Tag Archives: U.S. Women’s Open

View of the 7th hole fairway and green along the Conestoga River at Lancaster Country Club during practice rounds on Tuesday, July 7.

Jim Furyk offers some words of wisdom on Lancaster Country Club

Posted: July 7, 2015 9:23 pm

As a Manheim Township grad, Jim Furyk knows a thing or two about Lancaster Country Club. As a schoolboy athlete, he played it two or three times a week.

Though the 2003 U.S. Open champ — winner of 17 total PGA Tour events in his career — hasn’t played LCC since 2011, he knows it’s a great venue for this week’s U.S. Women’s Open.

Furyk spoke to Philly.com’s Joe Juliano about LCC playing host to the tournament, and some of the challenges the women will face there.

Furyk told Juliano that one of the toughest aspects of the course comes from its elevation changes, including a number of uphill approaches. Additionally, he said, the “old-school” greens will test their nerves.

“The ladies will have a lot of putts — even from short range — that have a lot of break in them,” he said in the article. “The player who putts well will have to be very comfortable with the speed of the greens to feed big-breaking putts to the hole.”

This farmhouse on the grounds of Lancaster Country Club will be turned into the 1761 Club for the 2015 Women’s U.S. Open. (Richard Hertzler / Staff )

Lancaster’s Women’s Open nearing a sellout?

Posted: December 17, 2014 8:08 pm

The word comes up often when officials talk about the run-up to the U.S. Women’s Open at Lancaster Country Club.

Revenues for the event, to be played July 6-12, recently exceeded $1 million. Seven months before the event.

“Unprecedented, for a Women’s Open,’’ Tim Flaherty, United States Golf Association Tournament Director for the Open, said Wednesday.

Once the USGA began accepting candidates for volunteer positions to work the event, 2,500 people signed up in three weeks, and there is now a waiting list of 300.

“Unprecedented,’’ Flaherty said again. “Most Women’s Opens, we’re recruiting for certain jobs right up to the event.’’

Ticket sales, corporate investment, community involvement, employment of local resources … in each of these areas, Lancaster’s Women’s Open appears to setting new standards.

The popularity, in fact, is forcing Flaherty and his crew to rethink some things.

Flaherty said his job involves “building a city for a week on a golf course.’’

Construction won’t begin until the spring, but the infrastructure plan for LCC-town — the blueprint for where everything’s going to be — is essentially complete.

Population control is the major remaining variable. Flaherty said he isn’t sure how many spectators the venue can comfortably handle, and the exceptional ticket sales are forcing him to figure that out fast.

The size of the property isn’t a problem. LCC owns or has access to more than 450 acres.

Last summer, Flaherty said, “The parking situation appears to be exceptional. We won’t have to do any shuttling, and that’s very unusual.’’

Flaherty acknowledged Wednesday that the parking prediction, “was based on past Women’s Opens. Here, sales have been so strong that things have changed.’’

There will be shuttles.

Championship director Barry Deach said Wednesday that several parking lots have tentatively been lined up, each of them within five miles of the course.

The size of the property isn’t a problem. But the golf course is an old, classic design. There are some dramatic elevation changes, and some tees and greens are very close together.

A golf stadium it isn’t.

Flaherty said there will be more than the usual number of grandstands, including near the 12th, 17th and 18th greens. There will be a few areas, such as where the 11th and 15th tees abut each other, where spectators won’t be allowed.

It’s also possible that the USGA will have to cut off ticket sales, perhaps long before the event.

All ticket sales thus far have been in packages, most of them for all seven days of the Open (practice rounds July 6-8 and the four actual tournament rounds July 9-12), sold at the event’s website (2015uswomensopen.com).

Prices range from $85 (two people for one day or one person for two days, with public parking, with children of ticket-holders under age 17 admitted free) to $200 for seven-day admission, parking and access to the 1761 Club, a lodge-like hangout that will be fashioned from a farm house and barn property on the course.

Hospitality packages for groups range from $25,000 to $150,000 for space inside the clubhouse, one of a village of cottages alongside the 10th fairway or large tents to be erected on the back nine of the course.

The hospitality packages include multiple seven-day badges, VIP parking, catered food, private rest rooms, spots in pre- and post-tournament golf outings at LCC and other perks.

All of the above packages are available only until Dec. 31. No daily tickets have been made available yet.

“This is a great property for a championship,’’ Flaherty said. “There are a couple places on the back nine where it gets a little tight. We need to be careful here, and make sure we maximize the fan experience.

“We have to see where we’re at,’’ Flaherty said. “If we’re pushing over 25,000 people per day, we maybe would stop sales.’’

Again, unprecedented, for a Women’s Open.

LPGA tour players Sandra Gal and Gerina Piller, pictured here, visited the Lancaster Country Club on Tuesday morning for a round of golf on the links that will host the 2015 U.S. Women's Open next summer

2015 U.S. Women’s Open ticket purchases help to support local charity

Posted: November 3, 2014 2:47 pm

Susquehanna Bank and the 2015 U.S. Women’s Open are coming together to support the Extraordinary Give — Lancaster County’s largest day of giving, which is held on Nov. 21.

They will donate 20 percent of every 2015 U.S. Women’s Open ticket purchased between now and Nov. 20 to the Extraordinary Give.

The initiative, presented by the Lancaster County Community Foundation and lead sponsor Rodgers & Associates, will benefit more than 300 participating nonprofits that serve Lancaster County and beyond.

“The more than 300 nonprofits participating in the Extraordinary Give and the impact they make both locally and nationally are really the stars of this story,” stated William J. Reuter, chairman and CEO of Susquehanna Bancshares, in a news release. “Giving back to the community is a top priority for Susquehanna Bank and the Extraordinary Give allows us to make a difference in a big way.”

The Extraordinary Give is Lancaster County’s largest day of giving. Last year’s event raised more than $3.2 million for 260 nonprofits in only 24 hours. A portion of the funds raised through purchase of 2015 U.S. Women’s Open tickets through Susquehanna Bank will be donated to the stretch pool of the Extraordinary Give.

Stretch pool funds will be distributed to the more than 300 participating nonprofits using a pro-rated system based on the percentage of the total donations raised by each nonprofit during the day of giving.

