Two years sure sounds like plenty of time to get something done, no matter how large the assignment. Unless, of course, you're the person in charge of making it all come together. Then the clock can never tick slowly enough.
The U.S. Women's Open is coming to Saucon Valley Country Club, in Bethlehem, in 2009. Mimi Griffin, who you might remember as an ESPN women's college basketball analyst, is the event's executive director. It's her mission to make sure this doesn't become just the best Women's Open, but one of the top championships ever conducted by the U.S. Golf Association, period.
"We want it to be record-setting and historic," she insisted at a recent luncheon at Saucon Valley to officially kick off the tournament's promotion. "We're going to put on a show. It's a challenge.
"But we're very excited and committed. It's going to have a huge economic impact on the Lehigh Valley. We want this to be the place to be in July 2009."
The goal is simple: She wants it to be a sellout by next July. The club is capping ticket sales at 25,000 per day, even though the people involved believe they could sell more. Also, about 3,000 volunteers will be needed, without whom nothing could happen. And there's always the corporate/hospitality side of the equation, which in this master plan has an option for every budget and schedule.
Saucon Valley, which is located just down the road from Lehigh University, has hosted five USGA championships: the 1951 U.S. Amateur, the 1983 Junior Amateur, the 1987 Senior Amateur, and Senior Opens in 1992 and 2000. The last two were both big-time success stories. And Griffin was very much part of each of them.
The Old Course, by the way, will play at about the same length (6,600 to 6,700 yards, par 71) as it did for the Seniors, even though it is undergoing some extensive renovations by the Fazio Group, which also has done work at such venues as Oakmont, Merion, Pine Valley, Winged Foot and Oak Hill.
The logo, which Griffin wanted to be "elegantly simple," is centered upon the Bethlehem Star. "It screams our area," she explained. "Follow the stars, to the stars. See the best in women's golf."
In case you haven't noticed, there is only one LPGA stop still in the greater Delaware Valley region, now that the Shop-Rite Classic at the Jersey shore is no more. And the McDonald's LPGA Championship, another major, is held in northern Maryland. The PGA and Champions tours both departed some time ago.
So, at least for the immediate future, this is about as close as the game at the highest levels is going to get to Billy Penn's statue. And by 2009, who knows? Perhaps Michelle Wie will have actually won something else.
If not, there's always Lorena Ochoa, Morgan Pressel and Paula Creamer, to name just a few of the players who could make things interesting. Possibly even Annika Sorenstam, still.
"Saucon Valley is an American legacy," USGA executive director David Fay said. "To have five championships in a quarter century is very impressive. And this is, without question, the most important event in women's golf in terms of money, attention and promotion."
And soon, it's coming to a place that's no more than an hour's drive from most Philly suburbs. The last time the Women's Open was held this close to us was 1976, when Rolling Green, in Springfield (Delaware County) was the host. The summer before that, it was held at Atlantic City C.C.
"We know the [blueprint]," Griffin said. "We have the passion, the personalities, the tradition. So, there's something for everyone. If we can't pull it off, shame on us. We want to provide a wonderful experience, in a magical environment.
"This only happens once every decade or so. We want people to participate, really embrace it, and make it something special."
The Web site, which will go live in July, is 2009uswomensopen.com. You also can call 610-814-6101. The dates are July 9 to 12, same as it was for the '92 Senior Open . . . This year's Women's Open is at Pine Needles, in Southern Pines, N.C., June 28 to July 1. That was also the site in 1996 and 2001. Annika Sorenstam, who won in '96, is the defending champ. She is nursing a back injury but is expected to return in time for the next women's major, the McDonald's LPGA Championship, on June 7 to 10 at Bulle Rock in Havre de Grace, Md. She won that title in 2003, '04 and '05 . . . Next year's Women's Open is at Interlachen, in Edina, Minn. In 2010, it's at Oakmont, near Pittsburgh, which is hosting the men's Open next month. *