EDMOND — Blue and peach flowers are blooming throughout Edmond just in time for Monday’s opening of the 35th U.S. Senior Open Championship.
The flowers in the colors of the tournament didn’t just happen. Their planting was part of the planning — two years of planning — for Edmond to host the tournament that is expected to bring more than 120,000 people to Oak Tree National throughout next week.
A new $5.9 million road project along Kelly Avenue, from Covell to Coffee Creek roads, was completed in time for the seven-day tournament that boasts 156 professional golfers over age 50.
Trash is being picked up and grass is being mowed along the route to the golf course one last time.
Landscapers are making last-minute touches in neighborhoods surrounding the golf course. Garbage pickup has been altered in the area, and the trash from the golf course will be picked up at 4:30 each morning.
“This is a huge event for Edmond,” said Cathy Williams-White, Edmond Convention and Visitors Bureau director. “A lot has gone into this. We have lived and breathed it the last couple years.”
Tournament officials are expecting 2,500 volunteers to donate their time during the tournament, which will be televised for more than 14 hours on NBC and ESPN2 to more than 100 countries.
“It takes a whole lot of people to make this come off,” said Janet Yowell, Edmond Economic Development Authority executive director. “They have planned for everything.”
‘A big deal’
Volunteers and spectators are expected to come to Edmond from 40 states.
“It is very exciting,” said Frank Naifeh, whose home is adjacent to what will be the No. 2 hole for the tournament. He will oversee 350 volunteers who will help with security, access, medical care and golf carts.
“We have been meeting, and the volunteers are ready to go,” Naifeh said.
Among them is his wife, Saundra Naifeh, former mayor and a board member of Edmond Beautiful, the group that urged residents to plant flowers throughout town to match the tournament’s colors.
Chris Palmer, a co-chairman of 1,500 of the volunteers, will oversee the marshals, merchandise tent, front gate and requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. He said finding volunteers wasn’t tough.
“People love to do it,” Palmer said. “Golf in Edmond is a great thing. We are very excited for it to get going. It is a big deal to Edmond and a big deal to Oklahoma.”
Frank Naifeh, an avid golfer, is as excited about being a volunteer co-chair as he is about a tournament where big names like Fred Couples, Colin Montgomerie, Bernhard Langer and Scott Verplank will be playing.
“The golf course is pristine; it is just like carpet,” he said.
An Edmond Economic Development Authority study calculated the economic impact to the city will be $12.9 million. The event likely will generate 152 jobs and almost $3.9 million. Lodging taxes are expected to bring in $86,026.
Edmond officials have applied for reimbursement under the new Oklahoma Quality Events Act. Edmond could get up to $250,000, Yowell said.
City Manager Larry Stevens, another avid golfer, said at least 10 department heads are involved and some city employees have volunteered.
“There has been a large amount of coordination,” Stevens said. “This is a good opportunity for us to showcase Edmond.”
Ready to go
Championship director Jeff Ewing,who moved to Edmond three years ago to plan the event, agrees the city has done a good job preparing for the prestigious tournament.
“They have been there through the entire process,” Ewing said. “There has been a spirit of cooperation. I think everyone is looking forward to it.”
Edmond Electric workers recently finished improvements to the electrical infrastructure at Oak Tree National. The improvements are permanent, unlike the work that was done in 2006 when the Senior PGA Championship was held in Edmond.
“We made them more permanent with the anticipation that there will be more events at Oak Tree National,” said Edmond Electric Director Glenn Fisher, another avid golfer. “We support the tournament, and we want to make sure there is power out there.”
Edmond police officers are joining forces with Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers and Oklahoma County sheriff’s deputies to make sure security, traffic and parking go as planned.
“We have been working closely with the championship staff on the most effective parking and traffic plan to ensure the utmost safety of all attendees, as well as minimal impact on the local residents,” Police Chief Bob Ricks said.
“We want people to have a good time,” said the chief, another big golfer. “This is a significant event for Edmond and Oklahoma.”
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