“The Lancaster County Community Foundation is thrilled that Susquehanna Bank and the 2015 U.S. Women’s Open are joining us and the many supporters of this year’s Extraordinary Give,” stated Sam Bressi, president and CEO of the Community Foundation. “We are excited about their innovative approach to bolstering this powerful community celebration of giving.”

The public can support the Extraordinary Give by visiting www.ExtraGive.org to make a donation to any of more than 300 local community organizations on Nov. 21.

Individual donations will be stretched with funds from the stretch pool and prizes provided by the Lancaster County Community Foundation, the 2015 Women’s Open and the Extraordinary Give’s presenting sponsors Rodgers & Associates and the Martin H. Baer Charitable Trust.

“The community of Lancaster has welcomed the 2015 U.S. Women’s Open so warmly that it only makes sense for us to give back to the local community in this way,” said Barry Deach, championship director of the 2015 U.S. Women’s Open, which will be held at Lancaster Country. “We’re extremely thankful that we’ve been able to join forces with such a long-standing pillar in this community such as Susquehanna Bank; they are the ones who have made this all possible.”

LPGA players Gerina Piller, in the pink shorts, and Sandra Gal, to her right, walk with other members of their party at Lancaster Country Club on Tuesday. The two toured the area and made the most of their exploratory round.

Liking the links: LPGA duo enjoys a U.S. Women’s Open preview round at Lancaster Country Club

Posted: July 29, 2014 5:23 pm

LPGA tour players Sandra Gal and Gerina Piller visited the Lancaster Country Club on Tuesday morning for a round of golf on the links that will host the 2015 U.S. Women’s Open next summer.

Gal is presently ranked 37th in earnings on the tour this season with $198,940, while Piller is 28th with $314,143. Gal is tied for 43rd in the Rolex Player of the Year points standings while Piller is tied for 28th.

The two 29-year-old pros were joined in a foursome with USGA vice president and executive committee member Dan Burton of Lititz and Lancaster County amateur Allison Weaver of Lititz, who plays out of Overlook.

To add to the fun, all four golfers were miked up for the round, so that those following them along the course could hear what they were talking about.

“I think they should have that more in golf,” Piller said of the microphones. “Not necessarily mike the golfers up, but rather to have mikes everywhere to pick up on what we are conversing about with our caddies or what our strategy is. I think that would be fun. Same goes for football, hockey and baseball. Just to hear what is going on adds to it.”

No scorecards were kept and there were quite a few pickups on the green, but it was a golden opportunity for those fortunate enough to be in attendance to see some high-level golfing.

“They are such great players and such great ambassadors for the game of golf,” Burton said. “They were a lot of fun to play with. It was really special.”

Both LPGA golfers, who also got to tour a bit of the area, liked the 114-year-old country club and the classic course design. Piller said she liked the par-4 first hole best because she birdied it to open the round.

“I think they did a phenomenal job in picking this course and this venue,” said Piller, who is still looking for her first LPGA win in her fourth year on the tour. “It will be very tough to golf. I am looking forward to coming back next year.”

The Cologne, Germany-born Gal agreed. She picked the par-3 12th hole as her favorite, where the swirling winds and water can come into play.

“I really liked the variety of shots you have to hit,” said Gal, who won the 2011 Kia Classic and is in her sixth year on the tour. “Every hole is different. It does not get boring out there. I think it will be really challenging, but fair.”

The William S. Flynn-designed course at Lancaster Country Club offers a mix of long par-4 and par-5 holes and some short par-3 holes that can challenge a golfer’s accuracy.  Flynn was one of the influential designers in the golden age of golf course architecture, when the number of courses in the country grew from fewer than 750 in 1916 to nearly 6,000 by 1930.

“I think it could definitely favor a long hitter,” Piller said. “There are a lot of carries and uphills and downhills. On the uphills, it will be an advantage to fly it. If you can carry it a long way, that will be an advantage. It is playing pretty soft right now, but if it gets firm and fast during tournament week, that will favor the long hitters.”

Piller, who is 21st in scoring average this season at 71.167 through 17 events, said that now having played the course is not a real advantage looking ahead.

“It gives me a little bit of knowledge having seen it and knowing what to expect,” said Piller, a Roswell, New Mexico, native who now lives in Plano, Texas, with her husband, Martin, a former PGA golfer. “But it isn’t going to play the same way next year the way it is playing now. It’s not like I will be making a lot of notes about what I hit when.”

Weaver, who played collegiate golf at Murray State University and locally at Warwick, was nervous at first but settled in to play a solid round.

“It was a lot of fun,” Weaver said. “Getting to watch them play up close was a great experience. I took notice at how all areas of their game were just so good. They drive so well. It was an eye-opener.”

Piller had plenty of kind words for Weaver.

“I’m sure she was a little nervous,” Piller said. “But she handled it well. It was a great opportunity for her to see our caliber of play, where she is at and what she can work on. It was a pleasure meeting her. She’s a really good player.”

Lancaster retailer heads 200 merchandise volunteers for 2015 U.S. Women’s Open

Posted: July 25, 2014 1:56 pm

If there’s a logical choice to head the 200 volunteers for the merchandise pavilion at the 2015 U.S. Women’s Open here, it’s Jay Filling.

He’s got decades of experience as a retailer, being co-owner of the Filling’s Clothing store in Lancaster with his wife Mary Beth.

He’s also got decades of experience as a golfer, having played at Hempfield High School and UNC-Greensboro, then competed as an adult.

RELATED: 2015 U.S. Women’s Open in Lancaster will add top-shelf store to top-shelf golf

“I was happy to be asked,” said Filling, noting that his wife will be contributing as much time and expertise to the effort as he.

“She’s going to be as big a part of it as I am. She’ll be a huge asset to everyone involved,” he said.

The Open will be July 6-12 at  the Lancaster Country Club.

Filling is not a member there — he’s a member at Bent Creek — but has many friends at the New Holland Pike club.

As chairman of the committee overseeing the merchandise pavilion volunteers, Filling said the main challenge will be scheduling them.

Filling, a third-generation retailer, and Mary Beth will lean on the Filling’s staff for help in “putting this jigsaw puzzle together.”

“This is running a retail store, except it’s a big one. It will take a lot of communication and cooperation,” he said.

“Luckily, we have computers and spreadsheets.”

Filling pointed out that the pavilion, at 8,000 square feet, will have more than two times the sales area of his Harrisburg Pike store.

