US Open at Torrey Pines brings San Diego profit

by | Sep 18, 2021 | Driving Ranges

There are several ways to gauge the impact and scope of the US Open in San Diego this summer.

Start with a total of 150 hours of television and digital coverage that reached 177 countries and territories, including 25 million viewers in the US alone – a postcard-perfect glamor shot for the region.

Look at the nearly $ 3.5 million the United States Golf Association paid the city to cover the cost of the insane tournament Jon Rahm won in Torrey Pines in June.

Or rewind to Sunday evening hours after the cheers for cream have ebbed.

The city’s contract with the USGA stipulated that the course had to be closed for the first two days of the following week to build mulligans due to weather delays or longer play. When the tea sheets hit online for Wednesday, it was like throwing a sirloin steak into a shark tank.

“One of our managers checked it out,” said Scott Bentley, assistant director of the city’s golf division. “It took 45 seconds to fill the entire tea sheet for the day. We talk from 6:15 in the morning to 6 in the evening. “

The USGA paid the city $ 3,469,256.87, according to a Union-Tribune request.

It did so in the form of six rental checks to partially cover the pre-tournament closure of the south course and the north course which turned into a driving range, media center, parking lot, and more. The USGA also paid $ 450,000 to balance public safety and permits.

The final grand total included revenue sharing in the form of 20 percent of hospitality packages and 10 percent of hotel revenue, which was $ 269,256.87.

Although the city covered its expenses and more, the hospitality share remained well below projections. Natasha Collura, executive director of the city’s special events group, stated in an email on June 22 that a request was sent to the USGA because the money was “nowhere near expected levels”.

The city, prior to the pandemic, estimated that a normal open would raise the city between $ 1.3 million and $ 1.7 million in hospitality funds. Then COVID-19 restrictions hampered participation.

Players and USGA officials generally raved about the playing conditions. The course became one of the stars of the Open.

“I know one of the big concerns in 2008 was the condition of the golf course,” Bentley said. “We had never done an Open before, and since it is a community course, they had a lot of concerns about the condition of the course.

“We have made many changes to our agronomic practices so the courses are in much better shape than they were in 2008. There have been very few concerns this year.”

This was a remarkable achievement as the golf department – like other city groups – faced staff cuts due to COVID.

“People were surprised we did it because we were short on staff,” said Bentley. “We lost about 30 percent of our maintenance staff. We got ready all spring. It was incredible to see how it all came together. “

The nearly $ 3.5 million exceeded the $ 500,000 San Diego received for hosting the event in 2008.

USGA payments 13 years ago were nowhere near enough to cover lost money through rate closings. In addition to the effects on tourism, the 2021 tournament also brought some positive income.

However, hosting an Open cannot be measured in just dollars and cents. For example, the incredible finish, orchestrated by Tiger Woods in 2008, delivered a marketing bonanza.

“Worldwide interest and demand for the course has skyrocketed,” said Tim Graham of the city’s communications department. “(Re-hosting) keeps Torrey Pines Golf Course in mind in the golfing world.”

A portion of the USGA funds will be used to renovate the city-operated Mission Bay Golf Course.

Bentley said the $ 10-11 million project will replace the old clubhouse while adding new buildings for concessions and the golf shop. Construction is slated to begin in the final months of 2021 and will last a year, he said.

Despite the chic close-up and sparkling testimony, there is concern about when or if the tournament will return.

A Golf Digest story, titled “Why Torrey Pines May Be a Farewell to the Era of Real Public Golf at the US Open,” explained a shift in the USGA’s thinking about reducing the number of public golf courses to accommodate historical core courses to enlarge.

Although USGA officials have indicated that Torrey Pines is likely to be put on a shorter list, questions are swirling.

“I’m very optimistic that we have a good chance,” said Bentley. “They say they listen to the players and the players were happy. We produced another memorable event and a great finish. San Diego is a great city with great weather.

“I’m not sure why it wouldn’t come back.”

San Diego hopes he’s right.