Q&A: Stephen Meeker, Olympic's general chairman

Stephen Meeker,

Olympic Club’s general chairman

When the U.S. Golf Association notified San Francisco’s Olympic Club in 2005 that it had been selected to host the 2012 U.S. Open, the contract required a general chairman to act as a liaison between the USGA and the club. Stephen Meeker, a commercial insurance broker, accepted the challenge, which spanned seven years, until the final putt dropped Sunday. He talked during the weekend about the fifth U.S. Open to be played on the Lake Course.

photo

Stephen Meeker

How many hours have you spent on this U.S. Open?

The first few years there was very little to do, really. The last year and a half has been a little more intense in terms of time. And I would say the last six months, I’ve probably spent 20 to 30 hours a week on it.

Will the course be like this in a year?

Our plan is to keep all the features in place as they are right now for probably 60 to 90 days. Let the members play it the way it is now and then decide whether we want to change. But a year from now, I would say it will be different because, No. 1, the rough will be moved back, probably some of our fairway lines will be expanded. There’s the (USGA executve director) Mike Davis bunker on 17 that he asked us to put in that actually most of our members since we have seen it sort of think it’s kind of cool and maybe we’ll keep it. We don’t know yet. We’re going to have to see how it goes when the members start playing it for two or three months.

What about all these shaved areas that were created?

Most members love those. We probably will keep many of those, maybe not have them shaved down as closely, but have them at least not rough or heavy-grass area.

Is there any move that was hugely controversial for you?

A lot of people think that the USGA asked us to make a lot of these changes to the course and in order to get another U.S. Open, but that’s totally untrue. They never even suggested that we do one thing. All the things we did were things that we were going to do anyway, whether we had the U.S. Open or not. So a lot of people think that we did all these things just so we could get another U.S. Open, and it’s totally untrue. Most of the things we did are just for the benefit of the course. We decided to replace the greens, as you know, and when we did that, we said, “Well, if we’re ever going to make any other changes, now is the time to do it because we’re building the greens.” And there were a couple of changes that were on the books for years and years and years that we decided to do because we were changing the greens.

Are you happy with No. 8?

Very much so. The reason we changed eight is because the old eighth hole was a wonderful hole for many, many years, but most of the trees and all the defenses around that hole we lost. And it really became the weakest hole on the property, by far. So we have always been trying to figure a way to make that a better hole, and there’s been talk since the ’50s about moving 7 back and moving 8 over, and this time we decided, with the greens being redone, this was the time to do it, and I think it came out beautifully. Most of the USGA promotional materials around the course include that hole. Most members I think really like 8. A few old members still like 8, the old 8, but I think most people now like the fact that it’s not a blind tee shot. You can see the green.

Have you already been discussing another U.S. Open?

Not formally. They (USGA officials) have strongly indicated to us that they would like to have us; they would like to come back. So that means we have to then extend an invitation to them, which I feel that we will do within six months or so.

But to have another Open here in, say, 10 years, would you be willing to tear up the Ocean Course like you did this year?

I think 10 years is a pretty good split that nobody’s going to be too upset about it. We’re also in the process of while this Open is taking place we’re redoing all the greens on the other course to have the same greens that we have on the Lake Course.

Do you pursue another USGA event in that 10-year period?

I would think so. I think the USGA’s interested in having us. They are now saying this is one of their “wow” venues. And I think that because of this event and the weather’s been so good and the course has shown so well and that sort of thing, but I think they definitely would like to have something other than a U.S. Open here. Maybe a U.S. Amateur, maybe even a Mid-Am. We’re very excited about the Ocean Course. The fact that we have all new greens there, I think that that would be a wonderful course for women’s events, for example, or some kind of an another amateur event.

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