An Interview With: David Fay, Tom Meeks and Marcia Luigs
MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the United States Golf Association press conference. I'd like to introduce the people on the podium.
First of all, David B. Fay the executive director of the USGA; Marcia Luigs, chairman of the USGA Women's Committee; Tom Meeks who is senior director of rules and competition.
We'll start with Marcia. I believe you have some announcements.
MARCIA LUIGS: Thanks, Rhonda.
First of all, I would like to give our thanks to Cherry Hills. We are so excited to be here and to hold women's greatest golf championship on this magnificent golf course is really terrific.
We have a great week on tap. Several records have been set this week. We had 1,158 entries into the Women's Open. We have more than 2,800 volunteers that are working this week and if things follow along as they are going now, it looks like we're on tap for a record gallery this week. We are really thrilled for that. A big thanks to Cherry Hills.
The announcement that I have to make is for the site of the 2009 U.S. Women's Open, and it will be held at Saucon Valley in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
DAVID FAY: Just building on what Marcia, said, Saucon Valley has been the site of a number of USGA championships, and this is an expression really of our commitment to taking the Women's Open to well-known golf courses that have great championship pedigree. As an example, three of the next four Women's Opens are going to be played at U.S. Open sites. This one this year, not only U.S. Open sites but historic sites. This is the site where Arnold Palmer became Arnold Palmer. Next year we're having it in Newport, which was the site of first U.S. Open, and in 2008 we're going to Interlocken, which was the third leg of Jones' Grand Slam in 1930. So we're very excited about our future plans for the Women's Open.
Ordinarily we limit our discussions at these conferences to the championship itself, the Women's Open, but in this case I am going to also announce a site for the Senior Open and the reason I am doing it is, it's going to happen about a little over hour south on 25, Broadmoor Golf Club. We'll be taking the 2008 Senior Open to Broadmoor. You will have a press release out there. We held our national championship there and one Curtis Cup match.
Our ties to the Broadmoor Golf Club are deep and not only are our ties to the Broadmoor deep, our ties to Colorado Springs are deep. I don't want to sound like a shill for some of the USGA programs, but our grandson's fellowship program is based in Colorado Springs. And we have a number of these fellows. If somebody might want to pick up that, it's a great story and a number of them are working this championship.
But we're delighted to have representatives from the Broadmoor, Bill Hibble, who's a name that probably is very familiar to many of you, the former president of the United States Olympic Committee. He's the Kraft Nabisco chair of the 2008 Senior Open.
And Russ Meyer, who is the director of golf. And I don't know if Judy is here, but Judy Bell is also involved with the Senior Open, and in her typical fashion, she's late. (Laughter). We're very excited to be going back to the Broadmoor.
With that I'd like to turn it over to Tom Meeks. I don't think Tom needs any introduction. He's so well known as the, man who sets up the U.S. Open, but as many of you know this is Tom's last year and properly so, he's remembered for being the setup man for the Open and lately the Women's Open. But in many respects, I think some of the things that Tom did early in his career where he was in charge of the Junior, the APL, the WAPL. He's a former teacher and like a great teacher, he really had an impact on a number of generations of young players coming through, teaching them about the etiquette of the game, what to do, what not to do, and it had a great impact. Obviously we're going to miss Tom, but I know he's going to enjoy that life in Indiana. So this is the second leg I think I would say of Tom Meeks' 2005 victory tour.
TOM MEEKS: Thank you, David. Ladies and gentlemen, let me add my appreciation to Cherry Hills for hosting the Women's Open. One of the early championships I cut my teeth on was a US Open in 1978, and it seems like yesterday Andy North is making a very difficult 4- or 5-footer on that final hole to win the Open championship in 1978. We're excited about the Women's Open.
We're playing just over 6,700 yards. I understand there's a 10% factor here at this altitude. It doesn't affect my golf ball I can assure you, but if the best players in the world are getting the advantage of this 10% factor that means that will golf course is playing around somewhere around 6,100 or 6,200.
