Village busy and calm on Open weekend

Jun. 15, 2014 @ 05:02 AM

Roars from the tens of thousands in the galleries around Pinehurst No. 2 are the loudest noises at the U.S. Open Championship this weekend.

The most reliable sound is from The Village Chapel in the Village of Pinehurst across the street from the resort and country club. The chapel's bells ring hymns throughout the village and No. 2 each half hour.

The best place to watch the U.S. Open? According to chapel member and choir member Hunter Hess, it's in a comfortable chair in the shade on a nice flatscreen TV with snacks and drinks on the church's lawn. He's inviting everyone to stop by.

Lots of golf celebrties and celebrities from all walks know to stop by Old Sport and Gallery in the Harvard Building in the village.

Ilana Stewart's has seen, what will be five Opens, Pinehurst and Pine Needles Golf Club have hosted in the last 15 years. Her gallery has been featured in media such as Sports Illustrated, Golf Digest, Golfweek and The Golf Channel.

Signed photos from visitors such as Arnold Palmer and Brian Williams are just a couple on display. What's on display for sale includes an incredible amount of golf - be it in the Sandhills or from the whole world of the spot - sporting and historic art, books, antiques and memorabilia.

"We want it this busy every day, 365 days of the year," Stewart said.

"We want 40,000 people here all the time," she said. "It's never stressful. It's always fun."

It's been busy, yet peaceful, at the chapel.

Each day at noon there is an organ recital by chapel director of music Stephen Gourley. Each evening Monday-Wednesday, continuing for the Women's Open, the chapel is hosting nighly music and guest speakers.

The chapel, Hess said, is open for meditation as well. At the same time, taking a break at the chapel doesn't mean taking a break from golf.

TVs under a tent on the lawn and in the fellowship hall are showing the play. There's free parking, whether to head to the course or into the village.

"People, say from Sanford, may not want to deal with the shuttle and all that," Hess said, "because you want to be in the village some, too."

According to Hess, the vehicle traffic in the village is no different than a usual spring or fall peak tourist weekend. The foot traffic, though, especially in the evenings, has been great.

"There have been lots of night caps," Stewart said, which, coincidentally perhaps, has been good for commerce in her gallery which has been open "with the roosters" each morning and closing at 10 each night. "The people

Her husband, Tom, is a retired golf pro. Many USGA members, golfers and media members have made these weeks a nice reunion.

Business has been great, Stewart said, including a one-day 300 percent boom in the gallery's web traffic thanks to an article in Golf Digest.

Stewart didn't know what was responsible for the spike for much of the day until finding out about the article.

"We just want people to see the village, to experience our beautiful village and Southern hospitality," she said.

The same goes at the chapel. Hess said he might get a ticket and watch a day of the Women's Open in person. Then again, he's quite comfortable in the shade.