On the other hand, Filling and the volunteers won’t have to worry about some of the key duties involved in running a typical store.

For instance, purchasing inventory will not be their concern.

That’s being handled by Harlene Udovich, hired by the United States Golf Association as the event’s director of merchandise.

Filling downplayed his contribution to the Open, noting his committee is only one of many helping to organize the event’s volunteers.

Some 2,500 volunteers are needed.

He was optimistic that the Open would draw at least that number, saying the Open already was close to that target.

“There’s been a very substantial outpouring of support,” said Filling. “It’s remarkable. The county really is embracing this event.”

To volunteer, people can use the event’s website, 2015uswomensopen.com, and go to the “contact” tab.

They’ll need to pay a $135 fee.

In return, they get preferred parking, an official golf shirt, a windbreaker, a hat or visor, a water bottle, a commemorative pin, use of the volunteer tent, two passes to an appreciation party, entries to prize drawings and a weeklong access pass.

Harlene Udovich, director of merchandise for the 2015 U.S. Women's Open at Lancaster Country Club, shows items for sale.

2015 U.S. Women’s Open in Lancaster will add top-shelf store to top-shelf golf


Sure, the 2015 U.S. Women’s Open at Lancaster Country Club will be a national, prestigious golf event.

But like any major national sporting championship, watching the athletic competition won’t be the only activity.

And befitting such a high-caliber tournament, those other pursuits will be high-end too.

There’ll be dining. And socializing. And shopping — definitely plenty of shopping.

Shopping, said Barry Deach, championship director for the 2015 U.S. Women’s Open, “is a big part of the championship experience for fans.”

RELATED: Lancaster retailer heads 200 merchandise volunteers for 2015 U.S. Women’s Open

For the event next July 6-12, the New Holland Pike club will have a merchandise pavilion in an 8,000-square-foot temporary structure.

The pavilion, said Harlene Udovich, director of merchandise for the event, will be a miniature, high-end department store.

Its ambiance will belie its temporary existence.

The pavilion will have carpeting, air conditioning and top-of-the-line fixtures, displaying a selection of about 200 items.

All will sport the 2015 U.S. Women’s Open logo.

Some items will be “co-branded” with the logo of United States Golf Association too; the USGA is the group that holds the U.S. Women’s Open.

Udovich is going to great lengths to have a diverse mix of merchandise in that pavilion.

“I’ll have something for everybody,” said Udovich.

She means that literally.

The pavilion will have merchandise not just for men, women and children, but for different ages of men, women and children.

Though the 14-year veteran of golf-event merchandising is in the early stage of selecting 2015 U.S. Women’s Open items, there are some staples.

Among these are polo shirts, T-shirts, glassware, pinflags, caps, visors,  golfballs, windbreakers, blankets, books and posters.

Customers will be able to get some apparel personalized with embroided names.

Many other decisions have yet to be made.

Some will hinge on what new products are shown by golf-event suppliers next January, at the industry’s main show in Orlando.

“I will look at different companies and the different lines they have to offer and bring in the most current merchandise that will be available at that time.

“So a lot of it will be product that the general public hasn’t seen yet,” said Udovich.

Factored into her decisions will be her research on successful retailing strategies — products, prices, colors, sizes etc. — in this market.

Deach is confident in Udovich’s ability to pick winners.

“Harlene has got wonderful taste,” he said.

A big part of Udovich’s job is to prepare for the unexpected.

She puts a priority on finding suppliers who can react to strong sales by replenishing inventories quickly.

It’s just hard to predict what those fast-selling items might be.

At the 2002 PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota, orange baseball caps “flew off the shelves,” said Deach.

Low temperatures and rain at the 2004 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits in Haven, Wisconsin, made sales of windbreakers and blankets surge.

At this year’s Women’s Open in Pinehurst, North Carolina, commemorative glassware was an unusually big seller.

“There’s always one or two surprises the week of a championship,” said Deach.

Sometimes purchases are practical, like buying a windbreaker on a chilly day.

But often the motivation is the memory associated with the merchandise, said Deach.

“It’s part of the commemoration. It’s a keepsake. It’s like saving the ticket from a favorite rock concert,” he said.

For some golf fans, a purchase at a major tournament sparks a long-term interest in acquiring such items as collectibles, observed Deach.

The vast majority of the 2015 U.S. Women’s Open merchandise that’s sold will be sold at the pavilion during the week of the tournament.

A small selection of the 2015 U.S. Women’s Open merchandise, all with the event logo, is available now at the Lancaster Country Club pro shop.

Items in stock include:

Baseball caps ($25), towels ($25 to $27), two-packs of tumblers ($36 to $45, depending on the size), two-packs of wineglasses ($40), two-packs of rocks glasses ($23), embroided pinflags ($30), golfballs ($25 a dozen), embroided leather  driver head covers ($65), men’s golf shirts ($50 to $75), women’s golf shirts ($50 to $55), ball markers ($8 to $10) and four-packs of stone coasters ($48, or $61 in a logoed, decorative wooden box).

The pro shop’s selection of 2015 U.S. Women’s Open merchandise will broaden in the months ahead.

A small selection also will be available on the USGA website, said Udovich.

Udovich declined to estimate how much merchandise might be sold at the week-long event next July, which is expected to draw up to 100,000 fans.

She would only say that she was optimistic sales would exceed the average for the Women’s Open, declining to share that average as well.

However, given that it will cost “tens of thousands of dollars” to ready the merchandise pavilion, according to Deach, the volume of sales must be a hefty figure.

To move that merchandise will require many hands. That’s where volunteers come in.

Some 200 are scheduled to work at the pavilion alone, among 2,500 needed to staff the 2015 U.S. Women’s Open.

The volunteers for the pavilion will be led by Jay Filling, co-owner of Filling’s Clothing in Lancaster and an avid golfer.

“They’re a huge portion of the merchandise operation. It doesn’t function without them. They play a very important role,” said Udovich.

“They’ll do everything from running a cash register to bagging merchandise to helping to fill the shelves.”

Udovich said it’s too early to know what kind of structure will house the merchandise pavilion.

In recent years, the Women’s Open merchandise pavilion has been a sleek, white fabric building with windows, a peaked roof and double-doors.

