But it was appropriate for “pure links golf,” as the golf course would have it, and was exactly what the United States Golf Association wanted for its No. 1 amateur championship and – we can expect – for the U.S. Open, scheduled for Chambers Bay in 2015.
The name everybody in the Pacific Northwest golf community got to know last summer, and in the years leading up to the Amateur, was Mike Davis, then the USGA’s senior director of rules and competitions. Embodied in that title is all of the qualities we think we know about the USGA: demanding overseer of national championships, strict and prickly, diabolical in setting up the roughs (tall) and putting greens (fast).
A glance at his photo would give lie to the idea of Davis as the stern face of the USGA. With a golf hat on (as pictured above, at Pebble Beach for the 2010 U.S. Open), he looks a little like a young Tom Watson. With it off, he looks like the guy who maybe played second base on your high-school team and went on to be an accountant or run a furniture store in Minnesota.
Davis now has a little bigger endeavor to run: the whole damn USGA. He was named early this month as the seventh USGA executive director, succeeding David Fay, who retired in December.
The guy charged with upholding the strict standards of the USGA is, in my experience, not a tough guy at all, but a thorough professional, enthusiastic and courteous.
I talked to Davis in 2009, and asked him to address rumors that Chambers was not up to the task of hosting the U.S. Open and could never be ready in time.
Wrong, and wrong.
“I can absolutely, positively, categorically say that we’re going to have the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay,” Davis said.
The work to get ready for the Open, Davis said, is “making sure from an agronomic standpoint that we can get Chambers Bay right so it can play in championship conditions.”
The Amateur at Chambers Bay was a great test case: how would elite golfers perform on a golf course like nothing they’d ever seen?
The unique qualities of Chambers Bay allowed the USGA and course superintendent David Wienecke to experiment: with the hardness of the greens and approaches, and with the length of holes, some of which were made dramatically shorter then longer then back again day-to-day through the Amateur.
Davis was calling the shots, and now he’s calling all the shots for the organization that governs U.S. golf.