As U.S. Open nears finish, attention turning back to Pinehurst
ARDMORE, Pa. - After the final putt drops at Merion Golf Club today, attention will begin to focus on Pinehurst for the historic back-to-back U.S. Open and U.S. Women's Open next year.
Several people with Pinehurst connections said they gained valuable insights last week during their time in Merion that can be used next June.
Pinehurst Police Chief Earl Phipps learned that the security command structure used during the tournament already is used by agencies in Moore County.
Jay Biggs, executive vice president for golf and club operations for Pinehurst Resort, got a good look at a hospitality tent that the resort will have for the first time while hosting a U.S. Open.
Beverly Stewart, the director of sales for the Pinehurst, Southern Pines, Aberdeen Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, looked at the tournament from a customer's point of view and discovered the importance of letting golf fans know about local businesses.
Phipps said he got a close look at security measures by spending five days at this year's U.S. Open. He said he took on the role of an observer because he didn't have any official duties connected to this year's tournament.
"I was very impressed with the system here," he said.
Phipps said tournament officials used the same system that will be implemented in Pinehurst next year. The system puts all the "decision-makers" in the same place, he said.
"We'll be doing the same command structure," he said. "It will be a 24-hour operation from the start until the last putt falls for the women."
Emergency officials already have received training on the system, Phipps said.
"It's a perfect fit for what we already do in Moore County," he said.
In a few months, Phipps said, he plans to attend the debriefing that officials will have for the Merion tournament. That meeting will help him know what officials faced during the tournament, he said.
"That will all be information that we will be using in our planning," he said.
Phipps said local officials will work with the U.S. Golf Association security officials and state and national agencies.
"We'll be working really close over the next year," he said.
Phipps said officials in Merion had to deal with tight space around the golf course and severe weather.
"These guys and gals have dealt with about anything that could be thrown at them," he said. "They've excelled."
Biggs spent two days at Merion, learning about the logistics and how facilities such as the media center worked. He got a look at the hospitality tent set up for members of the Merion Golf Club. Biggs described the tent as a nice, cool area that provided the members with a place to get food and watch the tournament on television.
"I'm really glad I got to see that," he said.
Next year, Pinehurst will have a similar place for its 4,300 members for the first time at a U.S. Open, Biggs said.
"It will just need to be bigger," he said.
Stewart said she was impressed with how U.S. Golf Association officials managed to make the tournament work in the tight confines of Merion Golf Club. She said she looked at corporate hospitality tents, transportation, the media tent and other areas in her two days at the tournament.
"I went everywhere I could get into," she said.
Stewart said she was interested in how businesses in nearby towns tried to attract golf fans. Stewart said businesses in downtown Pinehurst will have the advantage of being only about a six to eight minute walk for people at the golf course.
"It's just a matter of letting them know the village is there," she said. "It's nothing to walk it."
Stewart said the convention and visitors bureau will help get the word out about businesses in the "whole area" around Pinehurst. She said the golf fans who enjoy the tournament will come back with their families, their golf groups, their meetings and their conventions.
"We want to make it a tremendous experience because it will be the first back-to-back Opens," she said.
Staff writer Steve DeVane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 910-486-3572.