‘They throw a great party’: Chambers Bay considers LIV Golf event

Chambers Bay leadership said it will consider an ‘indirect inquiry’ from LIV Golf, others, while it looks to host tournament golf.

The post ‘They throw a great party’: Chambers Bay considers LIV Golf event appeared first on Golf.

Chambers Bay leadership said it will consider an ‘indirect inquiry’ from LIV Golf, others, while it looks to host tournament golf.

The post ‘They throw a great party’: Chambers Bay considers LIV Golf event appeared first on Golf.

Ever since Chambers Bay hosted a controversial (and unquestionably compelling) U.S. Open in 2015, the golf world has pondered one question.

When will a pro golf tournament return?

On Friday afternoon, a story in the Tacoma News Tribune gave us our first concrete clues towards an answer — and (spoiler!) it includes LIV Golf.

The TNT story cites an interview with Pierce County executive counsel Don Anderson, who works under county executive Bruce Dammeier. Pierce County is the local municipality surrounding Chambers Bay and also the golf course’s owner, which the county operates as one of the United States’ finest municipal tracks.

In the years since hosting the ’15 U.S. Open, Pierce County has overseen several renovations and tweaks to the golf course in the hopes of hosting another U.S. Open or major professional golf tournament (most notably resurfacing the greens from fescue to poa annua in the aftermath of the U.S. Open). But, in the years since hosting in ’15, the USGA has increasingly indicated that another U.S. Open in Pierce County is unlikely. The USGA has announced every U.S. Open host through 2042, and Chambers Bay hasn’t been included on the list.

Many of the issues with hosting a national-championship-level event at Chambers Bay are logistical: The course is built into a hillside, and the experience from a hospitality and fan standpoint is seen as beneath the USGA’s (typically considerable) gallery and build-out standards. The USGA has had no problem bringing smaller-scale events to Chambers, including the U.S. Women’s Amateur and Four-Ball, but it has withheld from bringing its two biggest moneymakers (the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open) back to the Pacific Northwest.

Still, that hasn’t stopped Chambers Bay from trying. According to Anderson, representatives from Performance 54, the shadowy marketing agency for LIV Golf, reached out to Pierce County to set up a conversation about hosting a LIV event — and the county is all ears.

“LIV has its own issues though, golf politics, world politics-wise. You have to be careful there,” Anderson told TNT’s Jon Manley. “They throw a great party, though. 54 golfers, 54 holes, shotgun start. You generate $5 million or so in concession and merchandise sales. From that aspect, they’re very attractive. If they follow up with their indirect inquiry, we’ll listen.”

Of course, there’s no shortage of concerns with hosting a LIV event for a public-owned property like Chambers Bay. The league is funded almost entirely by the Saudi Public Investment Fund, which would make hosting a LIV event tantamount to accepting money from the Saudis — a brutal authoritarian regime with an appalling human rights record. Similar decisions have turned many of LIV’s players into pariahs in recent years, though public perception appears to be shifting on the league as the PGA Tour enters late-stage negotiations to accept Saudi funding of its own.

For LIV, Chambers Bay represents many things the league has not yet found in a tournament host: (1) a visually unique golf course (2) in the United States (3) that is already in the public eye and (4) would air on primetime television. The course’s proximity to a major metropolitan area (Seattle/Tacoma) and its general cult following among hardcore golf fans only makes it more compelling from a business standpoint.

As Anderson alluded, the upside of hosting a men’s pro golf event for Chambers Bay is cold-hard cash. For a municipality like Pierce County, a weekend of pro golf could bring in millions in revenue for taxpayers, which turns it into an attractive option for a public-owned course, politics be damned.

Anderson said the county has largely tried to protect its relationship with the USGA since 2015, pushing away offers from other potential golf stakeholders in the hopes of another U.S. Open. But with the future looking glum to those ends, the course has begun to explore options for other pro golf events. LIV is one of those options — and perhaps the most active option — but the PGA Championship and PGA Tour have also been considered.

“With respect to the U.S. Open, I think our best shot is being the attractive cousin who’s a backup date when your prom date can’t go,” Anderson said. “That’s what happened the first time. The 2015 U.S. Open was awarded to Winged Foot. It came to Chambers after they said they needed to put this off.”

For Pierce County, a big chunk of hosting an event at Chambers is the top-line revenue, which helps fund all sorts of taxpayer expenditures, but there are downstream benefits, too. As is the case with many other high-end munis, the county makes far more revenue from out-of-state greens fees than it does from local residents. Hosting big-time events helps Chambers Bay raise its profile in the golf mainstream, which only helps increase interest from out-of-staters.

The course is still performing well financially, Anderson said, but there’s more to operating a golf course than just the bottom line. For one of America’s truly distinct golf tests, tournament golf is as much a business opportunity as a reputational one.

“You can’t run a golf course on a tournament every 25 years,” Anderson said. “We’ll stay on having fairly regular USGA tournaments. Anything that gets on TV is great. With any business, you have to adapt to the marketplace. There may be other things involved.”

(Read the full story in The News Tribune here.)

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