Golf gives economic eagle to Robeson County

First Posted: 6/13/2014

LUMBERTON — Martin Kaymer may have walked away from Pinehurst with a trophy and a check for $1.6 million, but he wasn’t the only winner during the 114th edition of the U.S. Open, which was played last week at the famed Pinehurst No. 2 golf course.

There was a spillover effect from the tournament that provided an economic eagle for Robeson County, which is about 70 miles away.

Local hotels and restaurants said they benefited from the historic golf tournament, which ran from June 11 to June 15 and brought as many as 50,000 people to the Moore County village with a population of less than 14,000.

“Any major event down (Interstate) 95 or within an hour radius from Lumberton is going to impact us,” said Mickey Gregory, executive director of the Lumberton Visitors Bureau.

Gregory said the Lumberton Visitors Bureau played a part in driving golfers to local hospitality. She worked alongside the Pinehurst Convention and Business Center for almost two years to spread the word about local hotels where visitors to the U.S. Open might want to stay.

“The Pinehurst Convention and Business Center reached out to all of us an hour’s drive from Pinehurst and helped us with what we needed to do to get information out about our hotels,” Gregory said. “It’s been an exciting partnership with Pinehurst. Pinehurst accommodations [for the U.S. Open] were filled almost immediately.”

Gregory was told by managers at the Hampton Inn, Comfort Inn, and Country Inn and Suites in Lumberton that the hotels were continuously booked during the tournament.

“We’ve definitely received some benefits from the U.S. Open,” said Bruce Mullis, assistant manager of Comfort Suites located off Exit 22 of Interstate 95.

The U.S. Women’s Open, which kicked off Thursday and wraps up today, is also being held in Pinehurst. Mullis said that the second major tournament may have brought a slight boost in traffic to local hotels, he doubts any of them were forced to light up their “No Vacancy” signs.

“There’s just not as many people attending that event,” he said. “There might be some bleed over, but not as much as the U.S. Open.”

Hotels weren’t the only businesses that enjoyed a windfall from the tournaments.

Dwight Gane, the PGA professional at Pinecrest Country Club, said the golf course saw a significant increase in play during the U.S. Open and a small spike during the women’s tournament.

“We had a great week [during the U.S. Open],” he said. “So far, we’ve had a couple of big crowds [during the Women’s Open] but I have not seen the increase in play this week that we saw last week.”

Gane believes that many of the golfers who were staying in Lumberton wanted to play at his club because nine of the holes at Pinecrest were designed by Donald James Ross, the same man behind the Pinehurst No. 2 course.

Widely regarded as one of the sport’s most influential architects, Ross was involved with the development of about 400 golf courses until his death in 1948.

Local restaurants also attributed an upswing in business to the tournaments.

Phillip Britt, a consultant for Village Station and Arnold’s in Lumberton, said that both eateries saw an increase in business during the U.S. Open.

“We had quite a few people come through. There were about 50 more customers each day,” he said. “We had a good turnout, but it tapered off a little during the women’s tournament.”

Madison McKinion, a hostess at Texas Steakhouse in Lumberton, also reported a rise in traffic.

“We have seen an increase in business,” she said. “I think that’s because of the U.S. Open.”

Jaymie Baxley can be reached at 910-272-6146, or on Twitter @Jaymie_Baxley. Staff writer Bob Shiles contributed to this story.