With a footprint of 8,000 square feet, the pavilion will be roughly comparable in size to the Gap or American Eagle stores at Park City Center.

Next to the pavilion will be a “check tent,” said Deach.

That’s a place of about 800 square feet where customers can leave their newly purchased merchandise for the rest of the day, then claim it when they leave.

Udovich, 39, of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, comes to her role for the 2015 U.S. Women’s Open thoroughly prepared after 14 years with the PGA in merchandise roles.

(Officially, that’s the Professional Golfers’ Association of America, which holds men’s professional tournaments.)

She left as merchandising manager, responsible for running all merchandise-related activities of the PGA’s major events, the same role she’s filling for the 2015 Open.

During those years she worked on three Ryder Cup competitions (which match an American team against an European team), 14 PGA championships and 10 Senior PGA championships.

“It’s given me the opportunity to have events all across the U.S. and get to know different markets and the demands of different markets,” said Udovich.

In addition, Udovich was in charge of the PGA’s corporate merchandise sales programs, national licensing programs, PGA Authentic brand management and PGA member merchandise programs.

18 year old Dana Droz tees off on the 13th hole of the Lancaster Ladies City-County Better Ball Tournament. Droz got a hole in on on the 11th hole

U.S. Open, teen sensations fueling enthusiasm for women’s golf here

Posted: July 20, 2014 2:03 am

Two rounds of golf had been completed and two new champions crowned, leaving the ladies of the Lanco Better Ball tournament with nothing to do but catch up with old friends.

With almost 100 women gathered Wednesday in a banquet room at Lancaster Host, the conversation was wide-ranging, but it wasn’t long before the topic turned to next summer’s U.S. Women’s Open, which will be held at Lancaster Country Club.

As the county prepares for an influx of golfers and spectators, the tournament is having an impact on more than just the local economy.

“I definitely think a lot more people are paying attention to women’s golf in particular, as opposed to men’s,” said Amber Rohrer, fresh off a win at the Lanco Better Ball. “I mean everybody’s always excited about men’s golf whenever it’s around, so this is exciting for us.”

Hosting such a large-scale tournament has shone a spotlight on local women’s golf while showcasing the sport to a new crop of prospective golfers.

“I think there’s a lot more girls interested,” said Emily Quinn, who first picked up a club at age 11 before playing competitively at Lancaster Catholic High and Gannon University. “When I played on the Lanco Junior Tour 12 years ago or so, you were lucky if three girls played in an event.”

The junior tour now lists 15 girls on its roster.

According to a National Golf Foundation study done in 2011, women were the fastest-growing segment of new golfers. Lancaster County, in particular, has seen an influx of new talent, and the younger ladies are having a significant impact on the course.

Rohrer, who just graduated from Millersville, teamed with Haley Goodling, a rising senior at Manheim Central, to win the Lanco Ladies Better Ball tournament.

A few weeks earlier, Allison Appleton, a rising sophomore at Penn Manor, claimed the Ladies Individual at Foxchase. Dana Droz, an 18-year-old graduate of Veritas Academy, finished second at the 2013 Individual and had a hole-in-one at this year’s Better Ball tournament.

The Women’s Western Amateur, held at Lancaster Country Club in June, was won by 15-year-old Mika Liu. It was the second tournament win of the month for the Beverly Hills, California native, who also won the Women’s Southern Amateur.

“When I first started playing about 10 years ago, it was a (very different group of women),” said Paula Light, who finished second to Appleton at the Individual. “But now the younger kids are starting to come out, and they’re so talented.

“They hit the ball so far, they’re just very skilled. It’s really nice to see that more younger kids are starting to pick up the game.”

Many see hosting the 2015 U.S. Women’s Open as a key tool in recruiting the next batch of talented females.

“It’ll be a great week for everybody,” said Branden Lippy, who partnered with Light to take second in the Lanco Better Ball. “Just a lot of camaraderie between the golfers here right now, and then the professionals that play. We hope we can get a lot more of the younger girls in high school to come out and play, not just those of us that have moved on and graduated, but a lot of the younger kids, because it makes the rest of us better.”

George Brubaker raises the USGA Golf Association flag at Lancaster Country Club. Holding the Lancaster Country Club flag is his sister Jane and his mother Stacey Morgan Brubaker at right.

Raise the flag: Countdown to 2015 U.S. Women’s Open in Lancaster officially begins

Posted: July 7, 2014 2:45 pm

Planning a major golf championship is a lot like playing with dominoes.

At least that’s the view of veteran championship director Barry Deach, who is charged with organizing the 2015 U.S. Women’s Open here in Lancaster County.

“When you look at the infrastructure that’s here — the engagement, the authenticity, the can-do attitude — it lines up to what I call the dominoes,” Deach said. “Some places, I don’t have all the dominoes. There’s some missing from the bag.”

“Right now, I definitely have all the dominoes. They’re all on the table, but there’s still work to be done.”

The one-year countdown officially began just before 7 a.m. Monday as local township, United States Golf Association and Lancaster Country Club officials lowered the LCC flag and raised the USGA flag, staking its new territory for the next year.

Monday also marked the start of ticket sales on the tournament website: www.uswomensopen.com

The tournament will run July 6-12, 2015.

Approximately 100,000 spectators will flock to the grounds of the LCC to watch the best female golfers in the world compete for the U.S. Open championship.

Deach said the long to-do list between now and the start of the weeklong event includes the construction of a “corporate village” on the tennis courts and the completion of the 1761 Club, which will offer unique views and amenities to patrons willing to pay for them.

Of the 30 or so vendors needed to put the tournament on, Deach said a majority of them will be local.

As of now, just two are nonlocal vendors, he said.

After being “dumbfounded” by an Amish carpentry shop, Deach said he knew how the “corporate village” would be constructed.

“That led to the creation of our cottages, which we’re basically going to roll onto the tennis courts,” Deach said.

The cottages are essentially garages and will be prefabricated in two parts.

Putting up a tent of a similar size would take a week to get done, he said.

But the locally made structures can be installed in a couple of days and adds the local touch that makes a tournament grounds unique, Deach said.

The 1761 Club will use existing buildings overlooking hole number 12 on the course as the setting for patrons who purchase a badge to gather and watch.

Deach said in the early stages, planning officials called the existing farmhouse and barn “very Lancastrian.”

