One for the books

After graduating high school less than a month ago, I’ve attended my fair share of sporting events. From football games to cross-country meets, soccer to hockey, basketball to lacrosse and even swim meets and wrestling matches, I’ve seen a multitude of sports played at a competitive level.

In addition to these various high school events, I have attended some of my favorite hometown professional games. Cleveland Browns football, Guardians baseball, and Cavaliers basketball games have each delivered the classic stadium feeling and electric energy from loyal fans. With these professional sports experiences in mind, I went into my first major golf event not entirely knowing what to expect.

From what I have seen on television, the game of professional golf, the highest level of play, has had a traditionally different relationship with its fans. This year’s U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 was my introduction to watching live professional golf. The opening aspect I noticed when I walked past the first tee box and grandstands was that the fans weren’t even called fans; they were spectators.

Photo by Sandhills Sentinel photographer Wendy Hodges.

Compared with the interactions between fans and sports like football and baseball, I initially felt a detachment between the golf being played and those watching. The chants and cheers personalized for your favorite teams and jerseys with your favorite players’ numbers that I had been accustomed to were unlike what I experienced at this major championship. 

Although they lack a jersey number and team, I was amazed at the base of people that a single player could develop. Seeing Tiger Woods, not having won a major in several years and not making the cut to Round 3 in this tournament, accumulate a packed grandstand in his walk up the 18th green was something I will never forget. Decades later, after what many deem his ‘prime,’ he still had his tried-and-true spectators follow him throughout the Pinehurst course.

In this similar nature, the newer age of players enjoyed a large following that was much the same. Players like Ludvig Åberg, Tony Finau, Rory McIlroy and Bryson DeChambeau were some of the golfers who assembled the largest crowds throughout the whole weekend. It was through watching these players that my initial feelings about the player/fan relationship began to change, especially from the influence of DeChambeau. 

The 124th U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau holds his trophy as the crowd reaches out to touch it on June 16 at Pinehurst No. 2/Photo via USGA.

On Sunday, that final day of play, I was privileged enough to see firsthand the connection between spectators and players being strengthened. Crowned the 124th U.S. Open champion, Bryson DeChambeau told the audience that he wanted every one of them to touch the trophy. He was not lying. Running several laps around the ropes surrounding the 18th, he brought the trophy directly to the masses. I was there when the official U.S. Open trophy came around and touched it myself. It was at that instant that the spectators of golf became golf fans. 

It was truly astonishing to see how one person could solidify the link between the game of golf and its devoted fan base. The tradition of professional golf, especially that of the U.S. Open, continues to be longstanding. But witnessing what DeChambeau has done for the fans of golf through this tournament has changed my perspective of what it means to be a golf fan.

Feature photo: Bryson DeChambeau celebrates his win at the 124th U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 on June 16, 2024—photo by Sandhills Sentinel photographer Cow McFarland.

~Written by Sandhills Sentinel intern Kathryn McFarland. Kathryn will be attending Ohio State University in the fall and is majoring in journalism.

 

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