Credit Gov. Pat McCrory for making the first pressure putt of U.S. Open week.
Challenged to a putting contest after a Monday news conference to kick off two weeks of U.S. Open championship play, McCrory was given three chances to make a 12-foot putt. He missed on the first two but drained the third, raising his putter in victory as it fell.
Before taking to the putting green at Tufts Park, McCrory praised the unprecedented back-to-back Opens at Pinehurst No. 2, – first the Men’s Open, then the U.S Women’s – and called it a huge opportunity for North Carolina. The estimated economic impact to the state, he said, would be $169 million.
“In the next two weeks, the entire golfing world will have its eyes focused on Pinehurst and our state as the state’s crown jewel of … golf’s biggest events – the men’s and women’s U.S. Open,” McCrory said. “Not only will these two events put North Carolina on the world stage, it will have a tremendous economic impact on the region and across the state.”
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He said the U.S. Golf Association estimated more than 400,000 people will attend the two Opens, with peak days drawing 50,000 to the course.
Joining McCrory were Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker; Cultural Resources Secretary Susan Kluttz; Transportation Secretary Tony Tata; Greg Baker, Commissioner of Law Enforcement for the Department of Public Safety; and John Skvarla, Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary.
Baker, noting “Game Day” had come, said the DPS would have 250 employees assigned to the Opens and would work with more than 60 SBI agents and local law enforcement personnel. Baker said N.C. Emergency Management and Moore County Emergency Management also had been consulted in the planning for “a lot of heat, potentially some medical issues out on the course.”
“What we want is people visiting this venue and the only thing they remember is the competition, not the security,” Baker said.
Tata said recent road and bridge improvements in the area, and an expansion of the Moore County Airport should help in getting people in and out of the Pinehurst area. At the airport, the runway was extended 6,500 feet, he said, and an additional 28,000 square yards of ramp space will help accommodate the 2,000 to 4,000 planes expected to use the airport in the two-week period.
The playing of the Opens, Decker said, would be used to “tell the North Carolina brand story” and better market North Carolina to businesses, with the goal of enticing some to move to the state.
Before his remarks, McCrory offered condolences for former state Sen. Harris Blake, a Pinehurst business owner and Korean War veteran who died Monday at 84. Blake, a Republican, served five terms in the senate.
“He was a huge supporter of this event,” McCrory said. “It’s just shocking news. His heart was here, at Pinehurst.”