too fast.”

Some critics suggest that course officials replace the fescue grass with a safer bent grass for the greens. Davis thinks that is a bad idea.

“First of all, I think you’d be losing a lot of the mystique of the golf course, and what we love about it,” Davis said. “Second, they’d have to literally rebuild all the greens.”

Davis said he’s aware rumors persist that if the course doesn’t show well for the U.S. Amateur, the USGA will pull the plug on the 2015 U.S. Open at Chambers Bay.

“There is zero chance, and you can quote me on that one,” Davis said.


Chambers Bay isn’t the only new course in the U.S. Open rotation. On Wednesday, the USGA announced Erin Hills Golf Club near Milwaukee, Wis., which opened a year earlier than Chambers Bay in 2006, would host the 2017 U.S. Open. Erin Hills is set to host next summer’s U.S. Amateur as well. … The entourage of University Place amateur Andrew Putnam doubled for his final practice round Wednesday at Pebble Beach Golf Links. Family members and Life Christian Academy golf coach Don Gustafson arrived late Tuesday in Monterey, Calif., in a motor home. … Nearly 7,000 people, from all 50 states and 16 countries, will serve as volunteers this week. One of them is Terry Lee, who works in the pro shop at Chambers Bay.

Todd Milles: 253-597-8442 todd.milles@thenewstribune.com