A television cameraman spotter was making his way up the 18th fairway at Sahalee Country Club late Saturday afternoon, and took a long, hard glance at the setting.
“Man, these are good crowds,” he said, scanning the periphery of the green outside the ropes.
Jumbo-sized galleries even the players are noticing.
The third round of the 31st U.S. Senior Open drew 28,967 – the largest to ever see a day at a major championship, either from the regular tour or the 50-and-over circuit.
The PGA of America limited its gallery sizes to 25,000 for the 1998 PGA Championship at Sahalee CC, won by Vijay Singh.
“It was high energy, very high energy, a lot of loud voices, a lot of loud cheering. It was something that we love to play in front of,” said veteran Tom Watson, who played in the same group as Seattle’s Fred Couples for the third consecutive day.
“You don’t get crowds like this on our tour (Champions Tour) very often.”
Which begs the question: Should Sahalee CC be considered for a future U.S. Senior Open? The latest date set for the championship is 2014 at Oak Tree National in Edmond, Okla.
“We have gone to different venues, and last year we had enormous crowds at Crooked Stick (in Indiana),” Watson said. “It’s a tribute to the USGA for going to places where people are starved for golf, in a certain sense. It’s a great formula for success.”
If the galleries match – or exceed – the count Saturday, the four-round total will be well over 100,000. Right now, the championship’s three-day total is 75,161.
“I wish we played more (venues) like this, I really do,” Tom Kite said. “This is fun golf.”