At no point did professional golfer Ryan Moore ever think this was going to happen in his hometown.
A United States championship coming to Pierce County?
“I did not think we’d get a championship this big,” Moore said. “But it is awesome … and here it is.”
A former three-time USGA national champion as an amateur, the 32-year-old from Puyallup is in a unique spotlight next week as the highest-profile local face playing in the 115th U.S. Open at Chambers Bay.
The Cascade Christian product has been pulled in just about every direction in the past few days, trying to accommodate as many of the 150 media requests from local and national television and radio stations; regional and national golf publications; even the USGA to help give the national open a boost in publicity.
That is not counting the amount of times Moore has talked about Chambers Bay with reporters at PGA Tour tournaments.
“It was about January or February when I started noticing all the questions about the U.S. Open, because that is not something that ever happens to me,” Moore said. “Everyone has been asking. I think I have talked to just about every media person on the planet about it in some way, shape or form.”
And recently the questions about Chambers Bay have come from players and caddies.
“It is an unknown,” Moore said, “People have not been there or seen it. They have seen pictures of it. They want to know if it is a real links course, or looks like … a links course, like Whistling Straits.”
Of course, people around the South Sound might not care as much if they did not feel Moore could win a U.S. Open.
Everybody knows he is capable of it.
Moore’s banner summer of 2004 thrust him into the national spotlight. After winning the NCAA Division I men’s title at UNLV, he won the Sahalee Players Championship, the Western Amateur, the U.S. Amateur Public Links — and the grandaddy of them all, the U.S. Amateur at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, New York.
The next summer, after turning professional, Moore became one of the few golfers in history to go directly from college to the PGA Tour, earning enough money on sponsor’s exemption to gain full-time playing status.
Next week, Moore will play his 250th PGA Tour start at the U.S. Open. Over the past decade, he has collected four victories, and earned more than $20 million in career earnings.
And yet, he has never experienced anything quite like what he will next week being the hometown hero at a major — like others have before him.
“Well, it’s tough. For one thing, it’s trying to deal with ticket requests and media. There’s going to be a lot on his plate,” said Kenny Perry, who was the prominent local face at the 1996 PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in Kentucky.
“He needs to figure out a way to get ‘me’ time where he can focus in and prepare for the golf course, prepare for the tournament. A lot of times, you get distracted.”
That is the biggest reason Moore has dedicated two weeks to this U.S. Open. After tying for 18th at last week’s Memorial Tournament in Ohio, he returned home to Las Vegas to help kick off his new American Junior Golf Association event.
Moore arrived in Lakewood late Monday — just in time for an up-close-and-personal television interview with FoxSports, which is broadcasting U.S. Open coverage for the first time. The segment takes a behind-the-scenes look at Moore with his family in Lakewood.
Later Tuesday, he made his first promotional appearance at Narrows Brewing Co. An amber beer called “Moore Hops Please” will be on tap the next few weeks at $4.50 per pint.
In between interviews and tours, Moore has been trying to get the bulk of his U.S. Open preparation out of the way this week. He has played a practice round at Chambers Bay each day.
“I wanted to see it closer to tournament conditions,” said Moore, who had not played the course since 2010 before this week. “Every time I had played it before, the greens had not been real fast. To see those greens running 10 (feet), 11 or 12 (on the Stimpmeter), it makes it a completely different golf course.”
Next week, Moore will kick off all the U.S. Open press conference Monday in the media center. He will also host a party with other PGA Tour players at RMG Club at Oakbrook on Tuesday night that is open to the public.
Then it is on to four days of the most challenging golf you will ever see.
And Moore said he would like nothing more than to be a serious contender come Sunday.
“Winning a U.S. Open is hard enough, but to do it in your hometown and where you grew up - it would mean a lot,” Moore said. “I am trying not to think about it too much, or get carried away with it.
“It potentially might be the only time in my entire life that I’ll get to play a tournament truly from where I’m from, and that is 15 miles from the house I grew up in.”