SAN FRANCISCO - As the Olympic Club bids farewell to another U.S. Open, the next time the national golf championship returns to the West Coast will be 2015 – to Chambers Bay Golf Course in University Place.
Mike Davis, the executive director of the United States Golf Association, can hardly wait.
“I love the place,” he said. “Certainly there are golf courses more special than others and I was there before it was a golf course.”
Yes, Davis visited the old gravel quarry before architect Robert Trent Jones Jr. got his hands on it and turned it into a Scottish-style links masterpiece.
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And in the winter of 2007-08, Davis offered Pierce County and KemperSports management officials the chance of a lifetime – host the U.S. Open in 2015, replacing storied Winged Foot Golf Club.
Davis, an outside-the-box thinker, knows there was criticism of the USGA’s decision to award that tournament to a new course – Chambers Bay opened in 2007 – adding that people “question why not go back to the old, classic” places. But he is firm on his association’s stance: The tournament is coming to Pierce County, full steam ahead.
“I suspect in 2015, and in 2017 (for Wisconsin’s Erin Hills, which opened in 2006), you will have some percentage of people who don’t think we should have done it,” Davis said. “I think Chambers Bay is going to be great.”
A clutch of local officials, including Pierce County executive Pat McCarthy, deputy executive Kevin Phelps, Chambers Bay general manager Matt Allen and interim course superintendent Josh Lewis, spent the past week touring U.S. Open operations at the Olympic Club.
Also, four members of the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department were on site examining tournament security measures.
This visit by the locals was especially important since this course and Chambers Bay share similarly hilly terrain – and the USGA has provided a pretty good infrastructure template that will likely be adapted for use in 2015 at Chambers Bay.
Graeme McDowell joined an exclusive club Sunday.
No, not the one for two-time U.S. Open champions.
A poster of McDowell will hang in the stately clubhouse next to some of golf’s greatest from generations past. That’s where runners-up at this quirky course end up.
For McDowell’s sake, hopefully the rest of his career doesn’t end the same way.
McDowell and Michael Thompson joined a group of silver medalists at the Olympic Club: Arnold Palmer, Ben Hogan, Tom Watson and Payne Stewart.
History has not been kind to runners-up at this San Francisco staple.
In one of the more bizarre coincidences in golf, three of the four players who finished second at the oldest athletic club in the United States were Hall of Famers who never won another major.
The other, Stewart, won the U.S. Open the following year at Pinehurst, then died in a freak plane crash that fall.
“This is sort of a new experience for me, I suppose, finishing second at a major championship,” said McDowell, who won the U.S. Open two years ago down the California coast at Pebble Beach. “I would rather have tried and failed than have never tried at all. I think someone fairly familiar must (have) said that.”
Out of contention heading ino the final hole, Keegan Bradley gave his caddie a rest and had his dad, Mark, take over for Father’s Day. “It was the highlight of my life,” Mark Bradley said. “ I’m a golf professional myself. I love my son, and he loves me. To walk down the 18th at a U.S. Open is a dream come true.” Charl Schwartzel, the 2011 Masters champion, is taking a month off because of a nagging rib injury. The South African said he does not plan to play again until the British Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.
McClatchy news services contributed to this report.