Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Yesterday the Jenkins fam ventured down the hill for another afternoon/evening at the Laurelhurst Beach Club.  With our were our guests Kimberly and Sophia Lippmann.

Nothing remarkable in that.  But what happened was.

Sophia needed to pass her 3’s to swim in the 3’s area.  No problem.  After that, Sophia and Reese decided it was time to pass their 7’s.  Again, no problem:

IMG_4438

 

After that, well, just-recently-turned eight Reese (and later Sophia) decided to do this:

IMG_6580

IMG_6581

IMG_6582 (1)

A Laurelhurst rite of passage.

I can honestly say for posterity’s sake that I thought Reese would drive before she went off LBC’s thirty-foot high dive.   It’s a mighty scary task, even for me.

Not sure I’ve ever been more proud of her.

P.S.  Far less impressive — me:

IMG_6559

A few days ago I penned a piece in this space that I titled “The Tragedy That Was The U.S. Open At Chambers Bay.”  In hindsight I regret the title: as I explained near the bottom of that column, the national open in my beloved home state wasn’t all bad:

Jordan Spieth’s Grand-Slam-maintaining victory meant the right guy won (Cameron Smith or Brendan Grace, not so much).  Eight guys finished under par — well more than average for a U.S. Open in recent years — and Spieth’s minus 5 winning score was certainly more palatable than, say, plus 5.  (Angel Cabrera and Geoff Ogilvy at 2007 Oakmont and 2006 Winged Foot, respectively.)  The cream rose to the top: the world’s second-best player won, and of the top eleven finishers, ten are ranked top 50 in the world. There were a few decent places to actually see some action — most notably left of the ninth tee and above no. 14.

The record-breaking merchandise was outstanding: I spent a bundle in the main swag tent, and the Lee Wybranski water color I picked up on Wednesday will be on my office wall by week’s end. The big picture setting showcased the Pacific Northwest’s stunning beauty.  Not all the greens were awful: the putting surfaces at 7 and 13 were reportedly fine if a bit fast.  The weather was chamber-of-commerce perfect.  The marshals didn’t enforce the “no photos” rule, which enabled me to take the photos above as well as some decent selfies and groupies.

And the drama of Sunday’s remarkable finish will be tough for the golf-is-boring crowd to rebut. Already Golf Channel’s Tim Rosaforte is reporting that it’s not a question of if but when the U.S. Open will return – not, I’m sure, before the course gets a serious overhaul.

What was undoubtedly tragic, however, was the spectator experience.  Aside from the CourseCast radios (provided by American Express) and the stunning views (provided by Mother Nature), it stunk.  And since I am not a guy to complain without offering solutions, here are a few ideas the USGA might consider in no particular order:

1.   Level some of the hillocks.  This has been said so often by so many that I take it as given it’ll be done.  I’m not sure, however, that it will solve much: a small hillock is just as slippery as a tall one.

2.   Allow fans to flank both sides of the first- and tenth fairways — at least up to the hillocks.  Spectators closely flank the fairways at every event on the PGA Tour.  There’s no reason whatsoever that this couldn’t be done at Chambers, especially in the first few hundred yards of nos. 1 and 10.

3.   Narrow the fairways.  The fairways at Chambers were mighty wide — at least 100 yards on No. 13 I’m told.  Narrower fairways let fans get closer to the players, especially if they decide to:

4.  Put the ropes a lot closer to the fairways.  Check out this selfie:

Wed

Notice how far away the ropes are from the wildly-wide-to-begin-with fairway?  It was like that all over the place, except on holes like no. 8 where, because fans weren’t allowed, there were no ropes at all.  Players don’t need thirty yards of fan-free rough to make their way through the championship.

   5.  Improve the f&B experience.  Last week the concession stands were few and far between and the lines for lunch in the Spectator Pavilion were thirty minutes long on Saturday.  Waiting half an hour for a $7 Bud Light is downright un-American.   Some simple fixes:

  • Install more, if smaller, concession stands.  I can’t tell you how many times I pointed out spots where I wish there’d have been concession stands — but they weren’t there.
  • Simplify the menu.  At Augusta National there were roughly two dozen items on the menu — total.  At the Spectator Pavilion at Chambers I’m guessing there were closer to 100.  The U.S. Open doesn’t need to be Starbucks: in this case, simpler would be better.  And while I’m at it, the USGA doesn’t need multiple f&b vendors, as there were at the Spectator Pavilion.  One, a la Augusta National, should suffice.  Make a decent pb&j ubiquitous, a la Augusta’s pimento cheese sandwich, and you’re really on to something.  (Buffet lines instead of single-file ones would be nice, too — at least at the larger concession stands.)
    Not exactly a pimento cheese sandwich.

