The Stars Have Aligned
Pumpkin Ridge and Bandon Dunes host two top USGA women’s golf events
By Jim Pasero

It’s been awfully hard to earn a spot on the United States Golf Association (USGA) stage with Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club, the course that was host to Tiger Wood’s third consecutive U.S. Amateur in 1996 and two thrilling U.S. Women’s Opens in ’97 and ’03. But this summer Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club has a new USGA partner—Bandon Dunes Golf Resort. It seems that Mike Keiser, creator and owner of Bandon Dunes, has been sharing the same USGA vision for Oregon as Gay Davis, one of Pumpkin Ridge’s founders. This year that double vision will pay off for Oregon with consecutive USGA events.

The first, the Curtis Cup, will be held at Bandon Dunes on July 29-30. This international competition matches America’s top women amateurs against competitors from the United Kingdom. The two-day team play format consists of morning foursome matches (alternate shot) and afternoon singles matches. What’s most exciting for Bandon Dunes is that the event will be televised on The Golf Channel. It will be the world’s first look at Bandon Dunes as host of an international competition, which is amazing since three of its courses are ranked in the world’s top 50 by Golf Magazine. “No other resort in the world can match that,” says Matt Allen, Bandon Dunes’ assistant general manager.

Two weeks later, August 7-13, many of these same competitors will travel 250 miles north to compete at the U.S. Women’s Amateur at Pumpkin Ridge in North Plains, Ore.

The last USGA event held at Pumpkin Ridge, the 2003 U.S. Women’s Open, is best remembered as the Open where Annika Sorenstam hit her second shot on the Par 5 18th hole into a portable toilet and missed the playoff by one shot. Tege Sauer, marketing director at Pumpkin Ridge, recalls, “That day on the radio I heard someone ask what had happened. The response was, ‘Well, basically, the best player in the world just hit the ball on the crapper.’” The playoff was eventually won by Hillary Lunke.

Six years earlier, Pumpkin Ridge was host to another thrilling U.S. Women’s Open, where America’s favorite, Nancy Lopez, lost out by a single shot to England’s Alison Nicholas.

For Davis, the strategy to bring USGA events to Portland was the reason he built Pumpkin Ridge 14 years ago. His strategy has been an understated “big” success—five championships in 10 years. “We didn’t have a course in the state that could hold big events. Our goal was to build the best golf course in the Northwest,” says Davis.

The setting, the course layout and the mild Oregon climate have been a big part of the success, says Scott Humphrey, Pumpkin Ridge’s general manager and director of golf. “The course (Witch Hollow) requires a lot of shot making capability. It doesn’t look that foreboding, but it can be as challenging as you want,” he says. “It’s exciting to have the USGA think enough of us to come back.”

Davis’ goal for Pumpkin Ridge remains constant—to host all 13 USGA events. But for Davis and Pumpkin Ridge, the big one remains elusive—the U.S. Open, the men’s national championship, which was held last month at Winged Foot Golf Club in New York. While hosting the U.S. Open remains a possibility, PGA officials recently toured Pumpkin Ridge and began discussions about the possibility of them hosting the 2014 PGA Championship.

The only men’s major championship ever held in Oregon was the 1946 PGA at Portland Golf Club. It was followed the next year by the 1947 Ryder Cup, again at Portland Golf Club. Some golf observers believe that the PGA might be a better fit for Oregon than the U.S. Open because June’s weather can be inconsistent in Portland, while in August, when the PGA is played, the whether is ideal in the Northwest but can be hot and humid in many parts of the East.

Gay Davis’ strategy for USGA events was not lost on Bandon Dunes. “When we wrote to the USGA in March of 2000 asking to host the Curtis Cup and the Walker Cup,” says Allen, “Bandon Dunes wasn’t a year old. At that point it was about exposure.”

Today exposure is not a problem for Bandon Dunes. Paul Rogers, senior editor for Travel & Leisure Golf magazine, recently said for those thinking about a golf vacation, “Bandon Dunes are the first words on everybody’s lips.”

While Bandon may have all the attention it needs, what it doesn’t have yet is a reputation for holding USGA events. Why are USGA events important? “There is a purity to the whole concept of amateur golf that matches Bandon Dunes,” says Allen.

Almost immediately after its opening, Bandon began demonstrating this commitment to amateur golf by hosting regional amateur events, such as the 2001 Pacific Northwest Golf Association Amateur, the 2002 Oregon Amateur and the 2005 Pacific Coast Amateur.

Part of the challenge for Bandon Dunes to host USGA events is the remote location. The resort tops out at a little more than 300 beds, and the USGA has reserved more than 70 percent of the resort for the Curtis Cup’s entourage. The Curtis Cup will be played on the Pacific Dunes course while the Bandon Dunes and Bandon Trails courses will be open for public play. Some of those coming to Bandon that week may have to look to nearby Coos Bay for accommodations. Allen suggests that part of the Curtis Cup gallery will consist of resort guests who will play in the morning and spectate in the afternoon.

Pumpkin Ridge has made it as easy as possible to come out and mingle with the players. The U.S. Women’s Amateur is free for spectators to come out and watch, and only the greens and tees will be roped off. “You can walk along with the players and get in their back pockets,” says Humphrey. “It’s a perfect opportunity to see how they choose clubs and shots.”

Even more exciting is the international audience the courses are gaining this summer. Allen is thrilled to have Bandon Dunes and the event televised on The Golf Channel. “We will be on for two hours on Saturday and Sunday,” says Allen. “It’s the first time for us on television, and it will help us draw a more international market.” To see Oregon’s Bandon Dunes hosting an international competition in late July on international TV is beyond picture perfect.

Television coverage is a big win for Pumpkin Ridge as well. With five days of live match play during East coast primetime, Pumpkin Ridge stands to gain a lot of exposure. “It’s our chance to showcase our state,” notes Sauer.

Oregon native and president of The Golf Channel, Dave Manougian, has designated August as “Oregon Month on The Golf Channel” due to network’s multiple stops in Oregon. He expects the results will be tremendous.

“We saw the perfect storm happening in Oregon this summer,” says Manougian. “When the Jeld-Wen Tradition was added to Oregon’s summer calendar along with the Safeway Classic, we knew that at some point, with all of the USGA’s interest in Oregon, that there would be three events in Oregon. This summer a collision happens. With the Curtis Cup and U.S. Woman’s Amateur, you now have four events in Oregon. I can’t point to a state where all the stars have aligned like this.”

And which stars is everyone referring to? The amazing women amateurs? Oregon’s crown jewel golf courses—Pumpkin Ridge and Bandon Dunes? Or the tournaments themselves? Maybe all three.

But this summer star amateur players, such as University of Washington standout, Yakima native and Curtis Cup member Paige Mackenzie will take a “swing” through Oregon. And she’ll include a stop at the Safeway Open on August 4. Mackenzie hopes to earn the exemption bestowed on the winner of that tournament into the Safeway Classic, which occurs just one week after the Women’s Am.

But before she and other amateur players think about turning professional or following in the footsteps of Michelle Wie and Paula Creamer, they will have to take their best shot at bookend USGA Oregon events—the Curtis Cup at Bandon Dunes and two weeks later the U.S. Women’s Amateur at Pumpkin Ridge.

BrainstormNW - July 2006

Follow Brainstorm NW on Facebook   Follow what is happening with Brainstorm NW through Twitter

Copyright  |   Disclaimer  |   Contact  |   Shopping