U.S. Open 2023

USGA and LACC initiatives at U.S. Open will raise $18 million and go toward renovation of inner-city golf course

April 26, 2023
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Kids hit balls on the driving range at the Maggie Hathaway Golf Course. USGA photo.

Set to be played on the rugged Los Angeles Country Club North Course amid the skyscapers of America’s second-largest city, the 123rd U.S. Open in June already figures to be one of the most unique major championships in recent memory. It also likely will be more impactful to the local community than any USGA events that have come before it.

On Tuesday, the USGA laid out the details of its partnerships with the LACC U.S Open host committee and the Southern California Golf Association that will impact golf in Southern California for years to come. The most notable project will be a full renovation, fashioned at no charge by architect Gil Hanse, of the inner-city, nine-hole Maggie Hathaway Golf Course. The 61-year-old facility, run by the County of Los Angeles, was renamed for Hathaway, a Black American actress, singer, writer and avid golfer who, starting in the 1950s, advocated for Black golfers’ access to golf courses.

The USGA is donating $1 million to the Hathaway project, while the LACC host committee is raising $10 million to go toward the course renovation, as well as programs run by the SCGA Junior Golf Foundation. The SCGA's total goal for its fundraising is $18 million.

“We are making an investment in golf in this city,” LACC President Gene Sykes said. “If the game is going to be healthy 50 years from now, we have to give opportunities to kids from every corner, kids who don’t have the resources. They will learn to play the game and love the game, and they’ll be the professional players and instructors in the future.”

The initiatives also have one of the most admired and recognizable faces among all golf age groups at the moment: two-time major winner Collin Morikawa, who grew up in the Los Angeles suburbs.

“What makes it so special is that we’re in L.A.,” Morikawa said. “This is where I’m from. To know that you’re going to be help kids not only fall in love with golf, but learn the lessons that golf represents and teaches, that’s the biggest thing.”

Every USGA championship has a host committee, but few, if any, have the connnections and financial wherewithal like LACC. Sykes, a longtime executive at Goldman Sachs, has a 26th-floor office on Santa Monica Blvd. that overlooks LACC. He is a powerful sportsman in L.A., having been CEO of the organizing committee that landed the Olympics for Los Angeles in 2028. Last July, Sykes was named chairman of the U.S. Olympic and Paraylmpic Committee.

So adept at fundraising are Sykes and his cohorts that he said he and entertainment and sports mogul Casey Wasserman combined to raise $50 million for L.A.’s Olympic bid. And so it has gone for the U.S. Open, at which many of the sold-out on-course hospitality suites will be occupied by some of the biggest names in entertainment and business. Many of those same entities are contributing to the funds that will go to the SCGA programs.

“This is a really defining moment for our club,” Sykes said.

“There’s a tremendous amount of attachment to Los Angeles and a Southern California pride in this place,” he added. “When people are asked to do something that is really worthwhile, they respond.”

The Los Angeles Country Club is hosting its first U.S. Open and the first national championship to be played in the L.A. area since 1948. It has hosted two previous USGA championships going back to 1930, as well as the 2017 Walker Cup. Last October, the USGA further tabbed LACC to hold the 2032 U.S. Women’s Open and the 2039 U.S. Open.

LACC’s reputation has been one of a place seemingly closed off from the outside world, but with its growing connections to the USGA and SCGA, the membership of 1,500 appears to be making strides to better the game more than just within its walls.

“There have always been a few (members) who said, ‘Do we really want to allow the rest of the world to come in and see this?’” Sykes admitted. “But that has been massively overcome and overshadowed by this sense of pride and responsibility to share what we have in the best possible way.”

Among the other initiatives that the USGA announced for the 123rd U.S. Open: Twenty college undergraduate and graduate students from diverse backgrounds will be on hand tournament week for an immersive experience in the USGA Pathways Internship Program; the USGA’s investment of $30 million over the next 15 years will be highlighted by continued grant funding for California universities that are developing drought-resistant turf grasses; an on-site activation to reduce single-use plastics—a program that started ast last year’s U.S. Open at The Country Club, where the USGA said more than 700,000 plastic bottles at concession areas were eliminated in favor of more sustainable products.