U.S. Open: A spectator’s delight

A player tees off on the 6th hole Thursday afternoon at the US Open. Photo by Nick Lovejoy

With media credential in tow, I spent a couple of hours walking the golf course at CordeValle on Thursday for the first round of the U.S. Women’s Open. So what’s the spectator experience for a tournament like this? Pretty enjoyable—and that’s an understatement.
The beauty of covering any women’s professional sporting event—besides the occasional blockbuster UFC fight, i.e., Ronda Rousey-Holly Holm match or a World Cup contest—is the accessibility of the athletes. Bigger isn’t better when you’re a media member covering a pro sports event.
In fact, the less heralded the event, the better. San Jose native Christina Kim, the 69th-ranked player in the world, spent 30 minutes after her round talking with reporters. Candid as ever, Kim talked about everything from the diversity of the tour to her favorite hangout spots growing up in San Jose—7-Eleven and Jamba Juice took the top two spots just in case you’re wondering.
The point is it’s hard to imagine a men’s player on the PGA Tour spending 30 minutes after the first round of action. Or one of them carrying on a minutes-long conversation with a fan after their round is over, as first-round leader Mirim Lee did as relayed to me by my colleague, Cheeto Barrera. Accessibility is a key component in the spectators’ enjoyment factor, and the U.S. Women’s Open at CordeValle certainly had a laid-back atmosphere Thursday.
Although there was a steady stream of fans walking the grounds, there was plenty of space to get up and close with the players on virtually every hole. Spacious and scenic, CordeValle has a little bit of everything to satisfy spectators, including plenty of bathrooms throughout the course, concession stands with specialty items like a Shotgun Blond Ale produced by San Jose’s Strike Brewing Company specifically for the U.S. Open—and for the autograph seekers, a chance to actually get something signed without having to stand in a line as long as a football field.
On several occasions, I saw golfers signing autographs for kids, talking to them with a smile in the process. The golfers on the LPGA Tour are approachable, accessible and willing to spend plenty of time with fans and the media to talk about and grow the game.
Part of the golf course runs adjacent to Clos LaChance Winery, one of the more picturesque wineries in the Bay Area. Spectators can go to a certain spot on the course to watch the tournament, eat food and drink great wine, of course. The sightlines on the course are impeccable, with plenty of room for spectators to watch every shot with precision. In addition to the on-site winery, spectators have access to a restaurant and other food venues that offer a culinary experience most sporting events can’t come close to matching.
The par-72, 6,784-yard course is in spectacular condition, with 68 bunkers providing a nice contrast to the lush fairways and greens. All in all, the U.S. Open at CordeValle provides a great experience for fans who definitely will be getting a bang for their buck—ticket prices are affordable and teens 17 and under get in for free.

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