Torrey Pines to Host 2008 U.S. Open

In mid-October 2002, the San Diego City Council unanimously approved a lease agreement with the United States Golf Association for the city’s Torrey Pines Golf Course to host the 2008 U.S. Open. The agreement also involves the Friends of Torrey Pines and the Century Club, the two nonprofit entities that will act as the local organizing committee for the 108th playing of one of golf’s four majors.

For hosting the event the city will receive $500,000 in rent and merchandise revenue, $350,000 for public safety costs during the event, and $350,000 in further improvements to the South course, one of the two 18-hole layouts at the 36-hole facility in La Jolla.

San Diego officials were ecstatic about the agreement with the USGA. “I want to commend Jay Rains and the Friends of Torrey Pines and the Century Club,” Mayor Dick Murphy told the San Diego Union Tribune. “You had a vision; it was a grand vision. And you had the persistence to make it happen. This is not a small achievement.”

In late December 2001, a $4.35-million renovation project on South was completed. The project was initiated by Rains, a former president of the Century Club. Funded by $3.4 million in private money and $950,000 from the city, the remodel was designed by Rees Jones and included new greens and bunkers. Jones also added considerable length to the layout, which tested the PGA Tour players during the 2002 Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines. The April tournament brought golf’s best players, who lauded the revamping of the South course, which played to a whopping 7,568 yards, nearly 550 yards longer than what it played in the past.

Of that renovation project, Councilman Scott Peters commented, “I’ve never heard anyone suggest that this is anything but a terrific deal. We put in $950,000 and get matched with more than $3 million. You never get that kind of match from the state or local government. I think it was the perfect deal for the city.” Peters added, “The closer the U.S. Open gets, the more people will realize what a terrific thing this is.”

A green-fee increase – frozen through June 2009 as part of the USGA agreement at $40 on weekdays and $45 on weekends for residents – is helping to fund a long-term $9.8-million project that involves rebuilding all the greens at the 36-hole venue, which will remain open during construction with temporary greens. Meanwhile, work continues on the Lodge at Torrey Pines, a facility overlooking the 18th green. The hostelry will contain 175 suites, 13,000 square feet of meeting space, two restaurants, two lounges, and a 9,500-square-foot spa.

San Diego officials were spurred on to pursue a U.S. Open by the success of the 2002 U.S. Open at the Bethpage Black Course in Farmingdale, N.Y. Councilman Jim Madaffer, the chairman of the Natural Resources and Culture Committee that oversees San Diego’s municipal courses, attended the championship. He rode on shuttles to the course and overheard average golfers talking about playing Bethpage – the first municipal course to host the Open. Torrey Pines will be the second.

“They talked about their course with such pride,” said Madaffer. “People in San Diego will be doing the same thing.”