Chambers Bay gets 2022 U.S. Women’s Amateur. But much more is in play for course, county
The head of championships for golf’s governing body in America wants the U.S. Open to return to Chambers Bay.
Of course, he does. He’s from here.
The United States Golf Association’s senior managing director for championships is John Bodenhamer. He is from Lakes High School, class of 1979. His alma mater is five miles south of Chambers Bay, Pierce County’s jewel course in University Place.
Bodenhamer was part of the committee that in 2005 picked Robert Trent Jones Jr. to make Chambers Bay. Jones turned a former rock quarry, paper mill, lumber and railroad center, sand and gravel mine and wastewater treatment plant into the stunning, municipal links course next to Puget Sound within a county park.
Chambers Bay opened before Bodenhamer’s eyes in 2007. He was then the executive director of the Pacific Northwest Golf Association and the Washington State Golf Association. In 2011, the USGA came to get him with a job he felt he couldn’t turn down.
He’s been drawn back home to Chambers Bay regularly in the last decade since leaving for the USGA’s headquarters in suburban New Jersey.
“I’m biased,” Bodenhamer said Monday from the hilltop, clubhouse deck that overlooks the sprawling Chambers Bay course. “I’d like to see the U.S. Women’s Open here. I’d like to see the U.S. Open come back here.
“But it’s a process. It’s a highly competitive process.”
That process has taken two more large steps in Chambers Bay’s favor in the past week.
The USGA has made its return to Chambers for the first time since the 2015 U.S. Open was almost a total success in Pierce County. Tuesday, golfers completed the round of 16 and quarterfinals of the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship. The semifinals and finals of match play for the 2021 Four-Ball title are Wednesday.
Four-Ball competitors and USGA personnel—including Bodenhamer, who has been at the course since Saturday, and many others times in recent years—have been raving about Chambers Bay’s remade poa annua greens. Chambers replaced the (not-so) fine fescue that failed at the 2015 U.S. Open when the native poa encroached and made the unwanted, combination putting surfaces bumpy messes.
“The greens are sweet!” Frankie Capan said, as the Florida Gulf Coast University golfer and 2017 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball champion walked off the 18th hole after a practice round last weekend.
Capan and his playing partner Shuai Ming Wong must truly like the greens. They were playing Tuesday in the round of 16, and were 2 up through 10 holes.
The USGA obviously likes Chambers’ new greens, too.
Monday, Bodenhamer and the USGA announced Chambers Bay’s next step back toward re-hosting the U.S. Open. Chambers will host next year’s U.S. Women’s Amateur championship, Aug. 8-14, 2022.
Friday, Pierce County executive counsel Don Anderson told The News Tribune the county’s and Chambers Bay’s intent is to land the U.S. Women’s Open.
Anderson said the county and course intend to use the success from this week’s Four-Ball Championship and next summer’s Women’s Amateur — with the national-television exposure it will bring from Golf Channel’s broadcasts for a week from Chambers Bay in August 2022 — to get a U.S. Women’s Open.
The USGA has not decided on the site for the most important championship in U.S. professional women’s golf for 2026 or ‘27.
Jones, Chambers Bay’s architect, was standing near Bodenhamer on Monday as the USGA executive praised Pierce County’s course, the county’s willingness to invest in remaking the course’s greens and the message in bringing the U.S. Women’s Amateur to them.
“He and the USGA are trying to elevate the women’s game,” Jones said, obviously believing bringing a U.S. Women’s Open to Chambers Bay would continue doing that.
Bodenhamer said he thinks of the U.S. Women’s Open and the U.S. Open together now, including how the USGA selects sites for them and conducts them each year. He said the USGA has shifted its thinking in recent years on why it awards U.S. Women’s Opens and U.S. Opens to courses and regions.
A huge factor has become where the competitors want the Opens to be.
“Where golfers win major championships is really important to them,” Bodenhamer said.
“We listen to that.”
THE LONG PLAYS
Anderson said Chambers Bay and Pierce County have longer plays in mind beyond the Women’s Amateur: parlaying hosting the U.S. Women’s Open into bringing the U.S. Open back to Chambers, and getting Chambers Bay into the USGA’s rotation of U.S. Open sites.
“The Four-Ball is a continuation with our positive partnership with the USGA,” Anderson said.