We're really trying to pattern this week very similar to what we did last week at Pinehurst and that's have everything where we had it on Monday all the way to this coming Sunday. By that I mean, greens speed, rough, firmness, all those things we're trying to do the same throughout the entire week. I think in the past you have seen maybe a situation where the golf course starts out at one level and continues to get harder and harder and harder. And we think maybe that this approach, we had so much success with it at Pinehurst that I think you are going to see a lot of the USGA Championships down the road trying to set up in this manner.
Having said that, the rough here is at three inches and will be cut daily. The green speed is between 11 and 11.6. And right now the firmness is not quite where we want it, but it's a little harder to dial in the firmness with the weather situation you have here and the moisture that's in the ground but we're working on that. We're close on the firmness I should say. And we're anticipating a great championship over the next four days. Mike Davis, who is going to be my replacement, has been a big help to me the last two, three years, and Tim Morgan, has also been very helpful here. So we really do have a good team effect. We're delighted to be here to assist Marcia and the Women's Committee with the conduct of this Championship.
I was fortunate enough to be involved last year at The Orchards in Massachusetts, and I was particularly pleased with the manner in which we have been able to administer last year. I am talking pace to play. Even last year NBC got a little upset with us because the girls were playing a little too quick. We don't hear that often about any players. We have got a good crew of officials to help this week in the administration. We're looking forward to a good championship.
Q. Tom, given your history at Cherry Hills going back to the Open with Andy North, when you heard about Cherry Hills and it's your job to say, I have got to go in and fix the golf course, how much of Cherry Hills do you have to fix? It's been pretty good for a long time.
TOM MEEKS: Nothing was done to the golf course other than -- we may have modified a few fairways. I think there was initially a plan to build a tee forward on 9 and when I got out here a little about two years ago and looked at the 9th hole, I said we can use the front of the current 9th tee; it will work fine. Initially the setup was to play 18 as a par 5 and I was very opposed to that. I thought it would have been a very dull finishing hole for the Women's Open. Everyone would be laying up in two, so to speak. Maybe a few players could have reached in two. I thought it would be a much better as a 4 par. I have enjoyed some of the players playing out there playing the 18th hole. It's hard, but I think it's going to be -- it's really going to be a pivotal hole coming down the stretch for whoever is going to win this championship. Along with some of the other holes.
But 18 in particular it is going to be probably one of the most exciting finishing holes that I think we have ever had at a Women's Open.
But as far as bunkers or new tees anything like that, very, very little. Cherry Hills, like it is, was extra special and fits very well.
Q. Where is the tee going to be on No. 1 in relation to where it was in 1960, and is there anything about the setup of that hole that was done to try to encourage players to try to duplicate Palmer's feat?
TOM MEEKS: Good question. We certainly decided to use the Arnold Palmer tee, as it's become known. I think we made the mistake when the U.S. Amateur was here, we played the lower tee. I think a lot of people thought, why didn't you play the Palmer tee? I don't know what our answer was, to be honest with you.
We're excited about the Palmer tee. I don't know if any of these ladies can drive that hole or not, but it will be fun watching them, if any of them is going to try to knock it on that hole.
Q. David, I was wondering if you could elaborate on your comments about bringing the Women's Open to historic sites. Is any of that just because you like golf fans to be able to have their remembrances of what occurred there before, the history, or is it perhaps maybe just because these courses have track records that make running the event easier for the USGA perhaps?
DAVID FAY: First of all, let me apologize for misstepping on a name: Russ Miller, sorry about that, not Russ Meyer.
To your question, it's more that they are great golf courses. It's not so much necessarily that they are used to running big events, although in the case of Cherry Hills and Interlocken they are. Newport had the '95 U.S. Amateur, but I think that to take, and we have done this also with the U.S. Amateur, but to take the National Open, we think the biggest and most important event in women's golf, to golf courses that the average fan can relate to and can be sort of fall back in time whether it's Oakmont, Cherry Hills, I think that's a good thing. All of these courses are proven championship courses.
