Pinehurst and Southern Pines resorts will seek more major golf tournaments

06/14/2014 7:00 PM

06/15/2014 9:56 AM

There’s still another week of championship golf left at Pinehurst, with the U.S. Open concluding Sunday – if all goes well – before the U.S. Women’s Open takes over the No. 2 course. But it’s not too early to start thinking about the future.

After hosting the U.S. Open three times in 15 years, Pinehurst Resort and Country Club is open to another, which could happen no earlier than 2022. And nearby Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club in Southern Pines, a three-time site of the Women’s Open left out of this inaugural back-to-back format, remains interested in bringing that event back.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Golf Association announced Pinehurst would host the 2017 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball, a new team event, but outgoing resort President Don Padgett II said the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Open remain Pinehurst’s priority.

“Do they intend on coming back here, and are they going to be back here? One hundred percent,” Padgett said. “Do we know exactly which year? No. But they’re coming back, and we’ll probably host an Amateur before we host an Open.”

The USGA has announced U.S. Open sites through 2021, including regulars such as Oakmont, Shinnecock Hills, Pebble Beach and Torrey Pines.

The USGA’s 15-member executive committee selects Open venues from among numerous invitations submitted by would-be hosts, with the quality of the golf course the primary criteria and financial considerations close behind. Pinehurst’s first two Opens proved lucrative, making it an attractive partner for the USGA.

As a matter of practice, the USGA does not discuss the bidding process, but USGA President Thomas O’Toole said a decision and announcement on 2022 and beyond could reasonably be expected within the next year.

“It’s an ongoing process,” O’Toole said. “We’re in the middle of it.”

Staying relevant

It is a process, however, that will gain steam when these back-to-back Opens are complete, and one in which Pinehurst is certain to be involved.

“What we love about these championships is it allows us to start putting more color photos in our hallways that are full of black-and-white photos,” said Tom Pashley, Pinehurst Resort’s executive vice president. “We’ve got a great history and tradition that we love to celebrate, but we have to earn our relevance with each generation of golfers. Staying in a regular role of hosting national championships, USGA championships, keeps us relevant.”

Pinehurst hosted the U.S. Open for the first time in 1999, and Payne Stewart’s dramatic victory was such an unqualified success that the tournament returned only six years later. This time, the USGA chose Pinehurst for its groundbreaking experiment of hosting both the men and the women on the same course in consecutive weeks.

That meant Pine Needles, which hosted the Women’s Open in 1996, 2001 and 2007, was cut out of the process, but the resort hopes to get back on the list again soon. Resort President Kelly Miller said conversations with the USGA about returning to Pine Needles have taken place on an informal basis. Sites for that tournament are set through 2018.

The men’s Open is scheduled to conclude Sunday, and the women will begin play Thursday.

Raleigh’s Jim Hyler, a former USGA president who played a key role in bringing this year’s dual opens to Pinehurst, said in April that the idea originally came from former executive director David Fay.

“There was a lot of talk about the men and women’s U.S. Open and what a great event it was, having the men and women on the same stage,” Hyler said. “We said, ‘Is there any way we could showcase the women on the same stage as the men?’ ”

The only announcement this week was the 2017 Amateur Four-Ball, to be played on Pinehurst’s No. 2 and No. 4 courses. If there’s anything to be read into that announcement, the first two venues to host that event – the Olympic Club in 2015 and Winged Foot in 2016 – are both frequent U.S. Open hosts.

Winged Foot will host the U.S. Open for the sixth time in 2020, while Olympic hosted the Open in 2012, its fifth, and like Pinehurst will be under consideration in 2022 and beyond. (Like Pinehurst, both also have at least two championship-caliber courses, a prerequisite for the tournament.)

“We’ve said it many times: We just cannot simply conduct these championships without a committed and dedicated partner,” O’Toole said. “We’ve enjoyed that partnership with Pinehurst and the Dedman family, since 1999, and we look forward to going well into the future.”

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