Less than 60 days away
After years of waiting, the US Open at Erin Hills is golfs next major

By NICHOLAS DETTMANN - Daily News

April 14, 2017

Eric Steimer, 2017 U.S. Open championship manager, points toward the golf course where tents will be set up for this year's tournament Wednesday at Erin Hills Golf Course in the town of Erin.
Nicholas Dettmann/Daily News

TOWN OF ERIN A puzzle with seemingly a million pieces two years ago is coming together with only a few stray pieces left on the table.

Thursday marked 60 days until the first day of practice rounds for the 117th U.S. Open mens golf championship at Erin Hills.

The practice days are June 12-14 and the championship rounds are June 15-18.

Organizers can see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.

Its definitely getting exciting, said Eric Steimer, 2017 U.S. Open championship manager. We always talk about milestones with this championship, whether its signing the agreement, being two years out, one year out, once the prior years U.S. Open ends and even as we kind of look ahead, March 13 was a big date for us because that was the day we started construction.

The latest milestone in the journey to the first day of the U.S. Open happened Sunday.

The 39,000-square-foot merchandise tent is seen on the grounds of Erin Hills Golf Course on Wednesday in the town of Erin. Thursday marked 60 days until the start of the tournament.
Nicholas Dettmann/Daily News

On Sunday at The Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia, Sergio Garcia defeated Justin Rose on the first playoff hole to win his first major in 72 major championship starts.

Coming off the heels of a first-time major winner with an exciting finish helps pump up the excitement for the U.S. Open.

Im ecstatic. I cant wait, said Jeremy Kirst, head pro at West Bend Lakes Golf Course. I need to go somehow, someway. Im going to find a way to get there. This is huge; this is bigger than Whistling Straits, because its not an hour, 10-minute drive its a half-hour from my house.

Steimer said he was watching his Twitter feed Sunday night as The Masters neared the end and saw Erin Hills quickly trend.

There was a stream of constant, cant wait for Erin Hills, he said. Or, I just bought my tickets. Erin Hills has been closed since the end of last season to help preserve the course. Steimer happily reported Thursday the course came out of the winter season in good shape.

(The course) came out looking spectacular this fall, Steimer said. The rain and now that its starting to warm up a little bit, grass is going to start sprouting up pretty quickly.

Construction of tents and grandstands was supposed to start March 13, but several inches of snow forced a two-day delay. Since then, there have been several other weather- related delays, but nothing too concerning.

Everything is on track to be ready for the U.S. Open to ever be played in Wisconsin since the first tournament was played in 1895.

Sixty days out is definitely exciting, Steimer said. Theres still work to go, but were in a great spot right now, particularly on the construction side which is where our focus is right now.

Zach Reineking, the course superintendent at Erin Hills, and his staff have worked diligently to maintain the beauty of the course, such as the fescue grass.

I havent seen him stop smiling, Steimer said.

And the storylines, Kirst said, will be there. Some of those include will Dustin Johnson, the defending event champion, defend his title after getting injured before The Masters? How will Jordan Spieth do after playing at Erin Hills in 2011 as an amateur? Will Garcia make it 2-for-2 in majors in 2017?

A visit to the course now will show several tents being constructed, including the 39,000-square-foot merchandise tent, along with the interactive fan experience area. In total, there will be about 400,000 square feet of tents and 500,000 square feet of flooring for patios and walkways.

Also scattered throughout the course are viewing tents and soon grandstands. Some chain-link fences have been set up, which will be used for security.

Steimer said he guesses the USGA will use a record amount of fencing, about 18 miles worth roughly the distance from West Bend to Hartford.

Its pretty incredible to see this all come together, he said.

Its kind of like putting together a puzzle, Steimer added.

Steimer reported ticket sales have been brisk since they went on sale about this time last year. Tickets for every day of the tournament practice and championship rounds are still available.

A gallery ticket for the first day of the practice rounds is $50, a gallery ticket for the final round is $125 and a gallery ticket for the entire tournament is $450.

It was announced in 2010 Erin Hills would get the U.S. Open. For many involved in the process, that long, long wait is almost over.

Its going to be fun, Kirst said.

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