Q. Tom, this being your last go-around at the Open, the Women's Open, have you had a chance to take pause to think about it a little bit?
TOM MEEKS: Well, yes, I have reflected back many times the last few weeks.
Payne Stewart became a very special friend of mine through some unusual circumstances that he and I had to deal with, but I certainly was thinking of Payne throughout the week and particularly on Sunday at Pinehurst but, you know, I told someone earlier in the week there's, three ways you can leave a job - you can die, you can get fired or you can retire, and I think I am going to take the way out that I feel most comfortable with.
Q. Special circumstances with the Olympic Club in '98?
TOM WEEKS: I have some things that I have done that I regret, but I think when you do the kind of job that I think as expected of the USGA, the job that I am involved with, but don't get me wrong, I have always felt like I have had a good team of people to work with. We have had two, three little things that gone wrong. I hope that we're evaluated on all the other things. I am going to have a few tears down the road, but I will look back with some fond memories.
Q. Did that relationship grow out of that experience?
TOM WEEKS: Oh, yeah, I think when you do the job that the person that's in charge of the setup for these golf courses, you learn something every day. Absolutely every day. And that's just part of the job.
But I am leaving this in good hands with Mike Davis and Tim Morgan. We have got a wonderful championship staff at golf house for all of our championships. I am just fortunate David mentioned all the other championships I was involved with. I did over 20 juniors, over 20 APL's, involved with the Senior. I have really been involved with them at one time or another. A great experience from all of those. When you get up to the bigger ones like the Women's and Men's Open there's a little more involved, particularly with all the stuff that's around the golf course. It's been a great ride, Phil.
Q. What have been two or three of your finest memories of all the championships that you have attended?
TOM WEEKS: Well, obviously getting to work for Peter that was a get thrill. I always said I think he was a very good teacher, but if you couldn't learn by just being around him, you weren't a very good student.
I have had some wonderful experiences met a lot of wound full people.
I will share one thing: This week, at Pinehurst on Saturday and Sunday. Several of the players made some nice comments over Saturday and Sunday but Rocco Mediate goes by on Saturday, and he's playing pretty good, is in the hunt. I think he finished in the Top-10 or 12. He walks over towards me. He said "Absolutely awesome," and I thought that was pretty classy.
But a lot of wonderful experiences.
Q. Tom, in this tournament this week we have a player in Annika Sorenstam who has been probably even more dominant than Tiger Woods in the last few years, and yet you hear a lot, or at least you used to hear a lot about, Tiger-proofing golf courses. Is there such a thing about Annika-proofing a golf course?
TOM WEEKS: The way we have set this golf course up, we feel very good how it's set up. We're setting it up as a Women's Open championship should be set up with this particular venue. Whether it favors one player or another, I really can't say. She's obviously playing very well and I am sure she's probably the favorite to win this week, but I would expect that we would have some other players that will be in contention.
I don't think anyone picked Michael Campbell to win at Pinehurst, but man, I tell you he played some great golf down the stretch.
I have an idea come Sunday there's going to be several players that are going to have a chance to win.
Q. Would you venture a guess on a winning score?
TOM WEEKS: I have no idea. I just don't know. Last week at Pinehurst I thought maybe 3- or 4-under would win, not an even par would win. I think par is a nice number always at a USGA championship but I am sure if the weather conditions are right and someone gets the putter going and keeps the ball in the fairway, I think that's the key this week, I won't be surprised with an under-par win.
How many? I have no idea. We have got our game plan to set up this golf course okay, and I think we have done a good job. We have worked hard on our hole location work. We're balancing these out. You are not going to see all the Sunday locations, so to speak, on Sunday. I think we have done a good job on the setup.
I think biggest thing we're worried about is the weather each evening. We can't do much about that, so we don't want to worry too much about that.
