When America’s oldest golf championship is played on one of America’s newest courses, you know something special is about to happen. At only three years old, Chambers Bay was ready to make its mark on the world of golf. Prior to the brightest young names in the game stepping upon the first tee for the 2010 U.S. Amateur, the questions remained: with its lumpy greens and rock-hard surfaces, would it be too tough? With very few forced carries and 100-yard-wide fairways in places, would it be tough enough?
Everyone in golf at its loftiest levels was watching. For not only was this fledgling course trying to show itself capable of doing justice to our national amateur championship, everyone also knew this would be the trial run for the U.S. Open scheduled five years later.
The world’s finest amateur golfers assembled along the picturesque shores of the Puget Sound, eager to test themselves against the challenges of this new and intimidating links-style course. Every imaginable shot, tee placement and green complex had been considered by the course’s architects when preparing Chambers Bay for championship play. When it was over, when the field had been whittled to one – U.S. Amateur champion Peter Uihlein – the verdict was clear. Chambers Bay had what it took to be a great U.S. Open site.
“You can’t really get close to the flags by hitting them at the flag,” said Uihlein. “You’ve got to use the slopes and be creative. You’ve got to hit every shot with a certain spin and height. You’ve really got to control your ball.”
For the 36-hole championship match held on the last day, more than 5,000 spectators followed the final twosome of Uihlein, the Oklahoma State star, and David Chung, the Stanford junior. They were appropriately the No. 1 and No. 4 ranked amateurs in the world. On his 21st birthday, alongside the railroad tracks and banks of Puget Sound, Uihlein won the Amateur on the 16th hole, defeating Chung 4 and 2 for the title in its 110th version.
“The cream rose to the top here because Chambers Bay tests all those things,” said Tom O’Toole, at the time the chairman of the USGA Championship Committee and eventual USGA president. “It tests shot-making capabilities, rewards well-executed shots and penalizes poorly executed shots.”
As the first U.S. Amateur in history to be played on a public course, and the first ever hosted in the state of Washington, Chambers Bay delivered on its promise exactly the way the USGA hoped it would. The firm and fast layout of the links-style course requires skill and careful course management rather than sheer power from players. The same is true of its caretakers, whose approach is beautifully simple – less waste of water and other natural resources, reduced usage of chemicals, and greater reliance on sustainability. When it comes to course conditioning brown is both beautiful and brutal, and links-inspired golf is the principle of working with nature, not against it.
In addition to giving the USGA a chance to test Chambers Bay as a championship venue, the U.S. Amateur also gave several future U.S. Open players crucial experience with this one-of-a-kind course, including eventual U.S. Open winner Jordan Spieth who missed the U.S. Amateur cut with a 2nd round score of 83. Spieth would, of course, exact his revenge a mere five years later. The 2010 U.S. Amateur at Chambers Bay set attendance records and a new standard for hosting a championship, establishing the Northwest’s thirst and support for golf, and foreshadowing the success of the eventual U.S. Open.
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