“It’s very much about what inspries us in the area,” Deach said. “I think the authenticity of both the place and the people really match up.”

“There is so much more opportunity for the community and region.”

Deach, who has organized multiple PGA championships, said the county has a strong potential to host future tournaments because of the event-planning resources and community engagement he has seen and will utilize here.

“This is the Silicon Valley of event planning,” Deach said.

Deach used a tournament he organized in Wisconsin as an example of growth after the first tournament was held.

Because of the success of that first event, Deach said the state received bids for two more PGA championships, a Ryder Cup, a U.S. Amateur and a U.S. Open tournament within two years.

“Everything we do has an impact in the future.”

LCC members are taking notice to the detail-oriented planning involved in hosting a tournament of this caliber.

Noel Connaughton, whose son, Rory, serves as an executive committee member for the tournament, said he has seen the final USGA product at other tournaments he has attended.

“The organization at a U.S. Open is stunning,” Noel Connaughton said. “The USGA are meticulous.”

As a 15-year member of the LCC, Connaughton said members are anxious to showcase their hospitality by volunteering throughout the week.

“I’m looking forward to the huge influx of people,” he said.

Deach added that the hospitality has been “extraordinary.”

“It’s been authentic and real.”

Arnold Palmer makes swing through Lancaster to promote 2015 US Women’s Open

Posted: July 5, 2014 5:09 pm

There are few absolute, bedrock, no-exception rules of business.

Here’s one: Partnering with Arnold Palmer is a good idea.

Officials of the 2015 U.S. Women’s Open at Lancaster Country Club made that partnership happen in February by asking Palmer to be the event’s honorary chairman. They celebrated their good judgment with Lancaster’s First Swing, a free public event in downtown Lancaster Saturday.

It is the first of what organizers promise will be a series of events leading to the Women’s Open, to be held July 6-12 of next year at L.C.C.

“When it’s over, and don’t say I didn’t tell you, you’re gonna be bragging about having this Open in Lancaster,” Palmer told a crowd of several hundred gathered in front of the downtown Lancaster Visitor’s Center at 5 W. King St.

The crowd was there to greet Gov. Tom Corbett and other dignitaries, but mostly to see Palmer, 84, a seven-time major champion, global brand and icon, native Pennsylvanian and arguably the most important figure in golf history.

Rory Connaughton, a member of the local tournament committee, warmed up the crowd, referring to it as a unit of “Arnie’s Army,” to a round of applause.

Corbett spoke briefly and predicted the event would provide a $15 million economic boost to the area.

Open general chairman Jerry Hostetter followed and introduced Palmer, referring to him as one of those rare individuals, “like Oprah, Sting and Pele,” known worldwide by a single name.

Palmer’s brief remarks were capped off with, “Give ’em hell, vote for the governor (cue sheepish grin from Corbett) and have a great golf tournament.”

Hostetter, general chairman of the 2015 Open, asked Palmer to consider becoming honorary chair in February at the Tradition, a golf club in La Quinta, California, of which both men are members.

“I think I (said yes) pretty quick,” Palmer said during a press conference after the event.

“Jerry twisted my arm.”

Palmer said his role, as honorary chair, has been defined only broadly.

“I’ll do as much as I can to promote it as much as I can, not only here but internationally.”

Palmer also suggested the event might not need much help. Women’s golf is enjoying a surge of popularity, fueled by American players like current Women’s Open champ Michelle Wie and Stacy Lewis, currently the world’s No. 1-ranked player.

“It’s getting better and better all the time, and I think you’ll see that,” he said.

“I have a granddaughter, and I can’t wait until she gets on the LPGA tour.”

Palmer hasn’t played even ceremonial tournament golf for a decade, although he did have his 20th lifetime hole-in-one during a friendly round last year.

He is still involved in a business empire that includes 22 licensee companies, a dozen or more product endorsements, and companies that sell clothing, design and build golf courses, and bottle and market wines.

He admitted that he is, finally, slowing down a bit. After adding a Presidential Medal of Freedom (2004) and Congressional Gold Medal (2012) to the resume, maybe you start to coast a little.

“I’m starting, gradually, to turn it over to my family,” he said.

Palmer grew up in Latrobe. He’s a two-time (1946 and 1947) PIAA state high school champion.

He has played Lancaster Country Club only once, at 19, in the 1948 Pennsylvania Amateur. He lost in the third round of match play to eventual champion Billy Haverstick, who might be, next to Jim Furyk, the best golfer Lancaster County has produced.

“I remember getting my ass handed to me,” Palmer said. “He was a great friend of mine and a great player. I was upset about losing, but I wasn’t upset he beat me.”

Tickets for the 2015 Open will be on limited sale from July 7 at 7 a.m. to July 31. For more information, visit www.2015uswomensopen.com.

Officials’ round a step in Lancaster’s preparation for 2015 U.S. Women’s Open

Posted: June 29, 2014 6:29 pm

A casual Sunday morning round at Lancaster Country Club is nothing unusual for members Dan Burton and Jerry Hostetter.

Playing the course while trying to see it through the eyes of an LPGA tour pro, that’s something different.

Burton is championship chairman for the United States Golf Association. Hostetter is general chairman for next year’s U.S. Women’s Open. One of their guests Sunday was Ben Kimball, USGA tournament director for the Women’s Open.

The round was a small step on the road to getting LCC ready for its turn on the big stage next July.

“It’s the first time I played the course thinking about what a player in the women’s Open championship might experience,” said Burton. “You have to think about the course differently because my ball flight — a man’s ball flight — is different than a woman’s.”

Burton, Hostetter and Kimball’s group included Rob Campbell, the president of LCC.

It was only partly a reconnaissance mission. Hostetter shot 71. Burton and Kimball, um, declined to share their scores.

“Three weeks sitting in a hotel in Pinehurst took their toll,” Kimball said.

Lancaster’s Women’s Open will be played July 6-12, 2015. The actual set-up of the course — pin positions, green speed, rough length, etc. — is an issue for down the road.

“The first thing is distance,” said Kimball. “We want to create a championship test for the women and be true to Mr. Flynn’s (William Flynn, LCC’s designer) architecture. For now, we’re mostly focusing on yardage.”

The ultimate experiment in this vein came June 12-22 at Pinehurst, North Carolina, where the USGA hosted the Men’s and Women’s Opens back-to-back on the same venue, fabled Pinehurst No. 2.

