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Chambers Bay

May 31, 2010 Leave a comment

Last night, I wrote about our drive down to University Place in the afternoon for a barbecue with friends Fred and Jeni. University Place is a suburb of Tacoma lying on its western edge along Puget Sound, south of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. To the southwest along the Sound is some land, now known as Chambers Creek Properties, with a complicated history:

The Chambers Creek Properties is comprised of over 950 acres located along the shores of the Puget Sound, in University Place, WA. While Pierce’s County’s ownership of the properties has been fairly recent, the making of the properties and its surrounding land uses began to take shape over 200 years ago and was influenced by not only the physical changes made, but by the people who lived and worked here.

The quarry history stems as far back as the Steilacoom Indian Tribe and the first European settlers in 1832.

Over the last 200 years, the entire Chambers Creek Properties area has been used as a location for a paper mill, a proposed match company, a major industrial center, multiple lumber companies, a railroad center, a county gravel mine, a bus barn, a regional wastewater treatment plant, a preservation and recreational area . .. .

The centerpiece of the property today is Chambers Bay golf course, a public course that opened three Junes ago and was designed by Robert Trent Jones II. It was famous the day it opened (see this article that appeared at the time), and soon was named the host course for two USGA championships: this year’s US Amateur and the 2015 US Open.

Hosting a US Open is the greatest honor a course can receive. Just look at the list of host courses for next five Opens, leading up to 2015: Pebble Beach, Congressional, Olympic, Merion, Pinehurst. If you are familiar with the country’s great courses, you’ll know that each of these courses has a long and rich history. Since bringing the Open to Bethpage Black on Long Island in 2002, the USGA has been making an effort to include great public courses in the rota — Torrey Pines two years ago, Bethpage Black again last year, and now Chambers Bay.

It would not have occurred to me to take a look at Chambers Bay yesterday but for the fact that when we drove into University Place, the sign indicating that we had entered it also noted that it’s the home of Chambers Bay. While at Fred and Jeni’s, I pulled out my iPhone and found it on the map, noting that it was just a couple of miles to the southwest. When we were ready to leave, I mentioned that we might head down there and Fred described the walking route that runs along it, which he uses for dog walking and which would give us good views. That decided it.

We drove down to Grandview Drive, a north-south street that forms the eastern edge of the property. There is plenty of parking along the drive, and from there one can walk a few feet past the trees that line the street, arriving at a parallel north-south walkway just on the east side of the fence that separates the road and walkway from the course. The course itself runs from the fence line westward to the sound, down a slope from about 200 feet in elevation on the east to sea level on the west. There are almost no trees, making for an open and dramatic view over the Sound to the Olympic Mountains. From right to left, or north to south, in the Sound, one sees the south end of Fox Island, McNeil Island (home of a federal penitentiary for a century, but more recently the site of a state prison), and Anderson Island. And at one’s feet is the golf course itself.

You can see a schematic and overhead shot of the course layout here, and a hole-by-hole description here. A not-so-good photo that I took on my iPhone is at the top of the post. It shows the fourth and fifth holes.

South of the course was what seemed — from our northeastern vantage — something of a wasteland. After our walk, we drove south and turned into the entry to the clubhouse, which is on the southeast side. A road descends from there westwards toward the wasteland. At the bottom is a parking lot, near some concrete ruins left behind from one of the old operations. We couldn’t figure out what. Pierce County’s Chambers Creek Properties website gives a sense of some of the recreational possibilities other than golf — trails, meadows, playfields, off-leash area.

It’s quite a setting. Let me quote from the article I linked to earlier, re-printed at CBS Sports’ website but appearing originally in Estates West Golf Living, written by Jeff Wallach.

Not only does the Chambers Bay Golf Course tell a triumphant reclamation story about turning a wasteland into a gorgeous asset; it also illustrates how government can actually act in the best interests of its constituents. The visionaries behind the larger Chambers Creek Project — which includes the golf course, parks and other amenities spread across 930 acres — are not real estate developers or corporate CEOs. County executives and other public servants concepted this brilliant, walking-only public golf course that locals can play at a great discount.

And in case you thought Chambers Bay might be missing any crucial angle of perfection, throw in that romance of the passing trains (which may at some future point stop at the property), boats plying the blue waters of Puget Sound (one day golfers may also be able to arrive by boat) and even ‘ancient’ ruins adjacent to the playing surfaces — in this case, the castle-like ramparts of huge sorting bins left from the land’s industrial past.

Oh, Wallach mentions those ‘ancient’ ruins that we couldn’t decipher. Ramparts of huge sorting bins.

If you’re down in Tacoma, be sure to take a detour and have a look. It’s worth it. And come the last week of August, you can guess where we’ll be.

Categories: Golf, Travel

Lacrosse, 3

May 31, 2010 Leave a comment

Duke vs. Virginia, May 29

[Lloyd Fox, Baltimore Sun]

Two weeks ago, I wrote a pair of posts (here and here) about the NCAA men’s lacrosse championships. Time for a quick update, with the final game three hours away.

The short version: Lacrosse history will be made today. As I wrote in the previous posts, seven schools have dominated college lacrosse over the decades: Syracuse, Johns Hopkins, Princeton, Virginia, North Carolina, Cornell, and Maryland. Each has won at least two championships (with Syracuse winning 10, Hopkins 9), each has appeared in at least five championship games (Hopkins 18, Syracuse 16), and no other school has won a championship or appeared in more than two championship games. But today an eighth team will be added to the list of champions, either Duke or Notre Dame.

