Senior Women's Open crowds, merchandise sales exceeding expectations

 
 
Updated 7/13/2018 6:35 PM
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  • Laura Davies walks to the 12th tee during the second round of the U.S. Senior Women's Open at the Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton on Friday. Davies is co-leader heading into Saturday's third round at 4 under par.

    Laura Davies walks to the 12th tee during the second round of the U.S. Senior Women's Open at the Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton on Friday. Davies is co-leader heading into Saturday's third round at 4 under par. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Volunteers help monitor sales of merchandise during the opening round of the inaugural U.S. Senior Women's Open Championship at the Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton. By Saturday afternoon, championship products are expected to sell out.

      Volunteers help monitor sales of merchandise during the opening round of the inaugural U.S. Senior Women's Open Championship at the Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton. By Saturday afternoon, championship products are expected to sell out. Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • View of the clubhouse from the 11th green during the second round of the U.S. Senior Women's Open at the Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton Friday.

    View of the clubhouse from the 11th green during the second round of the U.S. Senior Women's Open at the Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton Friday. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Elaine Crosby putts on the 11th during the second round of the U.S. Senior Women's Open at the Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton Friday. She's 2 over par for the championship.

    Elaine Crosby putts on the 11th during the second round of the U.S. Senior Women's Open at the Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton Friday. She's 2 over par for the championship. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Seats were at a premium inside the air-conditioned Trophy Club for ticketholders to the U.S. Senior Women's Open Friday.

      Seats were at a premium inside the air-conditioned Trophy Club for ticketholders to the U.S. Senior Women's Open Friday. Katlyn Smith | Staff Photographer

  • Golf fans take advantage of the shade while watching the second round of the U.S. Senior Women's Open at the Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton Friday.

    Golf fans take advantage of the shade while watching the second round of the U.S. Senior Women's Open at the Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton Friday. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

Players who have treated the inaugural U.S. Senior Women's Open like a high school reunion have their own version of a yearbook signing in the clubhouse locker room.

Many of the competitors have been repeat customers of the pro shop at Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton, and there's one keepsake that just about everyone in the field has to have.

"One thing that's super cool that they've all done, and the people from the USGA have never seen players do it on this scale, is most every contestant came in and bought a pin flag and a sharpie and left it by the locker," said John Guyton, the club's head professional. "And all the players have walked through the locker room signing each other's pin flag."

Pin flags disappeared quickly from the shelves as players and fans rush to buy souvenirs from a historic championship many of the legends of the women's game thought they would never see. The small pro shop is so busy that merchandise with the Senior Women's Open logo should sell out by Saturday afternoon.

"They don't come once. They keep coming back every day looking around and seeing what's new for that particular day," Guyton said of the players. "I think they're just so excited, and they're so thrilled to be a part of it and they want to have some gear to represent that they were here."

The crowded scene inside the pro shop Friday -- and the size of the galleries around the links-style course even before the weekend of a new USGA championship -- have been a welcome surprise for the host site.

"Just everything so far has exceeded expectations on every level," Guyton said.

Before players teed off Thursday, club members were expecting roughly 5,000 patrons on each day of the weekend. Guyton is now putting that number at "somewhere between 6,000 and 8,000." USGA officials wouldn't release attendance figures, but released a statement from CEO Mike Davis.

"We are thrilled by the crowd support here this week, as golf fans have had the once-in-a-lifetime experience to walk the fairways with some of the game's most legendary players," Davis said. "To not only have our expectations met -- but drastically exceeded -- is a testament to the historical significance of this moment. The players, the overwhelming support of the community and the venue all aligned to create the ultimate celebration of senior women's golf."

Guyton knew the first day the pro shop was open at the beginning of the week that he would need to order more inventory after recording several $1,000 transactions.

"It started on Sunday when the contestants began to check in and they came in and they were buying in huge quantities," he said. "You could tell that they were so proud to be a part of this event, and they were buying lots of items for all their friends and family back home. At that point, we knew it was going to be much busier than we had anticipated and planned for."

To keep up with demand, Guyton has had to overnight product every day of championship week.

"Fortunately I had two of the top folks from the USGA merchandising team on site this week to help me with replenishment," he said. "They're used to ordering $500,000 worth of product a day to be overnighted for a U.S. Open, so they were very helpful with the reorders that I've placed during the week."

Already sold out are bag tags (the shop also was doing free engraving) and ball markers with the Senior Women's Open logo. The remaining championship product should last through lunchtime Saturday, and then the shop will just have Chicago Golf Club memorabilia.

"I just took my last shipments today actually. I have some T-shirts that are supposed to be delivered tonight and then that's it," Guyton said Friday afternoon. "We'll start running out of some things."

Judi Seagroves, a fan from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, had hoped to come away with more trinkets made for the championship, but she did snag shirts with the logo featuring the tower that rises above Chicago Golf's 105-year-old clubhouse. Ladies golf polos were priced at $80.

"Let's just say I helped the economy," a smiling Seagroves said of her haul.

Guyton isn't just running the pro shop. The club professional for 12 years also has helped players -- most notably JoAnne Carner -- replace nonconforming wedges. Hearing his tales of rubbing elbows with the champions in the women's game are another reason to visit the shop near the first tee.

And Carner? The 79-year-old turned out to be a "good sport" about her new wedge.

"That time with her is my highlight for the week so far," he said. "It was pretty incredible just because she's such an icon in the game. She's one of the three or four greatest women players of all time. I had heard about her personality and heard all about her through the years, and she is larger than life and just a wonderful lady."

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