Sunday, August 31 2014 3:28 PM EDT2014-08-31 19:28:29 GMT
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Thursday morning the USGA merchandise pavilion tent that is in place for the U.S. Opens at Pinehurst Resort opened to the general public.
It is open to everyone regardless of whether or not they have tickets to the upcoming championships.
"I thought it was a lot bigger than I expected and a lot more merchandise than I expected," said shopper Pat Wright who lives in Pinehurst.
The merchandise tent is nearly the length of a football field, with more than 500,000 items for sale. The tent is open to everyone from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Sunday, June 8. Wright has tickets to watch some of the U.S. Opens on the Pinehurst course, but she wanted to take an early opportunity to shop in the merchandise tent.
"If people want to take a piece of the US Open Championships home, this is the place to do it," said USGA Senior Director of Licensing & Merchandising Mary Lopuszynski
She said hats are always the number one seller, so there approximately 106,000 hats in the tent.
"There are a lot of people in the area who may not have tickets or be coming, and it's an opportunity for them to shop, or it's a good time for people who do have tickets to beat the rush before it gets crazy in here," Lopuszynski said.
Sometimes the merchandise tent at U.S. Opens can get so busy, people are prevented from entering for short amounts of time Lopuszynski explained.
In Pinehurst, among the hustle and bustle, shoppers will find four companies selling items that have strong North Carolina connections. Ralph Lauren has a distribution center in the Triad. Devant Sport Towels is based in Monroe. Peter Millar clothing is based in Raleigh with distribution out of Durham, and Stitch Golf is based in Cary.
"Being here thousands of people will see our product, and when we talk about our product throughout the year it gives us great credibility to say our product was chosen to be in the U.S. Open," said Charles Burgwyn with Stitch Golf.
Burgwyn’s son started Stitch Golf, a company that specializes in leather headcovers for golf clubs. The company has been a vendor at only one other U.S. Open prior to Pinehurst.
Peter Miller is an apparel company that sells clothing at stores around the country.
“To take the name Peter Millar and have it associated with the USGA, with Pinehurst and the U.S. Open, that’s the tremendous opportunity,” commented Michael Bowers.
For the local companies, being a part of the Opens at Pinehurst is also a bit of a reward to the employees - a reward that would not be possible if the championships where elsewhere.
"People from the sewing machine operators to the secretaries to customer service people, they'll all be here and get to appreciate what they worked so hard for," Burgwyn said.
Much of the merchandise on sale has a logo that is unlike any other U.S. Open. As a nod to both championships being held back to back on the same course, it shows both the men’s and women’s trophies.
"It's never been done this way and who knows if it'll ever be done this way again, so it's really, really exciting," Lopuszynski said.
Brandon is a North Carolina native and UNC alum who lives in Fayetteville, and covers Cumberland County and the Sandhills. Returning to North Carolina to work as a journalist is a dream come true for Brandon.More>>