It’s not too early to start thinking about the US Senior Open next June.
Hank Thompson knows it. The event’s senior director on behalf of the USGA is already deep in conversation regarding planning and execution at Newport Country Club. The 2023 version is a month from teeing off at SentryWorld in Wisconsin, but the sport’s national governing body already has one eye on 2024.
“We’ve got to build concessions, merchandise pavilions, a catering compound,” Thompson said by phone this week. “Our network partners from NBC and Universal will be coming in, so building and getting prepared for a broadcast compound. Volunteer facilities, volunteer hospitality — that’s another element.”
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That’s all physical work. There are logistics to coordinate as well — transportation to and from the golf course, hotel reservations, corporate and gallery ticket sales. Thompson said hospitality packages are already starting to move. General public admissions could appear online as early as next month.
“You can get as creative as you want, whether it’s interior decor of your facility or menus and catering,” Thompson said. “The one unique thing is the Newport clubhouse, as iconic as it is — we still have one package available in that clubhouse.”
Most of the planning was set nearly three years ago, but for an unfortunate reason — the 2020 edition of the tournament scheduled for Newport was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thompson said any major projects on the golf course were largely completed ahead of what was supposed to be the fifth USGA event at the venue. Newport is a founding member of the organization, hosting the US Open and US Amateur in 1895.
“I think they did some leveling of the teeing grounds,” Thompson said. “They might have added a tee here or there. But it’s kind of the way the golf course has been for the last few decades.”
USGA director Ben Kimball and Newport superintendent Chris Coen will be tasked with setting up the course for the 156-player field. There is no irrigation system — conditions will largely depend on the spring weather. Wet months in April and May could result in thick rough — a dry buildup would leave the course resembling the hard and fast layout that greeted Tiger Woods and others for the 1995 US Amateur.
“I would have to believe that 99% of the 156 players who will be in the field will be incredibly excited about playing here,” Thompson said. “They haven’t played here, and if they have, they haven’t played in a competitive round.”
Thompson consulted with two particular players last month who had some insight on the venue — Billy Andrade, a native of Rhode Island, and Brett Quigley, who graduated from Barrington High School. They are among the potential candidates to reach the event through local qualifying or by their place on the points list with the PGA Tour Champions.
“Clearly, those guys are very excited about that — being able to come home and play in their neighborhood, their backyard,” Thompson said. “There are a number of other great players from this area. Ultimately, if they aren’t exempt, they’re certainly going to try their hardest to be in the field through qualifying.”
This will be the 10th USGA event in the state — the last was the 2011 US Women’s Amateur at Rhode Island Country Club. Danielle Kang defeated Moriya Jutanugarn in a final match between two future LPGA professionals. One of that tour’s all-time greats captured the US Women’s Open at Newport five years earlier, as Annika Sorenstam defeated Pat Hurst in a Monday playoff to take home the last of her 10 major championships.
“We’ve got to be really good to start our week so people say, ‘Hey, they know what they’re doing with parking and transportation,'” Thompson said. “‘We can do exactly what they said. We don’ t have to take parking and transportation into our own hands.
“There’s a lot that goes on.”
On Twitter: @BillKoch25
This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: The US Senior Open, canceled by COVID in 2020, is coming to RI