Now that the 2015 Masters is in the books, the golf world’s focus is shifting to Pierce County. Chambers Bay Golf Course in University Place will host the U.S. Open June 18-21.
It’s a first for the Pacific Northwest. KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel says it’s a really big deal.
Thiel says the area has undergone an amazing transformation in the past 10 years.
"It was an abandoned gravel quarry for many years," Thiel said. "That part of Tacoma had no real profile, nothing much going on.
"Through the vision and wisdom of a lot of people in Tacoma, they said 'This would be a great spot for a world-class golf course.'
"It's on the shore, it's beautiful and it's got a variable terrain that makes it a real challenge for golfers.
"I think it's a spectacular spot and I think a lot of golf fans are really looking forward to something completely different than they've seen before," he said.
According to Thiel, Chambers Bay has a unique design that will challenge golfers - and challenge perceptions of Northwest golf courses.
"It's very reminiscent of a British links course," he said. "That term refers to a course on the shoreline that links sea to land. This is much more like the British Open than anything we've ever seen.
"And it's unlike anything we've had in the Northwest because there's only one tree on it! Trees have always been a hallmark in Western Washington (golf courses). Sahalee (Country Club in Sammamish) being a great example, which hosted the PGA (Championship) tournament in 1998.
"This course isn't going to have any of that. It's surrounded by a forest but it's not part of the course. There's a lot of sand and it also has a lot of change in elevation. These golfers are actually going to have to be athletes to survive this," Thiel said.
In Thiel's opinion, the U.S. Open is the biggest sports event the Northwest has ever hosted.
There has been another major golf tournament here. Sahalee Country Club in Sammamish hosted the 1998 PGA Championship but Thiel said the U.S. Open is more prestigious and has a longer history.
"The idea of this event being here is a really big deal because, even though we think we're on the world map, (we're) not really.
"Despite Microsoft and Starbucks and all the other big companies here, there are still lots of places in the world that don't get Seattle, Tacoma, Puget Sound - don't know anything about it," Thiel said.
"This thing is going to be broadcast from Johannesburg to Edinburgh to Rio de Janeiro and people are going to be dazzled by what they see on this course. It could be a real economic turning point for the region."
Masters Champ Big Draw
One of the biggest draws of the tournament will be 2015 Masters champion Jordan Spieth.
"He's really an interesting guy," Thiel said. "Twenty one years old yet he said at age 14 'my goal is to win the Masters.' Who would've imagined that he would have done that at age 21?"
Thiel pointed out that Spieth has already played at Chambers Bay.
"Jordan was in the field at the 2010 U.S. Amateur. That was the tournament that tested Chambers Bay's ability to host a big tournament. It passed the test. He was here. He did well.
"He also played a course in Bremerton, Gold Mountain, where he met his caddy Michael Greller. And now Michael, who was an elementary school teacher in Tacoma, is his regular caddy," he said.
Spieth 'Going Far'
Thiel said people who attend the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay will see a lot of history in the making - in Spieth and in the course itself.
"This kid is going to be around for a long time," he said. "The Northwest golf community is going to get a real good look at him over four days at Chambers Bay.
"And the global golf community is going to get a great look at the Northwest over that time."