The USGA paid the men’s and women’s caddies for information at Pinehurst, asking them to write down what clubs their players hit into holes, and using those numbers to attempt setting up No. 2 so it “played the same,” for both genders.

The original plan was the make the course about 740 yards shorter for the women. After the numbers came in, that number rose to more than 1,000 yards.

“We adjusted as we went through the week,” Burton said. “Obviously, we don’t want to present the same golf course every day.”

“The (yardage) on the scorecard for the women at Pinehurst was 6,649,” Kimball said. “That was as long as we were going to go on any of the holes. It probably played around 6,300 each day.

“It’ll be the same thing here. We’ll set a maximum, but it would be silly for us not to plan to make adjustments.”

The LCC layout the women will play measures 6,840 yards (par 70) from the championship sees, 6,339 from the “back” tees, and 5,897 from the “middle” markers.

It figures to be closer to 6,840 than 5,897 next July, but that’s a lot of leeway.

Nothing about the numbers is likely to surprise people who know the course, and know the sport. The setup, for a U.S. Open, might be an eye-opener.

“Possibly, some of the hole locations, considering the firmness and speed of the course, might surprise some people,” Burton said.

“We believe in a firmer, faster setup for a national championship, because that makes the course much more demanding.”

Among the intangibles tournament officials have no control over is a happy one: An apparent resurgence in popularity of the women’s game.

A resurgence of American women golfers, and especially by Michelle Wie, probably has something to do with that.

Regardless of how seriously TV ratings deserve to be taken, Wie’s Open win at Pinehurst drew remarkable numbers on a sports-dense weekend that included a critical American World Cup match.

“No doubt, we wanted (Wie) to win,” Hostetter said. “We’ve known about her since she was, 12, and now all of a sudden, she’s turning into a great player. She’s winning again (on the LPGA tour) this week. She’ll be a great ambassador here. No question, it gives us a great push.”

Outside the gallery ropes, Open run-up comes into full focus Saturday, when Arnold Palmer comes to town to be introduced as the tournament’s honorary chairman during a downtown celebration event.

Speaking of the coming show, Burton promised, “people are gonna be stunned.”

Jennifer Johnson, No. 44 in the world, doesn’t take a private jet to LPGA events

Posted: June 22, 2014 1:10 am

PINEHURST, N.C. — Jennifer Johnson is ready to hit a tee shot, but notices that there are unexplained and previously unnoticed people within range down the fairway.

She stops, relaxes, smiles slightly, looks to her playing partners and their caddies, waits. Anyone who’s played much golf has done this.

And then the landing area is clear.

We know this without looking because she stiffens, formalizes her posture just enough to be noticeable.

Johnson applies her left-hand grip to the driver. Her right hand goes on the club, but doesn’t grip it. She lifts the club toward the target in an alignment ritual. She strides to the ball, and only now applies her full grip.

She starts a practice swing, and then stops it, perhaps 2 feet back, setting her hands and wrists, imprinting the desired position a half-instant before impact.

From there, Johnson goes through a full practice swing and then another one, addressing the ball. Does the hand-cocking thing again — it’s not especially idiosyncratic, as pre-shot routines go — and fires.

A 245-yard, high, baby draw ensues. As it has over and over and over, thousands of times, all over the world.

Relax, carefully program the machine, fire it, relax again and move on. It hardly matters that this was only a practice round, two days before the U.S. Open, the biggest event in women’s golf, on Pinehurst No. 2, a course as difficult and complicated and historic as any the women play.

It feels like a workplace.

“Patience is a big part of it,’’ Johnson says later, referring to the game and the life, sitting on a rocking chair on the porch of the players’ hospitality area at Pinehurst. “It’s a lot of fun, but I think in any job you have moments where, maybe, you’re not having quite so much fun.’’

Johnson, 22, is from Southern California. She is the 44th-ranked woman golfer on the planet, and 34th on the LPGA tour money list. She won a tournament last year, a wild shootout in Alabama, by shooting 22 under par, including 65-65 on the weekend and birdying the 17th Sunday.

She is, by any reasonable standard, ridiculously good at something ridiculously hard.

Yet being the 44th best at women’s golf is not as much like being 44th best at a major league team sport, or even at men’s golf, as you may think.

Johnson has made just over $175,000 this year. No. 34 on the men’s money list, the immortal Seung-Yul Noh, has made nearly ten times that, $1,727,687.

Male pros, and a small handful of star women, travel by private airplane and make far more money off the course than they do on.

Johnson mostly drives the tour with her Dad, Mike. She plays Bridgestone clubs and balls and wears Ecco shoes and Greg Norman clothing, but the deals don’t pay nearly enough to cover expenses.

This week at Pinehurst will be their seventh of eight straight weeks on the road. Yet the golf lately has been Johnson’s best of the year: four top 15s or better, including a third, in five weeks.

“My first couple years on tour, I couldn’t have done eight straight weeks,’’ she said. “Now it feels like no big deal. You sort of have to numb yourself to not being home.’’

Johnson does have something of an East Coast connection, in Lebanon, of all places. As a junior golfer, she worked with Mike Swisher, the now-retired pro at Lebanon Country Club. She has played Lancaster Country Club, where the show’s biggest event comes next summer, with Swisher, as a teenager.

She’s an honorary Lebanon C.C. member and lists the club as a “partner’’ on her website, along with a favored on-course snack, Seltzer’s Lebanon Bologna.

Her caddie at Pinehurst, and a half-dozen other times over the past few years, is Ben Brewer, Lebanon High’s girls’ basketball coach.

But Johnson hasn’t actually been to Lebanon in long time. The road, the reality of the travel, is as strange as you’d guess.

The last five weeks have been Texas to Virginia to Alabama to New Jersey (where the third-place finish came, including a first-round 62) to Canada to North Carolina. Somewhere in there, Jennifer stopped off in Nashville, Tennessee for a couple days with her swing coach. At another point, Mike parked the family car at BWI airport, where it has been for weeks, waiting to be needed again.

“We like to drive,’’ she said. “We run into way more problems when we fly. Plus, we bring a lot of junk that we just stuff in the car.’’

Mike is paunchy and amiable. We walks along, quietly says something once in a while, gets the clubs repaired, sets up the putting-drill devices, manages the endless logistics and drives and drives and drives.

