Three USGA Championships coming to North Carolina this summer April 11, 2010 By David Shefter

Bryan Park Golf Course in Greensboro, N.C., will be hosting its first USGA championship this summer. (Fred Vuich/USGA)
Three USGA championships will be played in North Carolina in a five-week span in 2010

By David Shefter, USGA

Every month a conference call takes place between three North Carolina golf clubs.

Under normal circumstances, such communication wouldn’t be necessary. Besides golf and a shared location these clubs – two of which are private facilities – don’t have much in common. One resides in the Village of Pinehurst, another in Greensboro and the third in Charlotte.

But this summer all three will be initiated into the same fraternity when they host a USGA championship.

In a five-week period, the Tar Heel State becomes an epicenter for elite golf. It begins in mid-July with the U.S. Amateur Public Links at Bryan Park in Greensboro, followed a week later by the U.S. Girls’ Junior at The Country Club of North Carolina in Pinehurst and ends in mid-August at Charlotte Country Club with the 110th U.S. Women’s Amateur.

We’re very excited, of course, said Kyle Kolls, the general manager/director of golf for Bryan Park. It’s been incredible.

With each site hosting 156 elite golfers competing in a similar format – two days of stroke-play qualifying followed by six rounds of match play to determine the champion – the courses have similar preparations. Each venue wants the players to have the world-class experience that comes with participating in a USGA championship.

So in the months leading up to the championships, the clubs have been sharing information and, in some cases, resources, to ensure their events run as smoothly as possible.

We have little things to wrap up, said Morgan Lang, who is serving as the championship director for Charlotte C.C. Like where are our garbage bags coming from? Who are we getting our transportation vehicles from? The bulk of it is in place. We all feel good.

It’s wonderful to have that support with the other championships [in North Carolina]. We’re trying to help each other. CCNC and us are going to share signage. We’re sharing the Lexus [courtesy] vehicles. It’s great to be able to take advantage of that … especially in this economy.

Three USGA championships in the same state certainly isn’t a new concept. In fact, 10 years ago, Oregon, and specifically Portland, became the national focal point with the Amateur Public Links, both Junior championships and the Women’s Amateur conducted within a month.

Those events came at a time when Oregon seemingly was hosting a USGA every other week. From 1996-2008, the state has hosted 15 USGA events, with nine in Portland. In contrast, North Carolina, including the three events in 2010, will have hosted 13. And in 2014 the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open will be conducted in back-to-back weeks at Pinehurst No. 2.

I think it’s important for the Carolinas, and in particular North Carolina, to bring [the USGA] together, said Jack Nance, the executive director of the Carolinas Golf Association, which serves some 705 member clubs and 178,000 individual members in North and South Carolina. We want the USGA to walk out of here, as we do every time [a USGA championship is played here] with a great taste in their mouth. I hope we can accomplish that again. People down here just love golf period. It’s neat to be a part of that.

With Raleigh’s Jim Hyler assuming the USGA presidency in February, some have assumed the reason North Carolina is hosting three championships in 2010 is because he’s a resident. Hyler quickly put that issue to rest, confirming that all the sites were selected long before he was nominated for the USGA’s top post.

That, however, doesn’t mean Hyler isn’t excited for the three venues. He plans to make cameos at all three championships in a supporting role and says it’s a unique chance for North Carolina residents to see elite golf in an intimate setting.

They will have the opportunity to see the stars of the future, particularly with the Girls’ Junior and Women’s Amateur. The APL will have a lot of younger players and college players. You look at the past APL champions – Trevor Immelman, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Moore – there are a handful of former APL champions who are now stars on the PGA Tour.

It’s a chance to see these players up close and personal. The galleries are not as big [as at a U.S. Open] … and the public can walk down the fairway right next to the players.

While the venues are in different cities, all three are within driving distance. Pinehurst is 75 minutes from Greensboro and a little more than two hours from Charlotte. It takes just 90 minutes to get from Greensboro to Charlotte.

Charlotte, Pinehurst and Greensboro are also no strangers to hosting major competitions. The Pinehurst area has played host to two U.S. Open s (1999 and 2005), three U.S. Women’s Opens (1996, 2001 and 2007) and one U.S. Senior Open (1994) in the last 16 years. Charlotte (Wachovia Championship) and Greensboro (Wyndham Championship) are annual PGA Tour stops and each city has hosted the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship in men’s basketball and other top sporting events like the NFL (Carolina Panthers) and NASCAR.

Kolls and Lang said both PGA Tour events have been extremely cooperative in sharing volunteer lists. Each has spoken to local business and civic groups to get the word out about the event. Local high schools and colleges have also contacted Lang about assisting, whether it be golf teams or sorority houses looking for philanthropic projects.

People [in Charlotte] are excited to have a women’s event, said Lang. We have corporate supporters who have given us anonymous donations because they can’t have their names on it. We’ve received a lot of phone calls. It’s so exciting.

The membership at this club and the city is so behind us.

CCNC also is no stranger to big events. In 1980, the club was the host site for the U.S. Amateur, won by future PGA Tour star Hal Sutton. Recently, the 36-hole facility has been site for the Carolinas Junior and the 2008 Big I Championship. In 2012, the Southern Junior will be played at CCNC.

Many members have also been involved with the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open championships held in the Sandhills. The biggest job is educating some members on the talent that will be on display July 19-24.

A lot of the folks don’t have a clue how good these girls are, said Jeff Dotson, CCNC’s director of golf. Obviously, I’ve been doing this for quite awhile and have seen a lot of junior golfers. I was up at Hartford [Golf Club in 2008] and I was really amazed at the level of these girls. We’ve been talking about that for a long time here. The members are going to be quickly blown away at how good they are.

And many of the girls in the field at this summer’s Girls’ Junior and Women’s Amateur likely will be competing in 2014 when the U.S. Women’s Open returns to North Carolina; ditto for some APL  competitors, with the U.S. Open also at Pinehurst in 2014.

Since 1989, the APL champion also has traditionally received an invitation to compete in the Masters Tournament.

That’s part of our message, said Kolls. This is a major, major championship, but it has an intimate feel to it.

And because it’s a public facility, anyone can play Bryan Park all the way up to July 9 when the course officially closes for the championship.

Everybody wants to play the golf course that your national championship is going to be at, added Kolls. How fast are the greens? What is the setup like? We won’t shut down the golf course until the USGA takes over on July 9 at 1 p.m.

Nance and the CGA also are doing their part to get the word out. The lead item on its Web site is a link to learn more about being a volunteer. CGA staff also will be assisting in a variety of capacities, including the rules.

This is kind of a different feel in that they (USGA events) are hitting us all at once, and they are all very close to each other, said Nance. We’re being a mouthpiece of sorts. We want to help these clubs anyway we can.

Lang said the Women’s Amateur already has 230 volunteers and is looking for about 70 more. Bryan Park has had 70-80 people sign up online and Kolls is hoping for 300. We still have work to go, he said. It’s still early. It’s hard for people to commit three months out.

Dotson said CCNC should fill its quota of necessary volunteers as well. We just got going with that in the last month, he said. I’m confident we’ll have enough. We’re a national club in a lot of ways … but we have a pretty significant year-round membership of local players and a lot of those folks have signed up to volunteer.

As the dates draw closer, all that will remain is to see who qualifies and then conduct the championship proper. And as the clubs have discovered, they are sharing a unique bond within the golf community.

You want to support them and they want to support you, said Lang. I am looking forward to going to those events, too.

David Shefter is a USGA communications staff writer. E-mail him with questions or comments