    If priced and made correctly, the pb&j could become the U.S. Open’s version of …

    the Masters' pimento cheese.

    the Masters’ pimento cheese.

  • Lower the prices — especially on beer. At Augusta National domestic beers were $4 — up from $3 last year — and the suds were flowin’.  At Chambers, Bud Lights ran $7 — and the hops consumption was largely absent amongst the riff raff.  More beer makes the day better for most folks, and there’s no reason the non-profit USGA needs to price beer like it’s running a ballpark.
  • Do promos.  Maybe every 5,000th beer gets free tickets to the next year’s U.S. Open.  Or the 10,000th pb&j gets U.S. Open tickets for life.  Something to get fans extra excited about digging into their wallets.

  6.  Set up several grandstands on the path alongside 16 and 17.  A half dozen grandstands behind which spectators could walk would make 16 and 17 great stadium-like experiences and would be great vantage points to watch the action. I wouldn’t make them too tall — those passing trains were very much part of the Chambers landscape and it would be nice to keep them in sight.  (Brendan Grace coulda used these on his 71st hole.)

aa

Imagine a grandstand on the gravel to the left of where the people are walking.  Might have helped Brendan Grace.

   7. Sell folding chairs and create designated seating areas.  One of the coolest things at Augusta National is what I call “the chair thing.” Most “patrons” buy or bring in a $30 folding chair.  It fits in a chair bag and comes with a shoulder strap so you can carry it like a rifle.  We — and tens of thousands of others — marked our chairs as “ours” by dropping our business cards in the business card slot.  From there, we left ’em open for anyone and everyone to sit, usually in areas that ANGC had roped off as designated for sitting.  When we wanted our seats back, all we had to do was tell the people sitting in them.  Instant desired seating — provided by the fans.  Thousands of other patrons did the same thing.  Do that anywhere and everywhere at Chambers Bay — the USGA’s revenue spikes, spectators have places to chill, slippage becomes less of a concern — and the chairs are all anyone’s talkin’ about.  (Tan, though, not Masters green.)

during the final round of the 2013 Masters at the Augusta National Golf Club on April 14, 2013 in Augusta, Georgia.

    8.  Create an inside-the-ropes ticket.  Remember GolfWatch?  Back in the mid-90’s, the PGA Tour experimented with an idea of letting fans pay extra for premium tickets.  Fans who were willing to pay for it could walk in a designated lane inside the ropes, thus effectively giving themselves front row seats on every hole.  GolfWatch didn’t stick, but at Chambers Bay a similar program might make sense.  The reason is those hillocks.  It’s not a great idea to open them up to everyone — there’d be just too many spills But if the only people on said hillocks were people willing to pay for the privilege, chances are the crowds would be young, nimble — and happy.  (I’m thinking specifically about the hills on 1, 10 and 12 here.)

    9.  Allow dads and kids inside the ropes on 18 on Sunday.  You know how the British Open used to let fans inside the ropes on the final hole of the championship?  The USGA could do something similar on 18 on Sunday — dads and their kids only.

Like most of my ideas, these aren’t perfect.  I have no idea, for example, what it would cost to add grandstands to the right of 16 and 17.  I have not considered the security ramifications of my dads-and-kids-inside-the-ropes idea.  (The R&A presumably dropped that tradition for a reason.)  And a lot of these concepts obviously come straight from Augusta, and the USGA may be sensitive to accusations of copying.  Still, they’re starting points.

Jurassic World

JWSuperBowlTrailer-Raptors1

 

Last night the Jenkins fam ventured downtown.   Our destination: the IMAX theater at the Pacific Science Center.   The movie: Jurassic World.

