Posted: July 13, 2015 12:27 am
When the curtain rose on the world’s stage this past week, the scene was Lancaster and the spotlight was on the Lancaster Country Club.
A field of 156 women’s golfers from 25 different countries descended on the nearly 100-year-old golf course off the New Holland Pike for the U.S. Women’s Open.
With a Fox Sports TV audience looking on and the host course setting a weeklong U.S. Open attendance record of 134,016, the course and championship turned in a performance that drew raves.
“Bringing the Women’s Open to the best courses in America, like we do for the men’s Open, is just what the USGA is looking at,” said Tom ‘OToole Jr., the president of the United States Golf Association, on Fox’s broadcast Sunday. “This is a real hidden gem here in Lancaster. Some knew about it but now the golf world knows about it.”
Nearly every golfer talked about the energy they got from the crowd, a crowd that rode the rollercoaster of Sunday’s final four or five holes, before Amy Yang’s missed par putt on No. 18 made South Korea’s In Gee Chun the 70th U.S. Open champion.
Preparation for the event went back several years and, when it was over, many felt as though the course and the county had hosted a tournament of this magnitude before.
“A fan told me that he wished the USGA ran the country because this is going so smoothly,” said Lancaster’s Steve Buterbaugh, the vice chairman of the U.S. Open planning committee.
Each day of the tournament, the executive committee schedules a 4-5 p.m. meeting. Saturday’s meeting, where the chairmen of each aspect of the tournament go over the positives and negatives, lasted just 20 minutes.
That’s how well everything ran.
Buterbaugh said the course, fans and operation of the tournament received high marks from the USGA, which told LCC officials that they “hit it out of the park.”
“The volunteers are whatever word would be beyond excellent and awesome,” Buterbaugh said. “Out in the heat, doing their thing with a smile on their faces.
“The other thing that’s blown me away, and I’d hoped for this, but the community reaction, especially from non-golfers, or those that said, ‘It’s (just) women’s golf,’ they were amazed at the infrastructure, how well it went and at the talent level of these players.”
Jim West, a disabled Vietnam veteran from Lebanon, was sitting under a tree between the No. 1 tee and the No. 9 green Sunday. He also attended Friday’s round.
“I used to go the Lady Keystone Open (in Hershey) and was so disappointed when they stopped it,” said the 65-year-old West. “With this atmosphere, I hope they can bring something back, even if it’s not a major. The way the Lancaster Country Club and the USGA have staged this, it’s fabulous.”
Now that the U.S. Open has come and gone, will other tournaments be coming?
It appears the course and the way the tournament was run impressed the USGA and one would think those attendance numbers would garner some attention.
Might another USGA event be staged here? How about a PGA or LPGA event?
The answer will have to wait.
“We wanted to get through this event, put the magnifying glass on this one, let the (LCC) members breathe a little bit and then solicit feedback to see if they want to do another one,” Buterbaugh said.
Buterbaugh said, however, that the committees running the tournament received better-than-expected comments from the club’s members.
“They have been engaged and they love it,” he said.
The running of the tournament did, however, require a few tweaks along the way.
For instance, the tournament needed to place more marshals in the area where several greens and tees converge, just to handle crowd bottlenecks.
One concern from spectators was the inability to get to the No. 1 tee upon arrival at the course. The area in front of and behind the clubhouse was closed due to player safety.
So, walking upon the driveway into the course, fans wanting to watch the action on the first hole had to walk down the left side of 10, cross over the 10th fairway and cross the 18th fairway.
“There was the perception that this was hard for fans, but in crossing 18, they got to see what the leaders saw on their approach to the 18th green,” Buterbaugh said.
Hosting the U.S. Open was no small job. The planning proved a monumental task. Pulling it off with a high level of success wasn’t easy, either.
But now that the final curtain has come down, the applause may echo for years to come.