Moore County Airport: Behind the scenes of the US Open

The Moore County Airport has rolled out the “green” carpet for the U.S. Open. With eyes across the world on the Sandhills as the world’s best golfers prepare to tee off in Pinehurst, the Moore County Airport is driving home the spirit of hospitality.

Preparing for the Open is no small feat and has been an all-hands-on-deck operation. The airport is expecting around 1,000 flights and approximately 5,000 visitors. Among the arrivals are many of the Open’s golfing legends like Tiger Woods and Keegan Bradley, along with celebrities, USGA sportscasters, and corporate sponsors, and the Tarheels Communication team believes first impressions are everything. 

Moore County Airport: Behind the scenes of the Open

Tiger Woods at practice rounds in Pinehurst for the 124th U.S. Open. Photo by Sandhills Sentinel photographer Mary Anne Pfrogner.

“We live in the home of American golf, so we get to experience Moore County all the time,” said J.T. Stilwell, director of operations for Tarheel Communications. “Our job is to let everyone know how special this area is, and we wanted to create the best experience we can from wheels down to wheels up. I was brought up on a warm welcome and a fond farewell.”

This sentiment was mirrored by J.T.’s father, Peter Stillwell, president & CEO of Tarheel Communications. “We wanted to elevate the arrival experience and make it a gateway to the U.S. Open,” Peter explained to Sandhills Sentinel. “We have people coming from all around the world. We want them to come back here to Moore County.”

To accomplish this goal, the Moore County Airport crew, Tarheels Communication, and U.S. Open volunteers pulled together to transform the airport into the gateway to Moore County. The airport has supported local businesses and non-profits with signage, tables, and displays throughout the lobby. 

“We partnered with local businesses to get them exposure they otherwise wouldn’t have,” J.T. said, then added, “We’re very passionate about small businesses here.”

One organization with a front-and-center table is Children of Fallen Heroes. President and Founder Kenneth Wasley mans the table, explaining to interested visitors that the organization’s goal is to provide essential resources and programs for children of fallen heroes, including educational initiatives, STEM+Arts programs, and general support.

Children of Fallen Heroes is raising funds for a new Retreat & STEM and Arts Center, and Wasley is grateful for the support and exposure of being featured at the airport.

The Moore County Airport has rolled out the "green" carpet for the US Open. With eyes across the world on the Sandhills as the world's best golfers prepare to tee off in Pinehurst, the Moore County Airport is driving home the spirit of hospitality - Children of Fallen Heroes

Children of Fallen Heroes President and Founder Kenneth Wasley (right) poses with volunteers manning the organization’s table.

One of the most enthusiastic members of the welcoming committee has been Mike Birky, owner and president of Cactus Creek Gourmet Coffee Roasters. 

After being contacted to establish a coffee shop in the airport, the Cactus Creek team eagerly stepped up to the challenge. “This has been an honor and a privilege,” said Birky. “This is our 20th year in business, so it’s been exciting to see how Moore County has grown.” The Cactus Creek menu offers Sandhills-specialty drink combinations, locally roasted coffee, and baked goods from area bakers. 

Coffee is just one of the many tastes of Moore County’s finest offered to arriving visitors. A lounge with beverages is available, as is a small shop and information kiosks highlighting local points of interest. 

Above all else, however, J.T. expressed his profound gratitude to the fleet of volunteers that have made the U.S. Open not only possible but such a resounding success. “We couldn’t do what we do without volunteers,” emphasized J.T. “They’re here out of the goodness of their hearts, and we’re so sincerely grateful for them.”

The airport generally has 25 to 30 volunteers who assist with operations, provide support, and shuttle visitors around the premises daily.

Birky agreed wholeheartedly. “It’s the volunteers here and everywhere else. It’s about serving the community.”

US Open Cactus Creek

Owner and President of Cactus Creek Mike Birky (center) poses with two enthusiastic Cactus Creek employees. 

~Article and photos by Sandhills Sentinel Assistant Editor Abegail Murphy.

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