HED:Open leaves taste for more
By Todd Vinyard
George Bryan has been in the food business since 1964, so he knows you can’t stop serving when people have a good taste in their mouth.
Bryan, a senior vice president at Sarah Lee Corporation, witnessed a long-time dream come true last week as his Old Waverly Golf Club was host to the 54th U.S. Women’s Open.
Juli Inkster won her fourth major and first U.S. Women’s Open in her 20th appearance with a record-breaking score of 16-under 272.
The third-largest crowd (101,854) to see a Women’s Open, a number which could be adjusted later, attended the week’s activities. Bryan knows while regular play begins again at Old Waverly on Wednesday, people don’t expect things to return to normal.
“People here aren’t going to let us not do something else,” Bryan said.
While Bryan wouldn’t reveal all Old Waverly’s future plays, bringing a Southern Junior tournament and possible NCAA and Southeastern Conference events is in the works. And there’s always a chance another one of the United States Golf Association’s 13 national championships might visit Clay County.
“I’m not sure what future events will come here, but we showed this market can support something like this,” championship director Karen Cheshire said. “It was great for the city of West Point and state of Mississippi to come together and pull this off, when a lot of people didn’t think it could be done here.”
Even Bryan was surprised.
“I just had no idea it would be like this,” he confessed. “I didn’t believe the fans would come like they did.”
But they did come Saturday and Sunday despite two of the championship’s biggest draws, Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez and two-time Open winner Annika Sorenstam, having missed the cut and not playing.
“I’m so proud of what we were able to accomplish,” Cheshire said. “Especially the 1,400 volunteers who came and worked hard and showed great enthusiasm while doing the work.”
Cheshire and the event staff Tricia Hemphill, championship coordinator; Ashley Stevens, sales and marketing; and Carolyn Ellis, the championship assistant will be around Old Waverly the next few days closing the books after three years of hard work.
All the hard work was summed up by Mary Capouch, the chairman of the USGA women’s committee.
“I have four words to sum up this week,” she told the crowd Sunday. “Mississippi, we love you!”
And Mississippians loved the championship back. So much so, they wouldn’t mind a second helping soon.