A few weeks ago, I had a chance to walk the Lancaster Country Club golf course, home of this week's 70th U.S. Women's Open.
As I and fellow reporter Sara Blumberg were leaving, we were exchanging a final few words with our course tour guide, Rory Connaughton, who is a longtime member at L.C.C. and is part of the tournament's executive committee. One of the last things he told us, and perhaps the most true, was this: "A friend of mine told me that an event like this is like a wedding. Once the event starts, there's nothing more you can do to prepare for it, so you might as well just sit back and enjoy it."
He's right, except that preparation for this tournament far exceeds that of even the most extravagant of weddings. Putting together a wedding takes a year, maybe two, to bring everything together. The folks at L.C.C. and the United States Golf Association have been getting ready for this week since late in 2008.
That's 6 1/2 years of preparation for four rounds of golf during one week out of the year. But, for this one week, the course, the city of Lancaster and the entire central Pennsylvania area, including York County, will have the eyes of the world on them and will be examined under a microscope.
So, while there's nothing much left to be done, except enjoy the spectacle of it all, I can't imagine that it's that simple. Rather, it's probably the opposite, with tournament directors sitting on pins and needles hoping that everything goes to plan because, if not, then all of that hard work over the last half-decade will be for naught.
USGA not afraid: See, one of the really neat aspects of the USGA is that it isn't afraid to try new courses when hosting its premier major championships. It feels that if there's a great golf course in the country, then it deserves a shot to prove itself against the very best players. The USGA felt that L.C.C. was one of those that set up well for a women's tournament.
Unfortunately, when those new courses don't live up to public billing, then the outrage can intensify tenfold. Take last month's U.S. Open at Chambers Bay out in Washington. In five years, when golf fans look back at that tournament, the first thing that will come to mind was how unappealing the course looked on television, how bad some of the greens were, the firm playing conditions and player criticism of the course. What they won't remember until well down that list is how the tournament wasn't settled until the 72nd hole, giving us one of the most dramatic and heartbreaking losses in golf history.
L.C.C. will fall under the same watchful eye that Chambers Bay did. From first-hand knowledge, I can tell you right now, that it's a lot greener and easier on the eyes than Chambers Bay was. However, no matter how spectacular a piece of ground it is, if it can't produce an exciting and compelling tournament, then it won't please fans. And if it can't please fans, then the USGA won't feel compelled to return in the future. If the USGA doesn't return in the future, then six-plus years of hard work will have, essentially, gone to waste.
Returning to Pennsylvania: This week's tournament will be the 83rd time a USGA event is contested in Pennsylvania and the ninth Women's Open. But, this is the first time Lancaster will get its name on that list, one that contains prestigious courses, such as, Oakmont Country Club, Merion Golf Club, Saucon Valley Country Club, Philadelphia Country Club and Aronimink Golf Club. What each of those courses have in common is that they've hosted numerous USGA events and aren't just one-hit wonders. For L.C.C., this week is its chance to try to join that illustrious group by hosting a great tournament that will make the USGA froth at the mouth to return.
So, while the spectators can sit back and enjoy all the time-consuming preparation that went into getting this tournament ready, I can't expect organizers will be.
There's just too much riding on it for there not to be any uneasiness.
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow on Twitter @P_Strohecker