Posted: July 6, 2015 11:31 pm
The sun rose behind the clouds early Monday morning, casting a hazy light on Lancaster Country Club as William Flynn’s 95-year-old course introduced itself as the center of the golf world to 129 U.S. Women’s Open qualifiers and thousands of fans who attended the first day of the tournament’s practice session.
“I think it was pretty much what we expected,” said Jerry Hostetter, a Lancaster Country Club member and the tournament’s chairman. “Everybody seemed excited. My heart was pounding as we looked at the people who started coming in.”
When Hostetter arrived some time before 6 a.m., hundreds of volunteers fanned out across the course, as well as the concession stations and merchandise tents and grandstands that turned Lancaster Country Club into a temporary village.
By 7 a.m., the first group of golfers stepped up to the tees and sent golf balls through the hazy air.
“Personally, I love the game of golf,” said Lauren Eby, a Lancaster Country Club member and volunteer marshal. “Being a woman, it’s really neat to see some fantastic female golfers out there.”
Among those golfers was Michelle Wie, the defending U.S. Women’s Open champion. Wie teed off at 12:41 p.m., sending the crowd abuzz as the clouds gave way to July sunshine.
Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor, Mike Stack, found himself among the scores of fans gathered to watch Wie approach her first practice shot.
“The excitement swept us away so much,” Stack said, “we broke through the barriers and took some selfies with her. She was very gracious and kind, and she’s a terrific offering of so many wonderful, world-renowned women’s athletes here. We’re just so excited for Lancaster.”
Stack joined Hostetter and Matt Sawicki, a USGA championships director, in discussing the excitement with media, filling the room with hopeful talk of “best tournament ever” and expectations of crowds exceeding 20,000 fans for Saturday and Sunday’s rounds.
On the course, with the whirring of power tools and the hum of air-conditioning systems in the background, the golfers expressed their excitement over the estimated 5,000 fans in attendance and the course as a whole. Between shots, they traded stories about their host families and wifi connections.
While the players practiced on the fairways and in the bunkers, through the rough and on the greens of Lancaster Country Club, preparing for Thursday’s opening round, the volunteers practiced their roles behind the scenes.
“Anything I can do to help,” Eby said, “I wanted to do. It takes a lot of boots on the ground to make this thing work, and we’re discovering that here, especially on day one.”
Eby, a zone leader working under marshal chairmen Ken Phillips and King Knox, cited the importance of radios and patience as lessons learned by the volunteers on their first day.
“The practice rounds,” she said, “are as much for the volunteers as they are for the players because we need to be foolproof and spotless come Thursday.”