Ken Still: former PGA Tour player, now an ambassador

The February 14 City Council meeting was one of the best attended in recent memory. That shows just how much folks around here love Ken Still, who had a long career on the PGA Tour. He had three victories on the Tour, but he’s best known for playing on the 1969 Ryder Cup team with good friend Jack Nicklaus.

When he arrived at the meeting, Ken knew we were honoring him with a proclamation recognizing his birthday (Feb. 12) and naming him the City of Fircrest’s Goodwill Ambassador to the 2015 U.S. Open at Chambers Bay. What he and his wife Linda didn’t know was that Councilmember Matthew Jolibois had arranged to present Ken with letters of congratulations from Nicklaus, Juan “Chi Chi” Rodriguez, Raymond Floyd and Ron Read, the longtime official starter of the U.S. Open and the first USGA official to take a look at the possibility of bringing the championship to Chambers Bay.

During the meeting, I had the opportunity to present a letter from my boss, Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy, who noted that we’ll need ambassadors like Ken to help educate the community about what it’s like to have a U.S. Open in your back yard. U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks also sent a letter.

Ken and his family and friends were visibly moved by the event. And it was nice of News Tribune golf writer Todd Milles to be there to capture the moment for the local paper.

Getting Chambers Bay ready for the U.S. Open

One of my top priorities as the Communications Director for Pierce County involves planning for the 2015 U.S. Open at the county-owned Chambers Bay.  This is going to be one of the coolest things to ever happen in this county.

An independent study estimated that the 2008 U.S. Open in San Diego resulted in a $142 million economic impact on that county.  Now consider this: Chambers Bay is much larger than Torrey Pines.  We will have more spectators, more infrastructure, more merchandise sold, more food and beverage consumed, more everything — we think the impact of the 2015 U.S. Open should easily top $150 million.

I’ll talk more about this in the coming months (and years). For now, I just want to share a story that The Associated Press moved on the national sports wire yesterday.  It’s about the changes that the United States Golf Association is making to get Chambers Bay ready to challenge the top golfers in the world.

Here is an excerpt:

“Most times we’re going to Shinnecock or Oakmont or Pebble Beach,” USGA executive director Mike Davis said. “Going to new courses, one of the reasons we schedule it the way we did was we wanted to see how the courses played. At Chambers Bay, it was incredibly valuable.”

When Chambers Bay hosted the U.S. Amateur last year, the challenge for Davis, Chambers Bay general manager Matt Allen and their staffs was simply seeing if the course could exhibit and withstand the conditions the USGA really wanted: a dry, hard fast track that mirrored the look of the links courses of the British Isles.

It worked, even if Davis acknowledged after the Amateur that they had dried out the course too much during stroke play. The course was choked of water for three weeks before the Amateur — sans the Pacific Northwest’s natural sprinkler — and when the tournament was done, it took only three or four weeks for the course to regain some green lushness.

“It tells us frankly in the long run we can maintain the golf course drier and leaner as normal practice, which conserves on water and fertilizer,” Allen said. “And the firmer and faster it plays day in and day out, the better. That’s how it was designed and the ball goes farther and everybody is happy.”

Here is a link to the whole story.

And here is a picture of me with the U.S. Open trophy during the 2010 championship at Pebble Beach (the trophy tent is sponsored by Lexus; hence the logo placement).  Someone is going to kiss that trophy on the 18th green at Chambers Bay in four years.