It’s been said that success has a thousand fathers, and that is certainly the case when it comes to sharing credit for the highly regarded 108th U.S. Open.
Many naysayers — some of whom graced the pages of this publication — didn’t give the city of San Diego and Torrey Pines Golf Course much of a chance to pull off a quality event, but thanks to scores of dedicated city employees, hundreds of tireless volunteers and guidance from the USGA, we presented an experience for competitors and fans that people will be buzzing about for years to come.
At the end of this month I will leave my post as the manager of golf operations for the city of San Diego to become CEO of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, but that doesn’t make me any less proud of what we were able to pull off two weeks ago, especially considering the resistance we encountered from a vocal minority along the way. A certified golf course superintendent myself, I must give special recognition to the golf course management staff and volunteer superintendents from all over the world who worked around the clock to prepare a championship venue. Professionalism, dedication, adrenaline and a few dozen gallons of coffee kept the team going when duty called for an extra day.
At the risk of omitting the contributions of specific individuals, I must tip my cap to Rocco Mediate and Tiger Woods for playing the starring roles on the stage that we, along with Rees Jones, helped create. Their performances made the effort all the more worthwhile. I hope that the USGA will return to San Diego and Torrey Pines to conduct more championship events. It would be a fitting reward.
The Open is but a part of the story, however. The true winners are municipal golfers — both residents of San Diego and visitors inspired to come play the course. Tough decisions had to be made to preserve and improve upon the Torrey Pines experience. In the end, I believe those choices and the work done by many individuals have created a better golf course, which will be accessible to more people at very affordable rates. These changes will allow the golf division to operate without the use of public funds. They’ll also allow for much-needed improvements on the city’s two other municipal golf facilities, Mission Bay and Balboa Park.
I was fortunate to walk inside the ropes within a few yards of the competitors for the final playoff holes. It was a stirring vantage point to see the best the game of golf has to offer. The Pacific Ocean and the course’s rolling landscape provided a stunning backdrop to a classic battle. But what left the most indelible impression on me was an electric crowd of thousands featuring people of all ages, ethnic backgrounds and economic classes. That, more than anything else, brought a smile to my face.
It truly was the people’s championship.