The Forecaddie loves the Pinehurst area in North Carolina. The golf, the restaurants, the history of the area known as the “Cradle of American Golf.” And don’t forget all the opportunities to make a few bucks with a bag on the shoulder.
The area has everything a golfer could want — and it soon might have even more to love. North Carolina’s state senate passed a bill Thursday that leads the Man Out Front to wonder if the United States Golf Association has its eyes on a new home in the Sandhills.
The USGA is based in Liberty Corner, New Jersey, not far from New York. There the U.S. game’s governing body runs an equipment testing center, a museum, an agronomy center and more.
But for how much longer?
This week House Bill 807 was unanimously approved in North Carolina for up to $42 million in performance-based state incentives to a “sports championship employer” heading to the Tar Heel State, according to multiple reports from media in North Carolina. The house followed suit Thursday with a 102-12 vote, as reported by the the Winston-Salem Journal. Governor Roy Cooper had 10 days to sign what was titled “Championship NC Act.”
But the bill passed without specifying for whom specifically the state incentives are intended, leaving plenty of room for speculation. State officials remained mum despite passing the multi-million-dollar legislation.
An article on WRAL.com, the website for an NBC-affiliated television station in Raleigh, pointed out an interesting fact that got your friendly Forecaddie thinking: Senator Tom McInnis, who pushed the plan through the state senate, represents the district that’s home to Pinehurst.
Would a USGA move to the Pinehurst make sense? In more ways than one. The USGA, which conducts the U.S. Open in two weeks at Winged Foot in Mamaroneck, N,Y., has yet to officially comment.
There are interesting correlations that paint the USGA as a possible candidate for the money. Included are provisions to host lucrative major championships for men and women in North Carolina, open a museum and equipment testing center, employ support staff and run a visitor center. There’s even a provision that whatever sports body turns up must provide a hospitality pavilion for the state’s use.
It might not be the USGA, but all those certainly tick the boxes for the governing body.
Excerpts from the ratified bill include:
- The business will invest at least $5 million of private funds in the project. The investments required by this sub-subdivision must be completed no later than December 31, 2023, and must be used by the business, along with other funds, to complete facilities consisting of at least two buildings totaling no less than 30,000 square feet, designed and built in a style consistent with the surrounding campus, which will house at a minimum an equipment testing center for research for advancements pertaining to the business and associated support staff, a museum and visitor center, and departments within the business.
- The project will produce for the state a total economic benefit of at least $800 million dollars over the term of the agreement.
- The project will employ at least 35 new employees and at least 50 total employees with an average annual salary of not less than $80,000.
- The business is a national sports nonprofit, event organizer and governing body that is responsible for staging and holding championship events and agrees to hold championship events in the state with an aggregate economic benefit of $500 million over the term of the agreement.
- The championship events must include (i) at least one men’s major professional championship event every five to seven years having an economic benefit of $90 million per event, (ii) at least one women’s major professional championship event every 10 years, and (iii) at least 13 additional championship events not otherwise required in this subdivision at venues in this State.
- At each men’s major professional championship event held in this state as required by this subdivision, the business provides at no cost a hospitality pavilion to the department or a nonprofit corporation … that will accommodate at least 40 people.
The USGA wouldn’t be the only golf organization to make a big move. The PGA of America announced in 2018 that it would move from South Florida to Frisco, Texas, in 2022. Two new courses are under construction at the new Dallas-area headquarters.
As far as championship history goes. Pinehurst has it in spades. Donald Ross’ famed Pinehurst No. 2 has hosted three U.S. Opens, a U.S. Women’s Open, a U.S. Senior Open, a PGA Championship, a Ryder Cup and three U.S. Amateurs among many other prestigious competitions. It’s slated to hold the U.S. Open again in 2024.
In 2014, both the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open were successfully held at Pinehurst, a feat that could easily be replicated. You can do a lot with nine courses at your disposal, not to mention several other championship-quality courses in the area, as well.
Raleigh-Durham International Airport is a little over an hour away. As far as accommodations are concerned, there are plenty. USGA employees would be able to enjoy a longer golf season than in New Jersey. And the USGA museum would undoubtedly receive more tourist traffic than in Liberty Corner.
The Man Out Front can even confirm a handful of USGA employees have been riding out the COVID-19 pandemic in Pinehurst.
Sure, there’s some speculation here. But it almost makes too much sense, right? Stay tuned.