PINEHURST, N.C. — To get a sense of the contrast between this year’s U.S. Women’s Open venue and next year’s, I am advised to go to the Pine Crest Inn and look up Carl.
The Pine Crest is a hotel, bar and restaurant that seems too small to be any one of those things. It sits in the middle of this tiny, bucolic village, reeking of the South and history and charm and golf.
Donald Ross was the architect of the legendary No. 2 course at Pinehurst Country Club, where the men’s U.S. Open is being played this week and the Women’s Open next.
Ross, who went to the Big Green Complex in the Sky in 1948, is golf’s Frank Lloyd Wright. He used to own the Pine Crest.
Carl’s last name is Wood and seems superfluous. As a manager and tender of the bar at the Pine Crest for decades, he has become a burly, amiable local legend (“Infamous, is what I’d call it.’’) who has poured drinks for, among the countless, Johnny Bench, Arnold Palmer, Dean Smith, Ben Crenshaw, Peyton Manning, Payne Stewart and Michael Jordan.
“I could tell some stories about Jordan … but I won’t,’’ Carl said.
“Bench thinks he can sing, when he gets a few in him.’’
Unless you’re a serious golf fan, you’ve probably never heard of Harvie Ward, the great amateur golfer of the 1940s and ’50s. His name was big enough here that he always drank for free at the Pine Crest. Parked his Rolls-Royce right out front.
In the British Isles, there are a number of blue-collar versions of this, classic links courses to which tiny, reverent towns are appended, with citizens who join the local golf club the way, around here, you’d join the American Legion.
In the U.S., there is really only one.
“This is a sleepy drinking town with a golf problem,’’ Ross said.
Pinehurst itself is not much bigger than Lititz. Within a five-mile radius are perhaps three dozen golf courses, most of them serious golf courses, which have hosted three U.S. Opens, four U.S. Women’s Opens, three U.S. Amateurs, and countless pro tour and national amateur events.
“Golf,’’ Marcus Larosa said Friday, “is the number one industry here.’’
Larosa owns Sandhills Rentals, which provides housing for the many well-funded individuals and groups who invade the Pinehurst area for major golf events.
“There’s no question about the positive impact,’’ Larosa said. “It trickles down in a lot of ways — cleaners, landscapers, pool people. A lot of folks get some real income boost.’’
Larosa said he spoke recently to a person from the Coalition for Human Care, a local Goodwill-type organization, who said they’ve gotten a boost from people fixing up their properties for big golf events, cleaning out closets, getting new furniture, and then donating all the old stuff.
“There’s a powerful trickle-down effect,’’ Larose said.
“It’s absolutely huge,’’ Carl said. “I’m guessing we get 3,000 people through here a day (during the Open).’’
That’s during the men’s Open, though. Locals here say the women’s Open doesn’t compare.
Larosa rented 125 properties this week. Next week, he’s rented six. He said a nice two-bedroom condo might go for $5,000 this week, $1,200-1,500 next.
Pinehurst is not Lancaster, however. There are reasons to believe a Women’s Open might play much differently in south central Pennsylvania.
First, there’s the sheer novelty of it for Lancaster. There’s never been anything like this in our town before.
Pinehurst is a village. Many, if not most, of the spectators park well outside, are shuttled in and out, and never get near the village itself. Its infrastructure couldn’t handle it.
“For a lot of businesses in the village, this is just another week,’’ Larose said
Lancaster is a city, used to tourism if not this particular type of it. A city the people running the event intend to involve heavily. The festivities, integrating the town, begin next month, with a ceremony revealing the 2015 Open’s honorary chairman.
Barry Deach, the veteran championship director who’s orchestrating the 2015 Women’s Open, said Tuesday he’s been blown away by Lancaster, by the hundreds of people showing up for town hall meetings and the local talent on hand.
“In the past, we’ve hired our own vendors,’’ Deach said. “Here, we’re using maybe two national people. All the rest are local.
“It’s exhilarating, scary and exciting at the same time.’’
It can now be revealed: An official drink of the 2015 Women’s Open is coming. Take that, Carl.
We can say this about July 6-12, 2015 in Lancaster: It won’t be just another week.