PINEHURST, NORTH CAROLINA | Mike Whan, the CEO of the USGA and an irrepressible force of nature, bounded onto the small stage situated under a white tent Monday and did what he does so well.
He made himself at home in what will be the USGA’s second home.
“Hello, neighbors,” Whan said to the group congregated to celebrate the groundbreaking for the two buildings that the USGA will construct along the entryway to the Pinehurst Resort clubhouse. “You’d better like me, because you’re going to be seeing a lot of me.”
There were politicians and local officials, Pinehurst owner Bob Dedman and resort president Tom Pashley and many others gathered on tennis courts that soon will give way to one of the most significant advancements in the long histories of the resort and the USGA.
Wrapped in green fencing advertising Golf House Pinehurst, the site will be transformed over the coming months, becoming home to the USGA’s new equipment-testing facility and a building that includes what is being called the USGA Experience, with an immersive view of the organization’s work along with a museum and gift shop.
The buildings, which were carefully designed to fit into the Pinehurst motif, also will include an outdoor garden with a focus on landscape and environmental awareness. The new buildings are scheduled to open in December 2023.
“As CEO of the USGA, most of the conversations I have start with someone saying, ‘I have a question for you,’ ” Whan said. “The question no one asks is, ‘Why Pinehurst?’ Everybody knows why Pinehurst.”
Though the USGA’s main headquarters will remain in Liberty Corner, N.J., creating a second home in Pinehurst is a major expansion for the organization. It’s also an important addition for the resort, which was announced as the first U.S. Open anchor site last year, hosting multiple national championships over the next 25-plus years.
“We want to make sure we look like we belong to the neighborhood. We want it to feel like we’ve been here since 1895 (when Pinehurst was created). We wanted to fit in before we stand out.” – Mike Whan
The USGA and Pinehurst crafted a 100-year lease, and Whan said there will be more to come once the first two buildings are completed. The buildings will be located just off the traffic circle that leads into the clubhouse drive, on the right as visitors approach the resort.
The buildings will carry the look and feel of the Carolina Hotel and other structures within the historic district.
“We want to make sure we look like we belong to the neighborhood,” Whan said. “We want it to feel like we’ve been here since 1895 (when Pinehurst was created).
“We wanted to fit in before we stand out.”
Investing in Pinehurst was not a quick decision by either side.
“I like to think it’s been a long, slow dance we’ve had,” Pashley said. “At every opportunity Pinehurst has been given, we’ve tried to exceed their expectations so something like this could eventually happen.
“There is no one time or one date I look back to. We were always in dialogue. We’ve always enjoyed open lines of communication. We got to the annual meeting. We go to the U.S. Open. We stay in constant contact.
“It goes back to them when they determined they needed to rebuild the test center. I’m sure someone said, ‘What about Pinehurst? It doesn’t have to be in New Jersey. It could be someplace else.’ ”
The buildings will be home to the USGA’s championship-operations group, the research and test center as well as Green Section team members. It will be home to approximately 15 percent of the USGA workforce.
In recent years, Pinehurst has hosted back-to-back men’s and women’s U.S. Opens in 2014, the U.S. Amateur on two courses in 2019, will host the first U.S. Adaptive Open in July and will host five more U.S. Opens starting in 2024 and at least one more Women’s Open through 2047. There will be other USGA events played throughout the Pinehurst region over that time.
“When you fit, you feel it,” USGA president Fred Perpell said. “We feel like we fit here.”
After the welcoming comments Monday, Whan and others grabbed silver shovels and posed for the ceremonial groundbreaking photos, hard hats and all.
The real digging begins immediately, and it may not end with this project.
“I now joke we hope the dance (with the USGA) will continue,” Pashley said, “but with Mike Whan, I don’t think it will be slow.”
Top: Artist rendering of USGA’s front campus
Photos, renderings: Courtesy USGA
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