With the recent unveiling of Pebble Beach Resort’s new Visitor’s Center, the intention was not only to share the resort’s storied 100-year history to today’s golfers and visitors but also to showcase it to those attending this June’s U.S. Open Golf Championship. The approximately $10-million facility’s ribbon cutting also symbolized the formal kick-off of the resort’s 2019 Centennial Celebration.
“The year 2019 is a special one for our company with the Open and the Centennial and it’s also the 20th anniversary of our current ownership group,” said CEO Bill Perocchi, before the crowd of approximately 200 that included guests and officials from the United States Golf Association, Pebble Beach Resorts and cities across the Peninsula.
But the new 8,000-square-foot Visitor Center located across from the Pebble Beach Lodge that features 25 exhibits, many ceiling to wall displays highlighting iconic scenes from the resort’s history, was really just an introduction to the resort’s preparations.
As the 119th U.S. Open Championship draws closer to the June 10-16 event, a renovation that has been taking place for the last 20 years on all 454 of resort’s rooms and the new Fairway One complex is complete. The renovation of four of the course’s greens has also taken place. More recently, leading up to the actual Open, fairways are in the process of being narrowed.
It’s the sixth U.S. Open to be held at Pebble Beach, and it is that much more special because of the 100th year anniversary of the course.
Pebble Beach Co. President David Stivers emphasized how much larger the U.S. Open is in scope to the annual AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, with over 220,000 spectators expected for the week and roughly 40,000 a day on one golf course.
In reality, Perocchi noted all of the planning and preparation for the upcoming Open began long ago.
“We started planning for this event the day after (the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble) was over,” he said, noting that executive RJ Harper, who was instrumental in golf operations at Pebble Beach before dying in 2017, would be the 2019 U.S. Open’s honorary chairman.
Now, with approximately four and a half months to go, Stivers points out the resort’s recent and current undertakings, which include the building of venue infrastructure and sales and marketing efforts.
“They’re subtle improvements,” said Stivers, noting that last November, the process to make the course’s fairways approximately 30 percent narrower also began. Archival photographs were used to gather information about what the course looked like back in the 1920s and ’30s while state-of-the-art techniques were also used to refine the course to specifications of the USGA, which oversees the tournament.
Stivers said the USGA wants to bring the ocean into play more, so there will be very little rough along the cliff’s edge.
“For this golf course, it’s a tough challenge already – the average green is 3,500 square feet – some of the smallest greens they’re going to play in a given year so there’s really not a whole lot more we can do for the world’s best players,” said Eric Steimer, senior manager of U.S. Open Championships.
Steimer is part of “the boots on the ground” team of five who have worked with Pebble Beach on what will go on “outside the rope lines.” That includes working with law enforcement and other agencies to try to control the impact of the event on local residents.
Needed infrastructure build-out (tents and grandstands) will start in March at the Peter Hay Golf Course and then be transported to Pebble Beach Golf Links for the event – what Steimer said is a seven-day build-out process to get the vendors on site.
“In earnest, it all begins three months before the Championship,” he said.
Stivers said the number of grandstands will basically be the same as in 2010.
Parking will once again be at CSU Monterey Bay on the site of the former Fort Ord property with visitors bused in while the cities of Monterey, Pacific Grove and Carmel are expected to offer their own shuttle services. The U.S. Open is expected to fill up most hotels in the community.
June’s U.S. Open corporate hospitality presence will be different than in 2010.
The Trophy Club, a main vendor that’s associated with an upgraded ticket featuring an air-conditioned sports bar-like setting and indoor/outdoor patio will be located between the second and third fairways, a short walk from the 17th and 18th holes. In 2010, it was located on the Peter Hay Golf Course, which company officials determined was too far away from the golfing action.
More venues have been added because of the greater interest from businesses. In 2010, many were suffering from the recession.
Stivers explained that in these final days leading up to the event the emphasis is on sales and the different ticket packages available at usga.org. Steimer, in particular, noted the Centennial Club, an all-inclusive ticket providing fans access to the championship grounds and the Lodge at Pebble Beach in celebration of the resort’s 100th anniversary.
While Stivers recognized the dedicated team of about eight employees spending 100 percent of their time just on U.S. Open preparations, he also noted the 750 temporary employees hired on for the Open week and the 5,500 volunteers who do everything from managing concessions to helping in retail endeavors and directing traffic. Currently, there’s a volunteer waiting list.
“Both for the AT&T and U.S. Open, those events couldn’t be put on without the generous support of all the volunteers,” said Stivers, noting that many travel from all around the country to participate. “It’s a critical part,” he said looking back to prior championship tournaments. There have been 78 USGA Championships at Pebble Beach, with more on the horizon. Scheduled in 2023 is the U.S. Women’s Open Championship and in 2027, another U.S. Open Championship.
Pebble Beach had hosted the tournament in 2010, 2000, 1992, 1982 and 1972.
Graeme McDowell shot even par to win the U.S. Open the last time it was in Pebble Beach in 2010. Brooks Koepka won the 2018 U.S Open at Shinnecock Hills on Long Island shooting 1-over par.
Steimer predicts this year’s U.S. Open winner — Koepka is going for his third straight title — will be a player with the mental and physical resolve to not get lost in Pebble Beach’s picturesque setting, which often presents its share of weather-related elements. In 2000, the tournament dealt with fog delays.
He also noted that historically the Open has infused over $120 million into the regional economy.
“Right now, we’re forecasting with the Pebble Beach model close to $170 million in economic impact,” said Steimer. “For us, that’s pretty significant.”
Besides that, both Pebble Beach and USGA management intend for the event to be extra memorable in light of the iconic course’s Centennial landmark.
“People coming to the Championship – they’re going to know its Pebble Beach’s birthday,” said Steimer, noting that those marketing efforts are in the works now and that it was in 2000 that Pebble Beach, in turn, helped the USGA hold their 100th U.S. Open Championship.
“To be able to tell that story and the history of Pebble Beach is what it means to reciprocate,” he said.