The US Open currently underway in Pinehurst, North Carolina, is an example of the rubber meeting the road, a state lawmaker said this week when highlighting the economic advantages of past legislative actions. 

In the county represented by Sen. Tom McInnis, R-Moore, the US Open is welcoming hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world this week for the 124th US Men’s Open Golf Championship, returning to the area after a decade.

Within the walls of the North Carolina General Assembly in Raleigh, McInnis took a moment on the Senate floor to recognize the event’s importance and impact on the state. 

“I want to make you aware that the United States Golf Association is sponsoring and conducting the 124th United States men’s open Golf Championship at the No.2 course of the iconic Pinehurst Country Club,” McInnis informed his colleagues in the Senate. “The greatest players in the world will be there. Visitors from all over the world will be there.”

He said over 2,000 private airplane landings and departures are expected from the small airport in Pinehurst over the next week. He also highlighted the estimated $500 million in economic benefits expected from the tournament, including over $200 million for the Pinehurst community.

In a show of North Carolina’s business-friendly environment, the United States Golf Association moved its headquarters from New Jersey to Pinehurst at the end of last year. Additionally, the World Golf Hall of Fame has returned to North Carolina after a 20-year hiatus in Saint Augustine, Florida.

Pointing to the General Assembly’s appropriations to the USGA, McInnis added that Pinehurst’s Golf House is now open for business with about 70 high-paid, quality professionals, exceeding the 50 employees originally planned. In the appropriations, legislators secured an agreement to hold the US Open in Pinehurst four additional times over the next 25 years. 

“Ladies and gentlemen, that’s what it’s all about, and that’s where the rubber meets the road,” McInnis touted.

The state appropriated $18 million in incentives and millions of dollars in extra tax breaks to the USGA in a 2020 bill. While some saw the funding as a “beautiful day” for Pinehurst, others saw it as a beautiful day for unnecessary government handouts and corporate welfare.

“This is the state helping Pinehurst Resort with something that was probably gonna happen anyway,” said then-JLF senior fellow for fiscal and tax policy, Joe Coletti, said after the USGA announcement in 2020. “None of these numbers are real, except for what’s being paid out by the state.”

USGA was legally required to spend just $5 million of its own money on the project, while North Carolinians remained on the hook for $18 million, said Jon Sanders, JLF’s director of regulatory studies in reaction to the 2020 legislation. The Championship NC Act carves out a benefit for the state, too, ordering USGA to provide the Commerce Department a “hospitality pavilion” at each men’s championship. 

“Defining it as a ‘gift’ lets the governor and legislators do a statutory Jedi hand wave and say it isn’t a form of quid pro quo,” Sanders said. “We (Lawmakers) gave them (USGA) $18 million, and out of the goodness of their hearts they just up and let us enjoy this large, catered gathering place at a major championship sporting event for free. Oh, but just men’s championships, for some reason.”

Gov. Roy Cooper proclaimed Pinehurst as “The Home of American Golf” this week and said the World Golf Hall of Fame is back where it belongs in the cradle of American Golf. 

“It doesn’t get much better than North Carolina hosting the U.S. Open on our beautiful, challenging and storied Pinehurst No. 2,” Cooper said in a press release. “This week’s tournament will provide world-class golf for fans in North Carolina and across the world along with a major economic boost for our state.”

North Carolina’s 520 golf courses generate an estimated economic impact of $4.2 billion in the state. According to the NC Department of Transportation, rail tickets from Raleigh to Pinehurst are sold out for the weekend. The two-hour route is provided from June 13-16 so travelers can avoid the hassle of driving.