This golf season will be unlike any other in Long Island history, which is saying something, considering this part of the golf world has seen just about everything since the late 1800s. For the first time, the Island will host the U.S. Women's Open.
Organizers are preparing their big promotional push for the event, to be held at Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton June 24-30. They have the feeling of someone watching a putt hover on the lip of the cup: They're not sure how it is going to go, but they have a pretty good idea and a very good feeling.
"In New York, we do have a certain degree of 'last-minuteness' and I know that's how it is. You still think, 'This could be the one where nobody shows up.' But I doubt it," Mark Hissey, the championship's executive director, said in the tournament office recently. "All the signs are pointing to it being really successful right now. Certainly from a financial standpoint, I think it's going to be a raging success. I think the crowds are going to be huge."
Laura Caleal, who has been on the site for the past two years as championship director, said that corporate sales have been good and volunteer applications have been strong. "A lot of what we do and how we draw attendance is promoting our family friendly atmosphere, where you can bring your whole family out here for, really, less than $100," she said, adding that there still is a need for more volunteers and for families willing to host golfers (2013uswomensopen.com).
Even top officials of the U.S. Golf Association were amazed last year when they mused on the fact that the organization never has brought its marquee women's event to Long Island, the cradle of American golf. People associated with this year's Women's Open expect it to be different -- for the Island and for the Open itself.
Children will be allowed in for free. Public parking will be nearby, on Route 39 and McGee Street, rather than in Westhampton, as it was for the 2004 U.S. Open at neighboring Shinnecock Hills. There will be almost no corporate tents to block views on the course because Sebonack's cottages will be used for hospitality.
"It's in the Hamptons. We've never been in an area like this before, we've never been on a course that is anything like Sebonack," Caleal said.
Hissey said, "I can't think of too many golf courses that are as visually spectacular as this." The beauty of the layout on Peconic Bay figures to bring cachet, which LPGA Tour events have been seeking. This already is shaping up as an interesting year in women's pro golf, what with 15-year-old New Zealander Lydia Ko having secured her third victory in a tour event; American Stacy Lewis becoming No. 1 in the world with her win last week and Swedish golfer Daniela Holmqvist having kept playing after being bitten by a spider and using a tee to extract what appeared to be lethal venom.
Sebonack could be extra special. "Let's face it, the women's game has had its ups and downs over the last 10 years," Hissey said. "We've really been looking forward to this event. This could well be the catalyst to catapult it into a golden era."