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Preparations for U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club on course

| Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014, 9:01 p.m.

The 2016 U.S. Open Championship is almost two years away.

But Oakmont Country Club officials are wasting no time preparing for the golf championship in Plum.

Work is under way to level nearly 50 acres of the former Oakmont East golf course near the gift shop to make space for a variety of uses during the U.S. Open Championship that is scheduled for June 13 to 19, 2016, according to club President Jim Douglass. The property had been a series of golf holes prior to the start of the project.

“It (the land) will be used for infrastructure for the U.S. Open,” Douglass said.

Specifically, the acreage that is across from Somma Pizza on Route 909 is expected to be converted into an area for parking and dropping off those attending the event and tents for hospitality and merchandise, Douglass said.

“It (hosting a U.S. Open Championship) is a huge undertaking,” Douglass said.

Oakmont Country Club in 1961 purchased the 190 acres that at the time was the Blackburn Golf Course, a public course located in the East Oakmont section of Plum, said Paul Mroz, general manager of the Oakmont Country Club.

The renamed Oakmont East Golf Course ceased to operate as a public course in 2006 when the property began to be used for uses related to hosting national golf championships.

The United States Golf Association, or USGA, in 2009 selected the Oakmont Country Club as the site for the 2016 U.S. Open, the ninth time the club will host the national championship, according to the USGA website. The most recent U.S. Open Championship held at the Oakmont Country Club was in 2007.

Douglass said the Trumbull Corp. is doing the work at the site, including cutting and filling dirt within the fence line. Contractors are cutting down hillsides and redepositing soil to low areas, Douglass said.

“There is no importing or exporting of dirt (from the site),” Douglass said. “It will create 46 to 47 level acres.”

The newly leveled land will be added to the 15 to 20 level acres at the site for a total of about 70 usable acres, Douglass said.

A total 600,000 cubic yards of dirt is being moved, said Douglass, who declined to disclose the project cost.

“It is a significant investment,” Douglass said.

Once the leveling is completed, grass will be planted at the site.

The project that began a couple weeks ago is expected to be completed in early October.

“It will be a big, beautiful field when grass comes in next spring,” Douglass said.

Charlie Howe, the USGA's championship manager for the 2016 U.S. Open Championship, said the project was driven by the Oakmont Country Club.

“It (the leveled area) will benefit some things when the Open comes back in a couple years,” Howe said.

Douglass said the project serves a couple purposes in providing more space than in the past for the tents and parking during the U.S. Open Championship. Additionally, country club officials have wanted to conduct more activities on the property.

“The membership has owned the property for 50 years,” Douglass said. “There are so many more things we can do with it. We are looking at golf and nongolf activities.”

Howe expects attendance at the 2016 event to be comparable to the figure in 2007 — 35,000 tickets sold per day.

“We're not doing too much different,” Howe said.

The USGA in January will begin a recruitment drive for 5,000 volunteers needed for the 2016 U.S. Open Championship.

Douglass cautioned spectators to stay off the property.

“It is an active construction site,” Douglass said. “We instructed our own membership to not go over there and take self-guided tours.”

Karen Zapf is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-871-2367 or kzapf@tribweb.com.

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