New area, challenge for US Open director

Kennedy Sink, born in San Francisco, recently celebrated her second birthday in Tacoma. The littlest golf nomad follows her daddy, Danny Sink, around the country as he sets up residence at U.S. Open sites — sometimes two years in advance of the event.

Danny Sink, 40, is the championship director of the 2015 U.S. Open at Chambers Bay in University Place. He moved wife Lindsay and their daughter to Pierce County last month and will be in residence here until the tournament’s completion.

As the United States Golf Association’s on-site point-man, Sink is responsible for management of just about every activity outside the ropes: coordinating public services, developing plans for parking, transportation, corporate hospitality, ticket sales, etc.

Although he now carries an enviable handicap index of 5.1, his involvement with the game started as a caddie rather than a player. After getting a business degree from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, he landed an internship at Pinehurst and rose to USGA championship coordinator for the Open at Pinehurst (1999). He then served as championship director for Opens at a series of prestigious venues: Shinnecock Hills (2004), Winged Foot (2006), Oakmont (2007), Bethpage (2009), Pebble Beach (2010) and The Olympic Club (2012) in San Francisco.

Sink confesses that he’s been so busy getting his family settled and establishing his base of operations that he hasn’t yet had a chance to play Chambers Bay. But a look at his biographical information hints he was meant for this post. He is a native of a North Carolina town named Granite Quarry, while the Chambers Bay course is the noted reclamation of land that once actually was a granite quarry.

What are your early impressions of Chambers Bay as a test for the golfers?

I’ve been here about a month now, and every opportunity I’ve had I’ve talked to folks who are playing the golf course. I hear that the biggest challenge for golfers is the links style and the contours on the course, along with the elements — it’s windy and a little wet at times. The Open is about being the toughest test in golf, and I don’t think we’ll have any problem predicting this will be a very tough, firm, fast-but-fair golf course for the best players in the world.

It’s going to be a tough challenge, and I think every shot is going to be demanding. Our inside-the-ropes people, whether it be (executive director of USGA) Mike Davis or (USGA vice president) Tom O’Toole, who set up the golf course, really like Chambers Bay and the variety it can provide whether it be a drivable par-4 or different tee positions. When you look at why the U.S. Open comes to an area, the No. 1 reason is that Chambers Bay is really one of the toughest tests in golf.

Particularly with the course’s terrain, what are the challenges you face just getting people where they can see the play, and getting them between holes?

The terrain is very hilly; there’s a lot of elevation changes. What we’re going to do is create a lot of viewing areas in bleachers where they can be kind of sedentary, if you will, where they can sit and watch all the groups come through a particular hole. But in addition to that we’re going to provide internal pathways on the golf course, areas for people to get from, say 18 to 15 or whatever it may be. The great thing about the terrain at Chambers Bay is you can watch many different holes from one viewing site. If you’re sitting on 18, for instance, you can see 1 and 10 (also).

The initial view of Chambers Bay is that it’s very hilly, (so) how can people get out there? But with creating different vistas, different areas for them to hang out, there are a lot of different options for spectators depending on what they want to do.

What are the differences preparing a course as a first-time Open site rather than one that has had experience with big events?

We’ve been working on this two years already, so there’s five years of preparation to make sure the national championship comes off without a hitch, not only inside the golf course, but also the surrounding communities to assure we get invited back. Chambers Bay is such a special place, we don’t want to come here and have the event and never come back. We want to be invited back by the community, by Pierce County, by all the local folks. We want them to have a great time during the week.

For the most part, it’s an education process. The world’s not going to end around the golf course; you’re still going to get your mail, you’ll still be able to drive around town. For one week, we’re going to have a lot of people from around the world watching on TV, and (they’ll also) be in the community during the week. So we want everybody to embrace it and understand that it’s a huge event, not only as the national championship, but (because) people from all over the world are going to be looking at Chambers Bay and University Place and Pierce County for a week in June.

So, this is a live-in, on-site responsibility for you?

This is the greatest job in the world. I get to move around the country and be in beautiful places. I’m married; we have a small daughter who just turned 2 last week. She was born in San Francisco (while he was preparing The Olympic Club). Really, the Pacific Northwest is the last place in the U.S., regionally, that I’ve had the opportunity to live in. We move every two or three years based on the event. We pack up and move and I’m with the event from the infant stages until the completion. I’m the first one here and last to leave, so I have a unique perspective of the event from beginning to end.

How has the U.S. Open evolved during the span of your experience?

The media has changed; our corporate participation has changed. We really focus, inside the ropes, on the challenge of the golf course. But outside the ropes, we don’t take the spectator experience for granted. Every year we look at what we do and look at every part of the experience, whether it be the bus ride in, the concessions, the merchandise. We want to enhance the experience and don’t take it for granted that people are going to come out just because it’s the U.S. Open.

It seems like you’re responsible for building the infrastructure for a temporary community of 50,000 residents per day.

I’ve explained it like that a lot of times in the past. It’s one thing to have an event at a stadium, a football or baseball stadium; it’s another thing to have an event for 50,000 people a day on a golf course where there’s no infrastructure, no restrooms, no Internet, no cable, no phones. It’s what is very exciting about my job: I have the opportunity to see it go from a blank map in my office, to over 200 tents on the property, all the telecommunications, all the TV cameras and all the bleachers really everything.

What’s the significance of Chambers Bay being a public golf course?

Anybody in the world, conceivably, can play the golf course. A big mission of the USGA is to grow the game, and the greatest percentage of USGA members play public golf courses on an everyday basis. It’s really important for us to keep public golf courses in the rotation of the U.S. Open, and Chambers Bay is arguably one of the best public courses in the country, so it’s a natural. Everybody can’t be a member of a country club, nor would they want to be. So it’s very special coming to a place where, when I get my hair cut, the guy cutting my hair knows more about Chambers Bay than I do I think that’s very unique.