The county’s point man with the USGA’s top decision-makers was at Bodenhamer’s announcement of the Women’s Amateur at Chambers Bay Monday. He said just as the Four-Ball has been a step to getting the Women’s Amateur, he and the county believe the Women’s Amateur can and will be the step to getting a U.S. Women’s Open to Pierce County.
And, Anderson said: “We hope to segue that into hosting the U.S. Open again.”
It won’t be before at least 2028.
The USGA already has the men’s U.S. Open booked out through 2027, at: Torrey Pines, San Diego, next month; The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts (2022); the upstart Los Angeles Country Club (2023); Pinehurst in North Carolina (2024); Oakmont, Pennsylvania (2025); Shinnecock Hills, New York (2026); and Pebble Beach, California (2027).
“Listen,” Bodenhamer said from the Chambers Bay clubhouse deck, “just the fact we are bringing the U.S. Women’s Amateur here is a very important step.
“It shows how much we think of Chambers Bay. It will showcase Chambers Bay to a national-television audience.”
Potentially, what could this all mean to the county, the state and the region?
More than $134 million.
A financial analysis the USGA commissioned in 2017 said the 2015 U.S. Open generated $134 million for the county. That estimate included $16.8 million in tax revenues — $10 million for the state and $6.8 million among Pierce, Thurston, King and Kitsap counties.
Now here comes the Women’s Amateur, with 156 competitors and their friends, families, caddies and more staying and eating and living in Pierce County for a week next summer. The county intends the U.S. Women’s Open would add huge, additional economic impacts before another U.S. Open would add onto those.
No wonder Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier was with Bodenhamer and Anderson at Chambers Bay Monday for the announcement the Women’s Amateur is coming.
“We just got awarded our fourth USGA open championship,” Dammeier said, noting the 2010 U.S. Amateur was at then-3-year-old Chambers.
“We are really excited about the best women’s amateur players coming here next summer. I think women’s golf is really taking off. I think our region is going to be really instrumental in it taking off.”
Pierce County is touting to the USGA the fact the area from Federal Way to Lakewood (where Anderson is mayor) is home to one of the America’s largest Korean populations. Six of the world’s top eight ranked women golfers are Korean, or in the case of No. 6 Danielle Kang, Korean-American.
County executives also intend to pitch to the USGA for the U.S. Women’s Open that four airlines, including Korean Air, regularly operate nonstop flights from Seoul, South Korea, to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
MORE IN CHAMBERS’ FAVOR
The USGA prides itself on being inclusive.
Bodenhamer said Monday what’s great about the USGA in particular is its open championships. Players from anywhere in the U.S., of any experience level and background, have the opportunity to qualify at regional tournaments to get into the field for U.S. championships.
This year, 1,600 women were in qualifiers for most of the 156 spots in this year’s U.S. Women’s Open. It will be played at The Olympic Club in San Francisco next week.
Bodenham said USGA’s open championships are truly open, to all, “no matter what clothes you have on your back, what address you have, what clubs you use. ...
“It’s the ultimate meritocracy.”
In that regard, Chambers Bay is also attractive to the USGA—now that it’s fixed its greens.
Chambers will be the first municipal course to host a U.S. Women’s Amateur. Only three public courses have: Pebble Beach in California and Pinehurst in North Carolina.
Pebble Beach and Pinehurst are privately owned but open to the public to play.
Pierce County owns Chambers Bay. KemperSports and its regional vice president Matt Allen run it for the county.
On Monday during the round-of-32 match play at the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball, course marshals played traffic cops along the paved, public-use walking and jogging trail. They quietly held up hands to pause parents pushing strollers and a skateboarder from passing under tee shots going off above them from the 18th tee.
A train roared by on the tracks adjoining the 16th tee just as David Ford was about to address his ball. The 18-year-old from Georgia turned away from the tee box. He playfully pulled his arm down in the universal signal for the train engineer to blow his horn.
Ford and his playing partner Kelly Chinn rallied on the 17th and then the first sudden-death playoff hole to advance to Tuesday. Ford said the “comic relief” of the train passing was a large factor, resetting and relaxing his mind for the finish.
“You see the walkers, the joggers, the dog-walkers. You feel the community—not just the golfers by the entire community,” the USGA’s Bodenhamer said.
“It’s really a special place. And all of us at the USGA are proud of it. ...
“And it really is a statement for us to bring the U.S. Women’s Amateur here.”