Published in the June 29 – July 12, 2016 issue of Gilroy Life

Professional golfer Christina Kim will play at CordeValle in the U.S. Women's Open next month. Photo courtesy USGA

Professional golfer Christina Kim will play at CordeValle in the U.S. Women’s Open next month.
Photo courtesy USGA

The U.S. Women’s Open reigns as the world’s premier tournament in women’s golf. Next month this massive sports event might very well define the South Valley region to an audience of millions of people watching it on TV and other media. It gives us a chance to build name recognition as a family-friendly blend of farm country and high-tech cultures.

We at Gilroy Life encourage the people of our region to get excited about this championship golf tournament not just for the sheer enjoyment of seeing some of the best players in the world compete but also because it opens up many economic opportunities for the South Valley. Our communities have much to gain.

Members of the media will converge on the CordeValle Golf Resort July 4 to 10 to give hours of coverage of the championship, telling the stories of the world’s best female professional golfers who will compete for a $4.5 million purse. Each afternoon after the course is closed for the day, many of the estimated 100,000 spectators are expected to visit local restaurants in Morgan Hill and Gilroy. This is our time to shine and show off the best that South Valley has to offer.

The U.S. Open could potentially build our region’s “brand” on a national and even international level as a scenic place for visitors to travel for exceptional food, wine tasting and outdoor recreation. For nearly a year now, organizers have been meeting with Gilroy and Morgan Hill business and city government representatives to build partnerships to get residents involved with the U.S. Open and create tourism opportunities for us. Among them is Jane Howard, executive director of the Gilroy Welcome Center. She sees the sports event as a once-in-a-lifetime chance to generate worldwide interest about the South Valley. This attention can potentially lead to millions of tourism dollars not just during the event but for years to come. Morgan Hill’s John McKay, a founder of the Morgan Hill Tourism Alliance, also sees the U.S. Women’s Open as an opportunity for us to show off what makes this region so special — and help us step out of the shadow of Silicon Valley by inviting visitors to discover our region and all it has to offer.

This is the third time the championship has been played in California. The rural community of San Martin’s bucolic CordeValle Golf Resort joins the San Diego Country Club, where it was hosted in 1964, and Sacramento’s Del Paso Country Club, where it was hosted in 1982. Last year, the 70th U.S. Women’s Open event was held at the Lancaster Country Club in Lancaster, Penn. It hit a hole-in-one when it came to community involvement in supporting the championship. A city of about 60,000 located in a major metropolitan area centered around Philadelphia, Lancaster found the economic and community-building benefits were immense. A record 134,000 spectators attended, with more than 2,500 local volunteers making sure the guests and the players had a good time. The residual impact is that people who learned about Lancaster come to the city from around the world now as tourist visitors, spending their money at its restaurants, stores and hotels.

The South Valley can benefit just as well. We can build on our image for small-town friendliness in the heart of an agricultural region that serves also as the southern gateway into the metropolitan area centered around San Francisco. Through the media, we can show off our nearly 30 world-class wineries, fabulous restaurants in Morgan Hill and Gilroy, and attractions such as Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park and the wilderness get-away of Henry W. Coe State Park.

The tournament also is a community-building opportunity. We can join together in making sure our residents have fun and get involved with the at-their-peak professional athletes coming to our regional home and competing in a major sports event.

The Bay Area is blessed with many exceptional professional sports teams — the San Jose Sharks, San Francisco Giants, Oakland A’s, Golden State Warriors, San Francisco 49ers, Oakland Raiders and the Sa