It’s another difference between the tours. The men have teams of swing coaches and short-game coaches and psychiatrists and agents and equipment reps hovering. But not sharing the ride.

Walk around Pinehurst last week, and you saw a lot of middle-aged folks, mostly men, watching purposefully, who appear to be not quite coaches or agents, but are clearly there for more than just moral support.

“He’s kind of like my pseudo-coach,’’ Johnson said. “He knows my swing so well. He helps me so much.’’

You may be thinking: Sounds like a lot of father-daughter time for a 22 year-old professional anything.

Does it ever wear on you?

“Sure, sometimes,’’ she said.

Does it ever wear on him?

“Oh, my god,’’ she said. “I can’t imagine how annoying I am to put up with.’’

Johnson is 5-8 and very lean. From afar she looks like a skinny kid. Up close, it’s the kind of slight-but-taut athletic body you’ve seen before, on field hockey or basketball or soccer stars.

She was a soccer player and a dancer as a kid in SoCal before deciding on golf alone at age 12 or 13. From that point on, “the summers were a mini-version of this.’’

Johnson did one year at Arizona State, made the U.S. Curtis Cup team, and turned pro. She barely missed qualifying on points last year for the U.S. Solheim Cup (female equivalent of the Ryder Cup) team and was miffed at not being chosen as a captain’s pick.

She’s not a star yet, but at 22 she’s not behind schedule. And she is a ball-striker. Many women players (and not a few men) sort of pose on their follow-through, prettying it up. Johnson often lets the club drop after the ball’s long gone. No empty aesthetics for her. Arguably, it makes her swing look less good than it is.

It’s a very sound move. Those high baby draws keep coming.

She’s a San Diego Chargers fan and a foodie. Johnson will never be golf’s Taylor Swift, but to portray a lifeless grinder would be unfair. On the other hand, it’s hard not to be staggered by the commitment. “All-in,’’ seems an understatement.

I was reminded a lot last week of David Foster Wallace’s seminal 1996 Esquire profile of Michael Joyce, a then-very-good-but-never-to-be-great tennis player.

“Already, for Joyce, at twenty-two, it’s too late for anything else; he’s invested too much, is in too deep,’’ Wallace writes. “I think he’s both lucky and unlucky. He will say he is happy and mean it. Wish him well.”

U.S.G.A. President Tom O'Toole, Executive Director Mike Davis and First Vice-President Dan Burton at a U.S. Open press conference.

Dan Burton, Lancaster Country Club member, on running Opens and rising in U.S.G.A

Posted: June 17, 2014 6:15 pm

PINEHURST, N.C. – Someday soon Dan Burton is a near-lock to be president of the United States Golf Association.

Which isn’t as big a deal, to Burton, as what he’s doing right now.

As First Vice-President of the U.S.G.A., Burton is chair of the Competition Committee, which means he’s Tournament Director of the U.S. Men’s and Women’s Opens, the Men’s and Women’s Amateur Championships, and the U.S. Senior Open.

“I was hoping for this,’’ Burton said Tuesday at the media center at Pinehurst Country Club.

“This is all I want to do, the most fun thing, the thing I’ve always wanted to do most. If I never get to do anything else in my career with U.S.G.A., I’m happy.’’

He’s happy running golf tournaments. He’s in charge of everything inside the ropes at Pinehurst for the Women’s Open this week, and the Men’s Open last week.

He’s also been a rules official, this week, and at the Masters and British Open, the Players’ Championship and the World Amateur Team Championship, which will be played this summer in Japan. He was the referee walking along with the second-last group (Erik Compton and Henrik Stenson) in Sunday final round.

He expects to have the same gigs when the Women’s Open comes to Lancaster next year.

“Obviously I’m excited about a national championship coming to the place I live, and a club I’m a member of,’’ he said. “I think the course is one the ladies will love to play, and they’ll love the way the community embraces them.’’

The U.S.G.A. is on a bit of a roll. Since current executive director Mike Davis began running Opens and setting up their venues in 2005, the organization has won praise throughout golf for a more reasoned, less severely penal approach.

Recently, there was the supposed gamble of holding the Men’s Open at Merion, in Ardmore, a supposed antiquated venue. That one worked, by all accounts.

This year’s experiment, holding the Men’s and Women’s Opens back-to-back at Pinehurst, on a course essentially without rough, is arguably riskier.

“If you’d have asked us a year ago, we’d have been not just happy, but ecstatic, to have to work this well,’’ Burton said. “We like to reward great shots. (Martin Kaymer, who won the Men’s Open) hit a lot of them.’’

The U.S.G.A.’s hierarchy is not unlike that of, for example, the PIAA. There’s a full-time staff, headed since 2011 by Davis. There’s an executive committee (think PIAA Board of Directors), headed by the President, followed by a First and Second VP.

Tom O’Toole was named president last year, meaning Burton rose from Second to First VP, and to the competition committee chair. At a press conference the other day, Davis referred to Burton as “the next president,’’ presumably for a two-year term that would begin in 2016.

He is a good player, although better before the U.S.G.A. began devouring his time. He won the Pennsylvania Golf Association Mid-Amateur in 1994.

It was his handling of a couple controversial incidents in his quarterfinal and semifinal matches (“I wanted to win with my clubs, rather than other stuff,’’ he said) at the Mid-Am that brought him to the attention of golf administrators. He started with the state association in ‘95, moved to the Golf Association of Philadelphia in ‘97, and to the U.S.G.A. in 2009.

His “real’’ job, as Managing Director of RBC Capital Markets, allows for the massive time commitment. When the Women’s Open ends Sunday, he’ll head to Washington, where he and Davis will walk Chambers Bay, the 2016 Men’s Open site.

Then he’ll be home for a few days before heading to the Senior Open at Oak Tree in Oklahoma, followed by the British Open, at Royal Liverpool in England.

Playing golf is for the winter, in Florida.

“I can’t believe I get to do this,’’ Burton said. “There’s nothing I’d rather do in golf, other than maybe if I was a good enough player to win one of those championships.’’

12th green from the 12th tee. Photo Jeff Ruppenthal.

Lancaster Country Club: A much different challenge than Pinehurst

Posted: June 15, 2014 2:44 pm

PINEHURST, N.C. – After this, Lancaster Country Club figures to be easy for Ben Kimball.