Duke would be an overdue addition to the list. They made the 2005 and 2007 finals, losing each time by just a goal to Hopkins. They made the 2008 and 2009 semi-finals, losing to Hopkins and then Syracuse. They were every bit as good in 2006, but that was the year that their season ended early amidst the arrest of three of its players. Notre Dame hasn’t had Duke’s success, but they’ve been among the top teams for the last decade, making a semi-final in 2001 and going undefeated last year in regular season play, entering the tournament as the #2 seed (before being upset at home in the first round by Maryland). This year, they beat Duke to open the season and were ranked as high as #3, but went into a mid-season swoon, thanks in part to an injury to their star goalie, and were perhaps lucky to be one of the 16 teams invited to participate in the tournament.

Longer version: I left off two weeks ago after the opening round of the tournament, the round of 16. Let me review what has happened since. As you’ll recall, the round of 16 is organized around eight seeded teams hosting eight unseeded teams. The eight seeds were six of the historic super seven schools (all but Hopkins), along with Duke and Stony Brook. Two seeded teams lost, Princeton to Notre Dame and Syracuse to Army. The Syracuse-Army game was one of the greatest upsets in lacrosse history. Syracuse, the two-time defending champion, had the #2 seed and had lost only to #1 seed Virginia, at the beginning of the season. Army beat them in double overtime.

This set up the four quarter-final match-ups last weekend: #3 seed Maryland against Notre Dame and #4 seed UNC against #5 seed Duke at Princeton on Saturday; #7 seed Cornell against Army and #1 seed Virginia against #8 Stony Brook at Stony Brook on Sunday. All games were televised on ESPNU, which we don’t get, so I was reduced to following them on-line. The NCAA website has a “gametracker” feature. You click on it and get to watch several items get updated every few minutes: the time of the game, the score, a description of the last few possessions (team A clears, Team B shoots, Team A gets a ground ball — that level of detail), a list of the goals and scorers and times of goals. It’s better than nothing. That’s how I followed the games, off and on.

At Princeton on Saturday, Notre Dame avenged last year’s opening round loss to Maryland with a 7-5 victory and Duke easily beat UNC, 17-9. Sunday’s opening game was another rout, Cornell 14-5 over Army. Then came an unexpectedly close match between Virginia and Stony Brook. Virginia was the superior team, but Stony Brook (by the luck of the selection of quarter-final “neutral” sites) had the home field. Plus, there was the continuing emotional toll on the Virginia players of the murder earlier this month of one of UVA’s women’s lacrosse players (a crime for which one of their teammates was arrested and charged). Virginia took a 5-1 lead, but Stony Brook came back to tie it, as they did again after Virginia took a 7-5 lead and an 8-7 lead. Virginia opened up a 10-8 lead with 3:45 left in the game, but Stony Brook closed the gap to 10-9 with 2:11 left. They could do no more. That’s how the game ended.

The semi-finals were played two days ago in Baltimore, at the Baltimore Ravens football stadium. #7 Cornell faced off against Notre Dame to start the day, with the Virginia-Duke game to follow. Cornell came within seconds of winning the championship last year, with Syracuse tying in the closing seconds and winning in overtime. This year’s Cornell team did not come close. They attacked early, scored a goal in the second minute, but then Notre Dame’s goalie (Scott Rodgers) made several saves, Notre Dame got four straight goals, and their defense didn’t let Cornell get close again. The final score was 12-7.

Then came a classic game. Let me remind you that in my second lacrosse post, following first-round play, I wrote, “Duke looked awfully good against Hopkins. With Syracuse’s departure, the two best teams in the tournament may be Virginia and Duke. Be sure to watch them on Memorial weekend if they do meet in the semi-finals.” I was right. What a game! Here’s a summary of sorts.

Virginia scored first and took a 4-2 lead at the end of the first quarter. Duke scored quickly in the second quarter to cut the lead to 4-3, Virginia regained their two-goal margin a few minutes later, and then Duke got two goals to tie the game at 5-5 with 5:45 left in the half. Virginia responded with two goals, including a shocker with 12 seconds left, to take a 7-5 halftime lead. A goal in the second minute of the third quarter upped Virginia’s lead to 8-5.

At this point, the potent Duke offense exploded with seven straight goals, as Duke took a 12-8 lead three minutes into the fourth quarter. Virginia got back into the game with three straight goals of their own that made the score 12-11, but with 4:27 left, Duke scored again to go ahead 13-11. They appeared headed to the final. And then, bang-bang, Virginia scored with 1:50 and 1:21 left to tie the game at 13. Duke won the ensuing faceoff, waited for a final shot, and scored with 12 seconds left. They won the faceoff that followed, all but ending the game, but no, they turned the ball over! Virginia had a chance, with 8 seconds left. They called a time out to set up the final play. Star midfielder Brian Carroll took the ball and ran over the midfield line toward the Duke goal. But the whistle blew. Virginia was offsides! Duke took possession with 4 seconds left and ran out the clock. Game over.

I thought going in that this should have been the championship game, that whoever wins should go on to win the final. I still favor Duke over Notre Dame, but with three straight wins over seeded teams (Princeton, Maryland, Cornell), Notre Dame has shown that their strong defense lets them compete against anyone. Plus, of course, Notre Dame already beat Duke this season, 11-7 at Durham to open the season. But that was back in February. My pick: Duke. Either way, we will welcome an eighth team to the list of champions, the first new entry since Princeton’s win in 1992.

Categories: Sports