Editor’s note: I’m at the Olympic Club in San Francisco all week for the 112th U.S. Open Championship.
A FEW WEEKS AGO I WAS TALKING to Bill Callan, a longtime Olympic club member and the club historian for about two decades. Callan was amazed as he watched the transformation of his home club into a U.S. Open venue. This isn’t a golf tournament; it’s an event, he said with emphasis. It’s nothing like 1998 (the last time the Olympic Club hosted the U.S. Open), he added.
Callan has been around for each of the five Opens played at Olympic. During the first one in 1955, the historic upset of Ben Hogan by Jack Fleck, 13-year-old Callan was a scorecard runner. He got Ben Hogan’s autograph but later lost it.
On the scene since Monday, I fully understand why Callan marvels at what he sees at his normally sedate home course. This week the Olympic Club is a small city. Bordering the golf course is a long row of small, medium and massive tents where members normally park their cars. Picnic tables dot the area where food and drink are served. People stand in front of giant outdoor screens that televise the golf action, some of which is not more than a solid 8-iron from where they stand.
The thoroughfare—I’ll call it Main Street—adjacent to the numerous tents filled with food, exhibits, information and other stuff is constantly bustling with people. It’s an event, a happening, an experience. If you strolled along Main Street, you’d see these “storefronts”:
The Dog House
Chevron Stem Zone (an exhibit highlighting science of golf)
Lexus Performance Drive Challenge
American Express Championship Experience
At the end of Main Street sits:
USGA Members Clubhouse
Merchandise Bag Check
There is more activity here this weekend than in some small cities across America. Come Monday, or Tuesday, it will be a ghost town. And not long after, it will vanish altogether, becoming, once again, a parking lot for Bill Callan and his fellow members of the Olympic Club.