Kimball’s title is tournament director for the United States Golf Association. His big annual event is the U.S. Women’s Open.

The job, starting today, is to prepare Pinehurst No. 2, one of the world’s toughest and most unique courses, for a Women’s Open right after the course has been used for the Men’s Open.

Starting Monday, his job, or at least a central part of it, will be to focus on Lancaster Country Club, which will host the Women’s Open July 9-12, 2015.

At Pinehurst, there’s more to it than just moving the tees up. The U.S.G.A. kept No. 2 “on the edge,’’ for the men last week, the course playing very hard and fast, straddling the line between “natural,’’ playing surfaces and plain old dead grass.

But the women don’t hit the ball as far because they don’t hit it as hard, and thus don’t spin it was much. They can’t control distance and make the ball stop, on something like linoleum, as well.

Kimball will have to pull No. 2 back a little. The line between providing a championship test for the women and embarrassing them could be vanishingly small.

It’s a post-graduate level course in golf-course prep.

By comparison, Lancaster, a year from now, figures to be a test for which he really, really knows the material.

“After we’re done here,’’ Kimball said Saturday, “we could probably take the flagsticks and tee markers out of the ground and take them straight to Lancaster and play the Women’s Open right away.’’

No. 2 will play anywhere from 6,341 to 6,649 yards for the women this week (par 70).

L.C.C. measures at 6,850 (par 70) from the championship tees, although the actual length the women will face a year from now is far from being determined and, perhaps, not that meaningful.

“The total yardage number doesn’t mean anything,’’ Kimball said. “It’s just there for you guys to write a story.’’

Kimball is a little concerned about the relative youth of L.C.C.’s greens, which were largely redone in 2011.

“The superintendent there (Todd Bidlespacher) does a great job,’’ Kimball said. “It’s just something to watch, not really something to worry about.’’

Bidlespacher and his crew have already begun overseeding the grass adjacent to L.C.C.’s fairways, at the U.S.G.A.’s direction, so that the rough can be thick and lush for the tournament.

Other than that, Kimball sees regular maintenance, and the avoidance of natural disasters, as the only golf-course concerns.

“It’s certainly a dynamite site,’’ he said. “It should show really well on TV. I think it’ll feel like what people think of as U.S. Open golf – a nice, easy stroll, but a test for every shot in the bag.’’

Top 10 list: Names to know for the 2015 Women’s Open

Posted: June 14, 2014 1:54 pm

PINEHURST, N.C. – Ten names to know in connection with the 2015 U.S. Women’s Open:

Dan Burton – USGA Vice-President and chair of its Championship Committee lives in Lititz and is a member at L.C.C. and Bent Creek (oh, and Pine Valley).

A potential future USGA president, Burton is among the more powerful people in golf, having been involved, for example, in last year’s decision to ban anchored putters starting in 2016.

Barry Deach – The Open’s Championship Director. Deach is not a U.S.G.A guy. He’s the guy organizations like the U.S.G.A. hire to run big events, with three U.S. Opens, five PGAs and two Ryder Cups on his resume.

Has already spent enough time in Lancaster to “have grown to appreciate it in a big way,’’ he said last week.

Jerry Hostetter – The General Chairman of the 2015 Open and, informally, its father. Hostetter was president of Lancaster Country Club when the deal was made, and was working to make it happen for years before that.

A Lancaster native and Lancaster Mennonite grad, Hostetter is president of Prestige Investment Group.

Michelle Wie – You probably recognize this one. Once believed to be the female Tiger Woods, Wie was playing in national amateur events, against men, while she was in junior high school.

Then she wobbled, struggled, recoiled against fame for a long while. The mid-to-late 2000s were a miasma of injuries, withdrawls and rules controversies.

Now she’s 24, a Stanford grad, an adult, and seemingly out the other side of a unique adolescence. Wie won her third LPGA title in April and is ranked 11th in the world. At least in America, she remains the game’s biggest female star.

William Flynn – Golf-course architect and Renaissance man who once owned a piece of the Philadelphia Eagles, Flynn designed three courses – Shinnecock Hills on Long Island, Cherry Hills in Denver, and The Country Club near Boston – that have hosted men’s U.S. Opens. He also, many contend, had a role in the design of Merion, last year’s men’s Open venue.

His first major project was on New Holland Ave. Flynn (1890-1944) originally routed L.C.C. in 1919. He tweaked it many times of the following 25 years, and the club did a renovation to the course, intending to honor Flynn’s original vision, in 2007.

Stacy Lewis – The 29 year-old Texan has overcome scoliosis and spinal fusion surgery to become the number one-ranked female golfer in the world.

Lewis won four times on the L.P.G.A. Tour in 2012 and became the tour’s first American player of the year since Beth Daniel in 1994.

Lewis won the 2013 Women’s British Open at St. Andrews, and rose to the top of the world rankings for a month. She regained the top spot with a win in the LPGA ShopRite Classic in New Jersey two weeks ago.

She has never finished higher than third in a U.S. Women’s Open.

Lexi Thompson – The apparent next big thing in women’s golf, or at least American women’s golf. Thompson played in her first U.S. Open, in 2007, at age 12. She turned pro at 15, won on the LPGA tour and Ladies European Tour at 16, and won the Kraft Nabisco, a major for the women, in April, at 19.

Thompson is a big (6-0), athletic, long-hitting kid with a chance to dominate. She is currently sixth in the world. By the time she gets to Lancaster …

Todd Bidelspacher – One of the many elements that fell into place leading to L.C.C. landing the Women’s Open was the hiring of Bidelspacher as superintendent. The dude can by all accounts manicure a firm, fast, championship layout. His work, in conjunction with the U.S.G.A., will have a lot to do with the version of L.C.C. faced by the women next July.

Rory Connaughton – A member of the executive committee, and L.C.C. member, a golf fanatic and a Lancaster attorney (Brubaker, Connaughton, Goss & Lucarelli), Connaughton is likely the most media savvy member of the executive committee. He designed the tournament logo that will appear on hats, shirts, etc.

The Honorary Chairman – Identity unknown, at least publicly, until revealed at a downtown public event July 5. The PR folks assure us he or she has Lancaster ties, and that we will be blown away. Stay tuned.