PINEHURST Theres the uncertainty of the weather in the Sandhills in June. Theres the demands placed on a championship golf course by hosting back-to-back major tournaments on it. And theres even the matter of finding a parking lot for traffic from the north the one used in 2005 is now a golf course itself, fittingly enough.
The list of challenges facing Pinehurst Resort and the USGA as it prepares to host the U.S. Open and the Womens Open in back-to-back weeks in 2014 is long and significant. The biggest variable of all may be the most human.
Despite being a multimillion-dollar undertaking, a U.S. Open is built on volunteers who pay about $165 for their uniform and work a minimum of four days in return for entry into the grounds marshalling crowds, manning merchandise tents and filling countless other roles. The same group of volunteers from Minnesota has worked the U.S. Open media tent for decades.
Finding enough not just for one major golf tournament but two in a two-week period may be the toughest hurdle to clear as the USGA and Pinehurst attempt to pull off this unprecedented double on Pinehursts No. 2 course, now a mere two years away.
One of the biggest concerns we had looking at the two-week concept was whether we could pull together the volunteer leadership, said Reg Jones, the USGAs senior director of U.S. Opens. Were not sure we could do this anywhere else, more than anything because of the volunteers.
Jones, who worked at Pinehurst before joining the USGA, is inherently biased, but hes not wrong about the degree of support: Not only the Sandhills but the entire state has embraced the previous USGA championships here.
Ron Crow, known around Pinehurst as Mr. Volunteer, has rallied the troops time and time again for two mens opens, two womens opens and a U.S. Amateur, not to mention Pinehursts annual North & South Amateur. Many come from within an hour of Pinehurst, retirees and working people alike, while others commute from the Triangle, Charlotte and the Triad.
More than 5,400 volunteers worked the mens open in 2005, while 2,700 worked the womens open in 2007.
You can see the vast number that we have, said Crow, who in 2014 will serve as one of five vice-chairmen. In 2014, having never, ever (experienced) back-to-back opens, how do you go about it, how do you plan for it?
The USGA will need more than 7,000 volunteers over the two-week period in 2014, and the USGA is offering applicants the opportunity to work a few days of each tournament in hopes of spreading that support as widely as possible.
Applications were sent to Pinehurst and USGA members earlier this month, and became available to the general public Monday. As Crow solicited volunteers for next months North & South, many of them couldnt help asking about 2014 as well.
Even though its called work and you do work hard in many categories as a volunteer, you love it at the same time, Crow said. I certainly do, or I wouldnt be doing it. Its a lot of long hours, but I feel like Im giving a little something back to the community and in this case the state. You get watch some great golf as well.
Theres one area where there wont be any shortage of volunteers. As part of the reworking of the No. 2 course, much of the rough was torn out and replaced by sandy expanses of scrub brush. Some of that vegetation was intentionally planted. Some of it was not.
A few native plants kind of volunteered themselves, Pinehurst CEO and owner Bob Dedman Jr. said, hoping enough humans share the same spirit.