Mid-Columbia well represented at Seattle Golf Show

February 13, 2012 

SEATTLE — A trip Friday to the Seattle Golf Show, these days billed as the Seattle Golf and Travel Show, featured many familiar faces and signs for Mid-Columbia golfers.

And while the addition of the RV displays — a large piece of "travel" part of the show — pushed much of the golf exhibits well into the bowels of the CenturyLink Field Event Center, the combination of gray skies and RVers probably helped with Day 1 attendance.

Admission was $14 for adult, and the addition of the RV component, which was not part of the show when I last attended several years ago, also made parking ($11) in the CLink garage a rather time-consuming adventure.

But it was nice to Mid-Columbia golf courses represented among the list of exhibitors, which Apple Tree, Canyon Lakes, Crescent Bar Resort, Desert Aire Moses Pointe, Wine Valley, the Tri-Cities Visitor and Convention Bureau and CourseCo Inc., which manages Columbia Point, Columbia Park and Sun Willows among its 20 West Coast properties.

Understandably, the club demo stations and hitting nets seemed to be the most popular feature. To me, it seemed like being in a batting cage. Indeed, one of the beauties of living in the Tri-Cities is being able to hit outdoors much of the year, whether it be off grass of artificial turf.

Last week, Canyon Lakes mowed its greens and the practice tee — with 18,000 new range balls courtesy of Dave Retter and Windermere Real Estate/Tri-Cities — transitioned to hitting off all grass.

A prime reason for me to attend the golf show was the annual season-opening meeting for the Northwest Golf Media Association, which produced a number of interesting tidbits.

Larry Gilhuly, director of the Northwest region of the USGA, provided an update on work at Chambers Bay in preparation for the 2015 U.S. Open.

The Tacoma-area links course will be only the third public course ever used for the national championship, following Bethpage Black in New York (2002, 2009) and Torrey Pines near San Diego (2008).

Nearly every hole at Chambers Bay will be altered during its 18-month reconstruction, but Gilhuly said the changes wouldn’t be as extreme as the redesign work performed at Bethpage Black or Torrey Pines under the direction of the USGA.

Galleries at Chambers Bay are projected to be about 45,000 to 50,000 per day, he said. By comparison, Bethpage Black galleries handled about 55,000 per day, while the USGA reportedly plans to limit sales to 35,000 a day for the 2012 U.S. Open at San Francisco’s intimate Olympic Club.

Gilhuly said there are plans to install British Open-type grandstands at Chambers Bay for the U.S. Open. The stands would seat as many as 25,000 patrons, which would make it the largest-ever for a USGA event, he said.

There also are discussions to provide boat traffic and create a train stop at Chambers Bay for the tournament, and the USGA would appoint a full-time staffer to oversee the course preparation starting the third quarter of 2012, Gilhuly said.

Speed of the greens for the 2015 championship would be 11 to 11½ on the Stimpmeter. “That’s as far as we can go,” Gilhuly said.

And as far as constructing a new clubhouse at Chambers Bay, that topic would be addressed by Pierce County after the tournament.

“The USGA doesn’t care,” Gilhuly said.

Adding to the buzz at the Seattle Golf Show was 710 ESPN Seattle doing its live broadcast from a tent at the entrance to the show. On Friday afternoon, that meant ‘The Kevin Calabro Show with co-host Jim Moore, a loyal Coug and fellow member of the Northwest Golf Media Association.

On my drive from Seattle, I heard Calabro shank one during their interview with ESPN analyst Barry Melrose on the potential of NHL hockey in Seattle.

Calabro asked Melrose — former coach of the Seattle Thunderbirds — if he’d ever been to Seattle. In fact, they both worked at Seattle Center, albeit on opposite corners, during Melrose’s one season with the T-birds (1988-89). Calabro began broadcasting Sonics games in 1987.

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