Seeing Red and Black at Erin Hills
Thanks to the unbelievable generosity of fellow Poor Man and scholar Darren DeVore, I was included in a group of Damn Good Dawgs (DGD's) that got to go to the U.S. Open last week at idyllic Erin Hills.
DeVore is on a close-knit group of board members at Erin Hills via his longtime business relationship with owner Andy Ziegler. Ziegler purchased Erin Hills from the original developer of the course in 2009, when there were serious concerns about the long-term viability of the project. (Click here for a great piece from that time showing how far Erin Hills has come under Ziegler's guidance.) It was an honor to be around Andy and Darren for this week, which was the culmination of a gargantuan effort to pull off our nation's championship golf event in this region for the first time in history.
Loran Smith, a tireless advocate for all things UGA and golf related, wrote these two great pieces giving background to the Erin Hills story.
This was my first US Open, and my first time to the upper-Midwest. Driving to the US national golf championship through the rolling cornfields and myriad trees highlighted by the occasional barns and silos was enough to make me want to gear up and storm the beaches of Iwo Jima or something. It is a gorgeous and inspiring place.
Erin Hills itself is of course beautiful. And gargantuan. It is a "Field of Dreams" for golf.
When you are on the property, there is no hint or reminder that any world exists beyond the treeline. When the original developer built the course, he bought all houses in eyesight of the property and tore them down, so as to preserve the general aesthetic of the place.
Sweeping winds howl inland from Lake Michigan. This causes the fescue to behave like "amber waves of grain" and the course takes on the appearance of a collection of fairways and greens floating in a golden ocean.
We spent a lot of time following Andy and Darren around, getting to see some of the behind-the-scenes operations that go into pulling off the tournament. The buildout of temporary areas like the player locker room, media, and merchandise tents are pretty incredible.
Speaking of Merchandise, the merch tent was unbelievable. Whispers around the clubhouse told that over $13 Million worth of merch was sold. By Sunday many items had sold out. Here was my favorite item, a cool iron bottle opener shaped like the Erin Hills logo.
The tournament itself proved to be a great week for Georgia fans, with fellow Poor Men Brian Harman being the third Bulldawg to finish in second at a US Open, and Russell Henley and Harris English also making the cut. Further, certain Poor Men will find great pleasure in noting that Bubba Watson did not make it to the weekend.
Harman had a great showing, but Brooks Koepka stormed the back nine and forcibly took the Championship from all pursuers behind his brilliant iron play and overwhelming distance. (On the 72nd hole, he hit a 3 wood 379 yards.) Koepka was certainly a deserving champ after a grueling week of golf that saw the world's top six players all miss the cut.
Like most golf fans, I have my "Golf Bucket List" in the back of my mind that I am trying to tick off one by one. After this week, a trip to Wisconsin to take in the lakes, Erin Hills, Kohler and Sand Valley has catapulted up there with the usual suspects in Northern California and the Hamptons.
The players (to a man) all had high marks for the course. There is no doubt that Erin Hills is the golden example of golf in this region, and I hope that the USGA brings the championship back on a regular rotation among some other courses that are not located in New York, Pennsylvania, or California.
A big thanks again to Darren DeVore and the great people at Erin Hills for a great week!