As she looked out at the 6,762 yards of CordeValle’s San Martin golf course, Cristie Kerr, the 11th ranked women’s pro in the world, said it was “tough, but fair.”
Tough—that’s how the local promoters feel with only six months to go before the area’s biggest-ever golf event.
The course will be seen internationally for the 71st U.S. Women’s Open golf tournament—the first women’s open tournament in the Bay Area—July 7-10. The event will bring 100,000 spectators and as much as $20 million into South County.
“What was once a marathon is now a sprint,” said Jeff Holland, director of sales & marketing at CordeValle. They knew in 2013 the open was coming, but the last stretch is filled with lots of things to do.
The resort has hosted major championships before, including the Fry’s.com PGA Tour Open for four years and last year’s PGA Cup, but the U.S. Women’s Open is different, and bigger with more national exposure for the resort and the region. It will thus require more from the host site.
Responsible for things like selling tickets, hospitality and sourcing a medical provider, the resort is also in the process of finding more than 2,000 volunteers to work at the four-day event. Go to 2016uswomensopen.com to volunteer.
“So for us, everything is new, but it’s fun, too, even the permitting process—the county has been amazing,” said Holland.
The championship will be broadcast on Fox and Fox Sports, bringing unprecedented exposure to the South County community, its rural scenery and local hospitality—including the growing wine industry.
On Jan. 16, as part of a publicity push, Kerr, who won the 2007 U.S. Women’s Open, visited the resort to try out the award-winning, Robert Trent Jones, Jr. championship course.
The 18-hole, par-72 course is considered the most challenging in the Bay Area, but Kerr says, “It’s fair.”
“It’s tough, it’s long, challenging, demanding, but fair, which is kind of hard to achieve with a golf course. But Rosewood does a great job with all of their resorts so it doesn’t surprise me that this golf course is terrific,” she said.
Asked what kind of player should do well at the competition she said, “Usually it is someone who is above average in length. The U.S. Opens are always very long and you need someone who is consistent.”
She continued, “But you look at the last couple years and the people who have won the Open have never won a golf tournament before. That is what is great about sports, you never know what to expect.”
Kerr got into competitive golf as a teenager, prompted by her parents, who were athletes as well. Her mother was a swimmer and her dad played baseball.
“Both almost made it to the pros, so you can say I’m the one that made it,” Kerr said.
Kerr, 38, who has earned $17 million since 1997, has seen the women’s sport evolve over the last 20 years and is excited about its current standing.
“People are really starting to understand how good the golf is on our tour and how deep the talent is.”
Kerr will be one of 156 players at CordeValle, joining the likes of Paula Creamer, Inbee Park, Michelle Wie and Lydia Ko, competing for a share of a prize purse that could be upwards of $4.5 million, which was last year’s figure. The exact amount will be confirmed closer to the event.
With a change in elevation of just 150 feet throughout the entire course, spectators should have an easy time following all the action.
“There are two to three hills, but the rest is pretty walkable for spectators,” said Peggy Woolf, captain of the Gilroy Ladies Golf Club, one of a handful of women’s groups that play in the area.
“It will be a big deal, the women’s golf championship has never been this close,” she said, adding that she and other members of local clubs have already signed up to volunteer at the event.
“It should be a very positive event for the whole South County community of Morgan Hill, Gilroy and south San Jose,” she said.