IMG_4356

IMG_4358

The bad news:

  • It took us almost an hour to get there — we arrived with like five minutes to spare
  • The movie was quite violent
  • On the way out to our car a strange dude started following us.  We ran from him, but the idea of a mass murder did cross my mind.

The good news:

  • The tickets were free
  • The movie, while violent, was quite entertaining.  The effects were spectacular — I felt like I was actually at Jurassic World.

As a Northwest golfer, avid-to-rabid fan of professional golf and early buyer of 2015 U.S. Open tickets, I really wanted our national championship at Chambers Bay to succeed. It didn’t. In fact, it was an almost-epic failure.

For spectators – I was one for three days — the USGA would have had to try to make the experience worse. The walk in from the inland (east) entrances yielded spectacular, pride-inspiring views from the top ridge that I suspect are unparalleled in championship golf.

DSC06176

 

Ridge

 

IMG_4254

After that – yikes.

The sand dune amphitheaters were supposed to make spectacular places to watch the action – but the USGA had almost all of them roped off. I get that call – safety first – but closing the dunes made them walls, and towering ones at that.

An enduring image of Chambers Bay -- nothing.

An enduring image of Chambers Bay — nothing.

I caught a glimpse of Henrik Stenson on the 12th tee.

I caught a glimpse of Henrik Stenson on the 12th tee.

Then there was the spectator routing. Getting close to a player while he was playing was only slightly easier than getting close to Obama. (I did, I proudly admit, almost back into Henrik Stenson on his way to the 12th tee on Saturday.) And it was impossible – and I mean literally impossible – to follow a group around: five of the holes were completely closed to spectators.

Path

Lots of walking, not much to see.

Although it was tough to see golfers actually PLAYING GOLF, I did get a nice photo of Miguel Angel Jimenez leaving a san-i-can.

Although it was tough to see golfers actually PLAYING GOLF, I did get a nice photo of Miguel Angel Jimenez leaving a san-i-can.

Morgan Hoffmann played in something akin to pajamas on Thursday, but because the fans were so far from the action, very few people could tell.

Morgan Hoffmann played in something akin to pajamas on Thursday, but because the fans were so far from the action, very few people could tell.

Concessions?  In a word: terrible. The stands were sporadic and the f&b was overpriced — I paid $5 for a Dove bar on top of my buddy Jeff’s $6 lemon water, which they marketed as “lemonade.” I paid $3 for some sort of packaged pb&j concoction which ought to be the subject of a federal ban. The lines? Well, Jeff and I stood in a lunch line for thirty minutes on Saturday – me, for an undercooked $6 hot dog and $7 Bud Light.  Contrast that with Augusta National, where the lines ran about fifteen seconds, the beers $4 and the pimento cheese sandwiches $1.50.

Not exactly a pimento cheese sandwich.

Not exactly a pimento cheese sandwich.

The USGA even screwed up the grandstands. On Saturday my buddy Warren and I found our way to the grandstand on the downhill par three 15th.   The players were too far back to see them on the tee without a great pair of binoculars. Fans with good eyes could see shots in the air, but the pin was so far back that we had to look over the side of the grandstand to see players putt out. No doubt there were better grandstands out there, but with the policy of allowing fans to come and go as they please, getting a seat in one was no easy task.  All this, mind you, on a course that was reportedly built specifically to host the U.S. Open.

As for the player experience – where to start? No one much cared for the aforementioned gallery-free holes – Phil Mickelson reportedly called them “eerie.”

The fan-free eighth hole.

The fan-free eighth hole.

And then there were the much-maligned putting surfaces, known on most courses as “greens.” I’ve thought from the day the USGA announced it was coming to University Place that they’d have to do something about the putting surfaces. Whatever they did didn’t work. Whether you thought they were more akin to broccoli (Stenson) or cauliflower (Rory McIlroy), it’s never a good thing when balls break, well, zigzag, as Darren Clarke’s birdie putt did on no. 12 on Friday. I’m not sure that they were the worst greens the PGA Tour has seen in recent years – Billy Horschel said they were while Brandt Snedeker said he’s played worse. (More.)  But when the discussion has the word “worst” in it — well, let’s just say the career prospects of Chambers’ greenskeeper aren’t much better than Monica Lewinsky’s.