Q. Can you elaborate more on the challenges of setting up the greens in this course with the weather and the altitude?
TOM MEEKS: Well, we take a green and evaluate it. The thing we have to be concerned about is the slope of the greens, and we have one green on the front nine, it is a 5th hole, very slopey. We have to be very careful on 10 because it has a lot of slope to it. Then 18's got some interesting slopes. The rest of the greens I think we're okay with. We're okay with those three, but we have worked hard. We have putted all the spots.
We have this device now called a "smart tool". It's nothing more than a sophisticated carpenter's level. When you put it down, it gives you a digital readout. You read it one way, i.e., from the back to the front of the green, then you read it at a 90 degree angle, and two numbers together. If this number is not greater than 5.0 we should be okay. We still put them and we're also checking its reading. We put this tool in effect last week at Pinehurst and it was very effective in helping us there. I am sure you are going to see us continue to use this. It's almost kind of a support device if you feel good about it, it helps confirm whether you have got a location that should be okay.
Q. There's always been a lot of talk with the effect of technology on the men's game in terms of how far they are hitting it. How much of an impact has it had on the women's game, how much does it factor into the way you do set up a Women's Open?
TOM MEEKS: I'd rather let David talk about the technical aspect and how it affects set up because he's certainly more in tuned with it than I have been. I have stayed away from that. I have always referred to Dick and David on that kind of a question.
DAVID FAY: Well, the courses that we're playing, factoring even altitude they are longer, certainly just as the leading men, the men hit it longer, so do the women. I believe it was at the PGA Championship, the LPGA Championship that Annika averaged over 300 yards. With the Women's Open, though, there was a period of time, and I believe you can find some of the older players who would confirm that, that in the mid-'60s I believe that we were setting them up to hard. That if you were to talk to Hall of Famers like Kathy Whitworth, it was the baton death march out there. But I clearly, I believe that with technology, all technological advances, clubs, ball, whatever, the better you are the better able you are to take advantage of those improvement.
Clearly, what we are seeing now, just as on the men's side, these athletes are physically fit. They are working very hard at their game. They have the swing instruction. They are fabulous athlete and so they are taking advantage of the changes in technology, also.
(Lights go out.)
Q. You start bad-mouthing technology and see what happens.
DAVID FAY: I didn't bad mouth it. (Laughter)
Q. Given the current mailing address of your two confederates up there, is this tournament administration kind of in the hands of the Indianapolis Mafia?
DAVID FAY: We do have a lot of great officials. We have a number of great officials from Indiana. It's money when you use that word, and I am not going to use that word because I am from New Jersey. This is this state has a great collection of leaders.
I have always found it remarkable that the state of Mississippi has produced exceptional rules officials. Maybe it's something in the water.
Then we have Pennsylvania, too. We have Mike Davis. In Colorado we use that term, that last word you used to describe those leaders of women's golf.
Q. Marcia, both guys have talked about kind of upgrading the venues for the Women's Open. You have been with the Women's Committee for I don't know how many years, was that a conscious decision or were you a part of that?
MARCIA LUIGS: Well, I think it was probably about five or six years ago at least that we have gotten together with David and some of the other members of the Executive Committee and started looking into future sites for the Women's Open, and as women's golf has grown and the level of play has grown, so have the venues on which we're are holding these championships now, and we're just at the top level.
Q. David, having the Open and the Women's Open in consecutive weeks has that caused logistical problems for the USGA? Could you see doing this again in the future?
DAVID FAY: It's not ideal to have them back-to-back because it causes some logistical issues, not just with us but with you all. Those of you that were at Pinehurst, if you wanted to come here and cover from the Monday, going forward you have a lot of equipment to ship. We do have a large staff though. So we have two good teams and the number of them were here, who were not at Pinehurst, obviously Tom and Mike, Tim Morgan came in early.
But a few years ago we had three of the four -- the three Opens in a four-week period. We had the Open, then we had a week off, then we had the Senior Open and then the Women's Open. That's not a bad position to be in because your clumping together the three national championships.
MODERATOR: Thank you all so much for being here.