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Amateur will be a valuable dry run for Chambers Bay

Post by Cheryl Tucker on Aug. 22, 2010 at 4:00 pm with No Comments »
August 20, 2010 6:00 pm

This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.

Is Chambers Bay Golf Course ready for its close-up?

We’ll find out, starting today. The Scottish links course on the west slope of University Place is hosting the 110th U.S. Amateur golf championship for the next seven days.

Don’t let the word “amateur” throw you. This is a big deal, the premier golfing event for amateur players.

Past winners have included Bobby Jones, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and Puyallup’s Ryan Moore – so the eyes of the golf world will be keenly focused on the South Sound, hoping to see the next big golf stars on the way up. Last year’s winner, An Byeong-hun of South Korea, will defend his title in a field of about 300 players.

The amateur event – which also will see play at the Home Course in DuPont – will give the world its first good look at Chambers Bay, a municipal course built on a former gravel pit. It has received plenty of accolades from golf writers, who praised its spectacular setting on Puget Sound and its challenging holes. But because the course is so new (it’s only 3 years old) and way up in the Pacific Northwest, it’s something of an unknown to many golfers.

That will all change with the Amateur. If the golf world is impressed, it could be the spark the course needs to become the destination attraction its supporters have always expected it would be.

The tournament is valuable on another level: It’s a lower-pressure dry run for the big event on the horizon – the 2015 U.S. Open. Course managers will learn a lot about such things as how to better accommodate spectators and what features might need tweaking.

This isn’t just a test for the golf course, though. It will give local officials, hoteliers, merchants and others important information about what needs to be done before 2015 to handle much greater attendance and more intense media scrutiny.

The course has its critics – mainly some Pierce County taxpayers who don’t like the idea that they paid for a facility they can’t afford to patronize. And in the recession, the course has struggled financially – as have other golf courses, public and private.

But it’s important to remember that the golf course was the means to an end, the result of an intensive public process. Citizens who participated in that process identified a golf course as a revenue generator that would make the Chambers Creek properties work as a public facility.

Originally the plan was for the site to be developed over half a century. Former county executive John Ladenburg wanted that time line sped up so that the public could start enjoying such amenities as the walking path. He pushed the idea of a high-end municipal course that would be a destination for players and tournaments.

This week’s national attention is the end result of the public process and county officials’ continued support, even in the face of harsh criticism. Here’s hoping the tournament is a huge success and that Pierce County is shown off to its best advantage.

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