Matt Allen: Go-to guy at the U.S. Amateur golf championship

Wherever Matt Allen turns, a question awaits. In his general manager’s office in the pro shop at Chambers Bay Golf Links, Allen is constantly giving answers – and advice – to inquiring employees who need a problem solved.

Even if he goes for a quick breather outside, he usually can’t take a break without tending to some sort of business related to the 2010 U.S. Amateur.

If an issue does not come to him in person, questions rain down by cellular phone – from various committee members, United States Golf Association officials, and, yes, reporters.

On the fast-moving track leading up to the most prestigious amateur golf tournament in the world, which starts Monday, Allen doesn’t mind taking a little time. Thoroughness, patience and providing a steady hand is his style, and his championship staff of more than 140 people depend on it.

“A big part of my job, day in and day out, is supporting, coaching and counseling – affirming to people that they’re doing good things,” Allen said. “Isn’t that true for Management 101 and how to get the most out of people?”

This U.S. Amateur is commonly referred to as a test run for the 2015 U.S. Open, and in many ways it is.

But not for Allen’s team. When practice rounds at Chambers Bay and The Home Course – today and Sunday – kick off the week-long U.S. Amateur, players, fans and media will depend on local organizers. The USGA will act in a support role.

Come 2015, the USGA will take center stage for all the planning and operating details.

“We wrote the budget, did the sales and marketing plan and ordered all the temporary structures,” Allen said. “Operationally, this (tournament) has been ours.”

This is why the 36-year-old Allen, a University of Oregon graduate, was brought on board.

In 1995, Allen joined the staff of the Oregon Golf Association. He directed many tournaments, amateur and professional. Since he had only small staffs, he became adept at multi-tasking.

His work caught the eye of KemperSports, which manages golf courses all over the country, and Allen was hiredin 1999 to be operations manager at Bandon Dunes, the coastal Oregon resort that has grown wildly popular.

Besides coordinating a staff of 500 workers, Allen had a hand in putting on a few USGA tournaments, notably the 2006 Curtis Cup and the 2007 U.S. Mid-Amateur.

At the same time, the USGA was looking at another venue in the Northwest – Chambers Bay – for higher-profile championships. A general manger with not only golf-operations experience but an off-course hospitality background was needed. Allen’s name came up.

In 2008, KemperSports transferred the Portland native to Chambers Bay to head the new course built and owned by Pierce County.

“He’s viewed by Kemper as one of the rising stars in their organization,” said Kevin Phelps, the Pierce County deputy executive. … They have a high degree of confidence in him.”

Allen is on every championship committee operated by county and KemperSports employees, ranging from food and beverage, to sales and marketing, to accounting and, of course, the golf operations.

“Pretty much the entire team here has never been through an event like this,” Allen said. “The key is to help support and steady them. They’re going to work more hours over the (next week) than they even realize there are.

“If you spend too much time thinking about it, people can get unnecessarily concerned.”

On Friday, when a large group of the 312 golfers in the U.S. Amateur field showed up for registration, Allen was still tidying up some of the last-moment details.

When course architect Robert Trent Jones Jr. arrived, Allen spent time reviewing details about how the course was coming together.

“This (U.S. Amateur) has got that make-it-happen machine feel,” Allen said. “I’ve got a wonderful, enthusiastic team that is learning what this is all about. We’re learning about this together.”