LAURINBURG — The Scotch Meadows Country Club hosted a special speaker during Tuesday night’s sponsor dinner.
Senior Director of the US Open Championships Reg Jones was in attendance to speak to the sponsors of the 28th Annual Richard L. Byrne Memorial Golf Tournament, which began Tuesday afternoon. The tournament is held to raise money for Hospice of Scotland County, and is a two-day event.
Jones, who works for USGA out of Pinehurst, was in town to talk about the upcoming Open Championships, which will be held at Pinehurst No. 2 in June. He spoke about the preparation and logistics required for an event as big and important as the Open, and particularly the challenge facing organizers this year with back-to-back tournaments.
The men’s tournament starts June 12, and the women’s Open starts just a week later. Jones said the USGA wanted to do something that had never been done before when they decided to play the tournaments in consecutive weeks.
“For us it was about doing something historic,” Jones said. “And what better place to make history than Pinehurst?”
It takes many people to pull off a successful championship, said Jones, citing the number of volunteers expected for the events.
“We have around 6,200 volunteers, and 75 percent of them signed up for both weeks,” Jones said.
Sixty percent of those volunteers are from North Carolina, while the rest are made up of people from each state and 12 other countries. Those volunteers will help serve over 80,000 hot dogs and make over 120,000 transactions in the pro shop during the two weeks, Jones said.
The impact of the championships will not just be limited to the golf course, however, as visitors will also make a dent in the local economy. Jones said the USGA had research done with two recent Opens held at Torrey Pines in California and Bethpage Black in New York and found that the economic impact was between $140-170 million — and that was just for the men’s tournament.
Having the women’s tournament played right after the men’s concludes will draw more attention to the women’s game, Jones said.
“This will help put the spotlight on women’s golf and let everyone see how great they are,” he said.
The course has hosted the men’s US Open twice, in 1999 and 2005. This year’s edition will present a different challenge, however, as the course has undergone a renovation since then. Jones said the course removed around 40 acres of Bermuda grass and replaced it with the type of grass that would have been in place originally when the course opened in 1907. The fairways have been widened, but a player could be in more trouble than usual if they miss it.
“This will make it the kind of course we want, one that’s hard and fast,” Jones said, adding that this will be the first US Open played without a traditional rough.
Tuesday’s sponsor dinner also marked the opening of the silent auction, which featured golf bags along with collegiate golf shirts, hats and club head covers. At the end of his speech, Jones told the crowd he wanted to add in two opening-day tickets to the list of auction items. The auction will conclude tonight after the tournament’s winners are decided.