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Chambers Bay tuning up for 2015 U.S. Open

  • A scenic fairway at Chambers Bay, a challenging golf course where the U.S. Open Championship will be played in 2015.

    Photosc ourtesy of Chambers Bay

    A scenic fairway at Chambers Bay, a challenging golf course where the U.S. Open Championship will be played in 2015.

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By John Boyle
Herald Writer
Published:
  • A scenic fairway at Chambers Bay, a challenging golf course where the U.S. Open Championship will be played in 2015.

    Photosc ourtesy of Chambers Bay

    A scenic fairway at Chambers Bay, a challenging golf course where the U.S. Open Championship will be played in 2015.

UNIVERSITY PLACE -- Starting today, the best golfers in the world will battle Merion Golf Club course in Philadelphia at the U.S. Open Championship.
A week later, United States Golf Association brass will turn its eyes west, paying attention to a much smaller tournament that will help the USGA plan for the future. Two years from now, Chambers Bay will become the first golf course in the Pacific Northwest to host a men's U.S. Open, and while that event is still a ways away, next week's Washington State Amateur at Chambers Bay will be an important test for the course.
"We'll definitely look at (the Washington State Am) and look at scoring averages and see how folks play holes," said Danny Sink, the USGA's Championship Director for the 2015 U.S. Open. "That's very important, particularly when we haven't been to a site."
It's one thing for the U.S. Open to be played at a course like Pebble Beach, which has hosted the tournament five times and where, for the most part, the USGA knows what it's getting. With a new course loke Chambers Bay -- not just new to the U.S. Open, but a course that opened just six years ago -- there is a lot more uncertainty about how the course will play for a major championship.
"Some of the seasoned amateurs in this area will play this course, so it's a great opportunity to test these guys," Sink said.
The U.S. Amateur came to Chambers Bay in 2010, and the tournament helped the USGA evaluate the course and make several subtle changes to make some holes more challenging,and others play more fairly. But the Washington Amateur represents a chance to set up the course for a tournament at the same time of year as the U.S. Open, as opposed to when the U.S. Am was here in August.
"We're so lucky to have that from a USGA prospective, because in 2015 it's not going to be in August, it's going to be in June," said Larry Gilhuly, director of the USGA's Northwest Region. "We're hoping for one good sunny day, at least -- four or five would be better -- and a good windy day.
"But what we're fearful of is rain, and it does happen here, and what that will do to the firmness of this golf course. Because what we're trying to conduct is a firm and fast national championship."
The biggest concern with a U.S. Open at Chambers Bay is that the wrong June weather could leave the course defenseless against the most talented golfers in the world. The course and the scenery will undoubtedly be beautiful when the golf world turns its eyes this direction two years from now, but a lack of wind or too much rain to soften the course could keep the USGA from conducting the challenging tournament that it wants the U.S. Open to be.
"We want the US Open to be the toughest test in golf, and we make no bones about that," Sink said. ". . . It's not about making guys suffer, but we want to make them think on every tee shot."
That won't be an issue if the wind is whipping in off of Puget Sound or if we get an unseasonably dry June that leads to firm, challenging fairways and greens. If not, the 2015 U.S. Open could feature unusually low scores for what is traditionally professional golf's four-day grind.
But maybe non-traditional scores would be fitting for a U.S. Open that in nearly every other way will be non-traditional. After all, Chambers Bay will look and play a lot more like a British Open than it will a U.S. Open, it will be just the third municipal course to host a U.S. Open after Bethpage in New York and Torrey Pines in San Diego, and perhaps most significantly, it is an incredibly young course be hosting a major.
Back when Chambers Bay was still under construction, its designers as well as Pierce County floated the idea of hosting an Open, which seemed pretty far-fetched at the time. Yet less than a year after the course opened, Chambers Bay was awarded one of the biggest tournaments in golf.
"I would have said, 'there's not way you can build a golf course right now and host the US Open in 2015.' No one would ever have fathomed that," Sink said. "But a lot of leadership, a lot of dedication, a lot of people put their reputations on the line to build a golf course that was capable of hosting a U.S. Open this young."
So if you want history, or trees for that matter, check out this week's U.S. Open at Merion or next year's at Pinehurst. But if you want to get a better of what the 2015 U.S. Open could play like, head south next week for the Washington State Amateur.
Herald Writer John Boyle: jboyle@heraldnet.com.
Story tags » Pro Golf

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