Olympic undertaking

The primary rough is four inches, the fairways are smooth and the poa annua grass on the greens has been trimmed for speeds of approximately 11 feet, 6 inches on the Stimpmeter — in other words, extremely fast.

The U.S. Amateur is coming to the Olympic Club and the renowned course on the San Francisco-Daly City border is primped and ready to host the prestigious tournament. Starting Monday, 312 golfers of all ages will begin competition in the six-day event, where the winner earns an automatic spot into both the 2008 U.S. and British opens and a probable invitation to play in the Masters if he remains an amateur. The champion will also join a list that includes legends Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods.

It’s a week for which the Olympic Club has spent the last 12 to 18 months preparing.

“Certainly there’s a level of stress involved,” said Pat Finlen, the director of golf maintenance operations at the Olympic Club. “But for me and anyone else doing this, it’s the highlight of your career to get to host a major championship.”

<p>This is the third time the club has hosted the U.S. Amateur, an event that began in 1895 and stands as America’s oldest tournament. Players will compete in stroke play on both the club’s Lakeside and Ocean courses Monday and Tuesday, with the low 64 players advancing to match play on the Lakeside Course, concluding with a 36-hole final. The champion will certainly have earned it — 31 players were exempt from having to qualify and the USGA accepted 7,398 entries for the tournament, which means less than 4 percent of those top players even made it to the Olympic Club.

“It’s such a difficult championship to qualify for, we want to give everyone a great memory,” tournament director Tim Flaherty said. “That’s why it’s so special to come to a place like Olympic. It’s a great golf course, a great club and has a great group of members.”

Olympic Club officials first met with USGA organizers in November 2005 to discuss their vision of the two courses and Finlen and his crew began shaping the fairways and rough in the spring of last year. Meanwhile, the pro shop has stocked its shelves with U.S. Amateur merchandise and researched previous tournaments in an effort to figure out what they need and how many fans to expect on the course.

In their preparation for the event, workers at Olympic have also kept one eye focused on the future. The Lakeside Course will play host to the 2012 U.S. Open and many of the course standards and requirements will be the same for that tournament, also put on by the USGA. Throughoutthe week, Finlen’s typical crew of 50 will be supplemented by 45 volunteers, while 400-500 others will come to the course to help with everything from crowd control to ball-spotting.

“We use this as kind of an open-book exam,” said Craig Smith, the USGA’s director of media relations. “The golf course is set up exactly the same way as it would be for the U.S. Open, so this is really a test run.”

U.S. Amateur

» What: USGA U.S. Amateur

» Where: Olympic Club, San Francisco

» Courses: Lakeside (par 70, 6,948 yards), Ocean (par 70, 6,786 yards)

» When: Stroke play Monday and Tuesday on both courses, match play Wednesday-Sunday on Lakeside Course

» Players to watch: Rickie Fowler, John Kelly, Trip Kuehne, Alex Prugh, Webb Simpson

» Tickets: Purchase online at www.ticketmaster.com or www.ticketweb.com. Daily tickets are $15 and a weekly pass is $60. Children 12 and under are admitted free if accompanied by a paying adult.

» TV: Golf Channel—Wednesday, 1-3 p.m.; Thursday, 3:30-5:30 p.m.; Friday, 5:30-7:30 p.m. (tape delay). KNTV (Ch. 11)—Saturday, 1-3 p.m. (tape delay); Sunday, 1-3 p.m.


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