Pinehurst No. 2 has become the first anchor site for future U.S. Open championships, the United States Golf Association (USGA) announced earlier today. The masterpiece course designed by Donald Ross has been selected to host the organization’s preeminent men’s championships events in 2024, 2029, 2035, 2041 and 2047.
Over the 25-year period, these events are projected to have a $2 billion economic impact on North Carolina.
“In a lot of ways, this is groundbreaking,” said USGA CEO Mike Davis, “and we couldn’t be more excited.”
Davis and other top USGA and Pinehurst Resort executives, state and local leaders held a joint press conference on Wednesday at the Pinehurst Country Club.
“This is really unprecedented for the USGA. Typically we don’t name sites that far in the future or at that repetition or frequency,” said Craig Annis, chief brand officer of the USGA.
The decision was based on engagement with key stakeholders over the course of the past year — including players, fans, and host sites — to share their thoughts on what makes the U.S. Open a one-of-a-kind major championship.
“Part of our strategy, and what we heard from our fans and influencers, is they want to go to fewer locations and iconic locations,” Annis said. “We are excited to map out where we are taking the U.S. Open in a very strategic way.”
Bob Dedman, Jr., general partner of Putterboy, Ltd. and owner of Pinehurst Resort, said they were “humbled” that course No. 2 was named the USGA’s first anchor site.
“Eight U.S. Opens in less than 50 years is a real testament to our partnership,” Dedman said. “As players have often said, it’s not just what you win but where you win that matters.”
Earlier this week, USGA unveiled plans for “Golf House Pinehurst,” a second headquarters to be developed on the Pinehurst Resort campus. Facilities will include a new equipment-testing center, innovation hub, a “satellite” museum and combined visitors center, along with offices for USGA’s Foundation and its turfgrass agronomy and management section.
N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore said state lawmakers “signed on quickly” to get behind the “Championship NC Act” approved last week that provides up to $18 million in state performance-based incentives for the project.
That funding will come through the state’s Site Infrastructure Development Fund and includes a transfer of $3.5 million from the One North Carolina Fund and $100,000 from the Job Development Investment Grant fund. It is also the intent of the General Assembly to appropriate an additional $14.4 million over four consecutive fiscal years, in equal installments.
In return, USGA is projected to generate at least $800 million in economic benefits to the state over the next 10 years; employ at least 35 new staff positions, and 50 positions overall, with an average annual salary of $80,000; and will host periodic championships in Pinehurst and other locations around the state.
“We know it will pay dividends for years to come,” Moore said.
State Sen. Tom McInnis said discussion had begun more than a year ago. He praised a team effort that included bipartisan support and public-private partnership and investments that led to “a new and renewed vision” for the project. In particular, he expressed interest in potential regional economic growth as a result of USGA’s presence.
County Chairman Frank Quis said golf was an important piece of the fabric of Moore County and that he was excited for the long-term commitment of the five U.S. Open championships.
“This is a positive force, not just in Pinehurst, but for the whole community,” Quis said.
Local incentives approved by county leaders are primarily in the form of tax breaks calculated as 90 percent of the total property taxes paid above and beyond the current property tax value for a 10-year period, provided USGA job creation and capital investment goals are met. Funding would be paid from new tax revenues collected as a result of the organization’s investment.
Quis said while USGA is a nonprofit organization, the county board had done an “informed analysis” of their tax status and potential impacts.
Attorney Ernie Pearson, who facilitated negotiations for USGA and Pinehurst Resort, said preliminary studies indicate the Golf House Pinehurst property would likely be subject to ad valorem taxes.
“If it is determined they do have nonprofit status, no local grant would be provided,” Pearson said.
Pinehurst president Tom Pashley said the resort was “donating” the land, or potentially donating the use of the land, to solidify the deal. Specific details are still a work in progress.
“That is our contribution,” Pashley said.
Groundbreaking for the new facilities is expected to take place in Spring 2022.
Earlier this year, the USGA held its annual meeting in Pinehurst when its leadership unveiled the organization’s new U.S. Open slogan, ‘From Many, One.’ The wording captures the unique nature of the U.S. Open, which is open to qualifying for any golfer who meets certain handicap requirements.
Annually, the U.S. Open generates approximately $165 million in revenue, or about 75 percent of the USGA’s total revenue.
Discussion about putting “some type of a permanent stake in the ground in Pinehurst” began some time ago, Annis noted. USGA CEO Mike Davis and then-president Diana Murphy had explored the potential but it was put on pause for a few years.
“Pinehurst has proven its ability to celebrate USGA’s championships but this iconic venue also inspires greatness from a player’s perspective,” Annis said.
During the 2019 U.S. Amateur championship at Pinehurst, the concept was reignited during conversations between USGA officials, N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper and N.C. Commerce Secretary Tony Copeland.
“Those initial conversations led to further discussions with state legislators. Literally over the course of last year we built up momentum. We were pretty far along in those conversations when Covid hit,” Annis said.
Those talks resumed in earnest about two months ago thanks to legislative leaders like Rep. Jamie Boles, he added, who were able to shepherd the proposed incentive package through.
“We believe this will have a great economic development impact not only for Pinehurst and Moore County but all of the state,” Annis said. “Each time we bring the U.S. Open to Pinehurst, it represents about $500 million in economic impact. It is really a win-win-win.”
He said the USGA is especially grateful for the support from state, county and local leaders through the incentive packages, “We recognize that they made this great effort to pave the way for this decision.”
“North Carolina is a fantastic hotbed of golf, so it provides the opportunity to get closer to our customers, our core golfers,” Annis said. “We also see Pinehurst as striving to innovate and that is also what we are doing. We are proud of our history. Ironically, both the USGA and Pinehurst Resort are celebrating their 125th anniversary this year, but we also need to look for what we can do to bring the game into the future.”
(Story by Laura Douglass, The Pilot)