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What's next at Gold Mountain?
BREMERTON — The flags from nine countries remained on top of the roof protecting the intact leaderboard from last month’s 64th U.S. Junior Amateur Championship at Gold Mountain Golf Complex.
It is just one of many visual reminders of the latest significant tournament on the Olympic Course.
Five years earlier, the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship was held at Gold Mountain. The course also has hosted the NCAA Men’s West Regional Golf Championship in 2008 and 2010.
Scott Alexander, Gold Mountain's director of golf, said the next task might be to lure the NCAA men’s and women’s championships to Bremerton. Alexander, who played golf at the University of Oregon for a year and now is a volunteer assistant at Washington, said that UW assistant athletic director for sports operations Karen Baebler is responsible for putting together a proposal for the golf championships with the NCAA.
The Husky Invitational is held each fall at Gold Mountain, but UW’s “home course” is the Washington National Golf Club in Auburn. Baebler said UW would seek to host an NCAA Championship at Gold Mountain or Washington National. The latter hosted the 2002 NCAA Women’s Golf Championships.
Baebler said UW placed a bid to host the 2012 NCAA Men’s Golf Championships, but that was awarded to Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif. She said NCAA officials “strongly encouraged” the school to reapply next year when the 2014 and ’15 sights are determined.
Sometimes course stakeholders are apprehensive about hosting both the men’s and women’s championships because it keeps regulars from playing. But Alexander said that is not an issue and Baebler is a proponent of hosting either or both championships simply because “it’s an advantage for your team to play at home.”
Alexander said one advantage to hosting an NCAA championship relates to cost. Gold Mountain had to fundraise $300,000 to host the U.S. Junior Amateur, but he said it might only cost $50,000 for an NCAA Championship. That is because the NCAA pays for expenses, such as course usage fees and volunteer uniforms, that Gold Mountain had to fund for its latest tournament.
Some think Gold Mountain could host a more prestigious event than that — perhaps even one on the PGA Tour. Both U.S. Junior Amateur Championship medalist Beau Hossler and first-place finisher Jordan Spieth agreed last month that Gold Mountain compared favorably to other courses that have hosted those events.
“I really, really like this golf course,” Spieth said. “I love the layout. I love the elevation changes on the holes.”
But Hossler and Spieth both felt the Olympic Course would need some alterations to host a PGA event.
“It probably would need a little more length ... but they have some room to build new tee boxes if they need to make it longer,” Hossler said. “Other than the length, I’d say it’s a really good layout. It’s a challenging golf course.”
Alexander, who said the Olympic Course now is 7,150 yards, would not make alterations that he said could cost $2 million without landing a major event.
Chambers Bay in University Place will host the 2015 U.S. Open, but Alexander does not think Gold Mountain would ever get that — or any other PGA event.
He said that mostly relates to the course’s distance from Sea-Tac Airport, which is approximately 50 miles, and is a significant factor in determining where PGA goes.
Another issue is hotel space. Alexander said the 156-player U.S. Junior Amateur “filled up everything” because the amount of guests more than quintupled that total with caddies, college coaches, families, media members, spectators and tournament organizers. Alexander said a larger event, such as the 312-player U.S. Amateur, could bring more than 1,500 people into the community.
“It does get harder to run some of those bigger events,” he said.Finances are another issue. This marked the first time that a municipal course — and just the second time a public one — hosted the U.S. Junior Amateur.
Alexander said most private courses have a few members that simply underwrite the cost of hosting events. That is not feasible at Gold Mountain, which meant that corporate sponsors, such as Hazelwood Auto Group, Kitsap Bank, Puget Sound Energy and Waste Management, were needed.
In addition to the expense of hosting a tournament, Alexander said they had to raise money to compensate the City of Bremerton, which owns and operates Gold Mountain, for projected greens fees lost during the U.S. Junior Amateur.
Alexander said he would be interested in hosting a U.S. Amateur, but noted that it would cost $1 million.
“I just don’t know if we could do it in this community,” he said. “I think that’s something we’ve got to digest and maybe even talk down the road with the community business leaders. Would you have an interest in us even doing that?
“It’s got to be a community event.”