Erin Hills transformed as U.S. Open practices begin

Fans take advantage of corporate hospitality suites [PHOTO GALLERY]

The crowd applauded as Steve Stricker approached the 9th green.

Last updated on July 3rd, 2019 at 07:12 pm

The first practice round of the U.S. Open was held Monday at Erin Hills in the town of Erin in Washington County. Players got a feel for the course as fans looked on.

Mike Davis, executive director and chief executive officer of the USGA, kicked off the event this morning at Fan Central, a grouping of tents huddled around the main entrance, designed to make the fan experience as comfortable as possible. He thanked the fans and volunteers, and encouraged them to soak it all in.

“We only get to do the first time at a championship site and this is it,” Davis said.

Tom Coady went straight for the merchandise tent, where he planned to buy a pair of shorts, two shirts and a pullover.

“It’s always great to have something from the event,” he said. “Somebody recognizes it and says, ‘Oh, I went there!’”

An account service vice president at Design Partners in Racine, Coady took the day off work to attend the U.S. Open with friends.

“We went to the PGA Championship two years ago we came on the Monday practice round and we had so much fun,” Coady said. He planned to return on Saturday to see the tournament in action.

Tim Wing, a sourcing and vendor manager at CUNA Mutual Group in Madison, was considering buying an Erin Hills hat as his son, Jake, advised him on what looked best.

“Monday’s a good day to miss work—and tickets were cheaper,” Wing said. He managed to score a ticket for himself on Saturday and picked up a junior ticket for 15-year-old Jake at the gate.

“Being the U.S. Open, it’s a big deal,” Wing said. “It was so close to home we had to come.”

Cindy Bindrich, manager of Studio 890 salon in Brookfield, also attended because the tournament was so close to home.

“I wanted to come to a more casual day where you can maybe talk to (the players) and they joke around a little bit more,” Bindrich said.

Kevin Hehn was volunteering in the headwear section, a popular portion of the 38,940-square-foot merchandise pavilion.

He works for Mitsubishi Electrics from his home in Oconomowoc, but Hehn took a week off work to volunteer and attend the tournament.

“I’m coming every day and I have to work in here Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday,” Hehn said.

The most popular hats so far have been the green and gold caps, he said.

“These Packer-colored hats are really turning people’s heads,” Hehn said. “It’s because of the green and gold. Everyone comes over and tries them on.”

Out on the course, some spectators tried to beat the heat in the corporate hospitality suites set up at several key points on the course.

At the 18th hole, Robert W. Baird & Co. Inc. has a suite set up for its employees and clients.

Brian Nelson, human services fiscal manager for Racine County, took advantage of Baird’s suite, which had food and beverages, air conditioning, a TV and a deck overlooking the fairway. His wife, Hollie, works at Baird.

“We wanted to see a practice round and see the course,” Nelson said. “I was more interested in the course—that’s why I specifically chose the practice round day. It’s easier to see the course when it’s not a tournament day.”

Katie Costigan, director of private wealth management branch support at Baird, also came out to Erin Hills Monday.

Most of the Baird employees in the hospitality suite work as financial advisors, and were given the opportunity to indicate their interest ahead of the U.S. Open. Some were attending as a recognition of their work or as a leadership award.

“We have people here every day and I think I saw probably 25 today,” she said. “I’m conversing with clients here, financial advisors and clients in from all over.

“It’s an opportunity to share an experience with our clients. They’re the reason we’re here actually, so for them to be able to share in it, have that perk, makes all the sense in the world.”

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