The championship wasn’t a complete bust. Jordan Spieth’s Grand-Slam-maintaining victory meant the right guy won (Cameron Smith or Brendan Grace, not so much).  Eight guys finished under par — well more than average for a U.S. Open in recent years — and Spieth’s minus 5 winning score was certainly more palatable than, say, plus 5.  (Angel Cabrera and Geoff Ogilvy at 2007 Oakmont and 2006 Winged Foot, respectively.)  The cream rose to the top: the world’s second-best player won, and of the top eleven finishers, ten are ranked top 50 in the world. There were a few decent places to actually see some action — most notably left of the ninth tee and above no. 14:

9 tee

14 tee

The record-breaking merchandise was outstanding: I spent a bundle in the main swag tent, and the Lee Wybranski water color I picked up on Wednesday will be on my office wall by week’s end. The big picture setting showcased the Pacific Northwest’s stunning beauty.  Not all the greens were awful: the putting surfaces at 7 and 13 were reportedly fine if a bit fast.  The weather was chamber-of-commerce perfect.  The marshals didn’t enforce the “no photos” rule, which enabled me to take the photos above as well as some decent selfies and groupies.

Wed

Todd, Adam, Tim Smith and me -- the Wednesday foursome.

Todd, Adam, Tim Smith and me — the Wednesday foursome.

Jeff Benezra and me on Friday.

Jeff Benezra and me on Friday.

Warren Gouk and me on Sunday.  (Not shown: Baron Kofoed and Chris White.)

Warren Gouk and me on Sunday. (Not shown: Baron Kofoed and Chris White.)

And the drama of Sunday’s remarkable finish will be tough for the golf-is-boring crowd to rebut. Already Golf Channel’s Tim Rosaforte is reporting that it’s not a question of if but when the U.S. Open will return – not, I’m sure, before the course gets a serious overhaul.

Still, it was fitting that the 2015 U.S. Open was decided by a putting surface debacle. Dustin Johnson had a twelve footer on the 72nd hole to go down in history. He missed it, and when he gaffed the three-foot comebacker he became a tragic figure in this week’s U.S. Open.

He wasn’t the only one.

 

This morning I joined my Georgetown Law classmate Davina Kaile in downtown Seattle for the 2015 Seattle Rock & Roll Half Marathon.

Actually she did the whole marathon — I did the half.  But what’s 13.1 miles between friends.

The run went quite well.   My time of 1:43:08 was not a PR — I had that back in the Clinton years — but it was good enough for 511th place out of 11012 runners and 40th out of 473 in my division (M46-49).

Not unpleased.

A 5:30 am view from the starting line.

A 5:30 am view from the starting line.

Davina and me pre-race.  She ran twice as far as I did.

Davina and me pre-race. She ran twice as far as I did.

Saturdays this spring have been very busy, and yesterday was no exception.

We kicked things off with time trials at Sand Point Country Club.  Reese did reasonably well, although it’s clear she” face some very stiff competition if she hopes to advance with her swimming.

Finn — well, he’s still freestyling with one arm.  Very proud of him, though, for finishing the backstroke trial.  Impressive, given that he’d never so much as seen a back stroke before.

Her cap on order, Reese donned a "G Boden" cap in the lane next to the ACTUAL G Boden.

Her cap on order, Reese donned a “G Boden” cap in the lane next to the ACTUAL G Boden.

Not the B Team anymore.

Not the B Team anymore.

From there it was to the University House for Beverly Gilyeart’s annual violin recital.  Twenty-five violinists.  Finn and Reese went second and fourth, respectively, on a roster that got progressively older and better.  All in all they played quite well — particularly considering they aren’t exactly wearing their strings out in practice.

IMG_4200

IMG_4189

 

IMG_4193

IMG_4199

 

After that it was dinner at Tutta Bella.

No golf on that glorious day.  I thought I’d miss it but I didn’t. Family life suits me just fine.

Last night Finn’s Laurelhurst LightningHawks Y-Guides circle had a night out at Safeco Field.

Fun was had by all ‘Hawks and their siblings.

The Mariners did not have as much fun.

After retiring the first nine batters in order, staff ace Felix Hernandez gave up seven runs in the next 1 2/3 innings as the M’s lost to the New York Yankees 7-2. (More.)

Oh, and I paid $30 for parking.  Ouch.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.