Being outside the ropes during the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay in Washington State is definitely not a bad thing. While this course has some of the most stunning views of any course in the country, walking hole by hole can be challenging. As Phil Mickelson notes, “Golf fans are some of the most dedicated fans. Most other sports fans buy a ticket, sit in a seat and see all the action. Golf fans buy a ticket and then they have to walk the course and only see a fraction of the action.” While this is a challenging walk the views and elevation changes are very rewarding. With that said, there are plenty of activities outside the ropes to make this major event even more memorable. The U.S. Open’s Spectator Square is set up with numerous big screens televising coverage of the tournament and sponsor pavilions that enable the fans to engage in various aspects of the game.
If you are looking for a better view of the action, Phil Mickelson Sr. found a solution. Perhaps Phil Mickelson junior’s awareness of the fans’ experience is heightened by the unintentionally manner in which his father came into the periscope business. Philip Mickelson Sr. explains, “In 1996 Phil started to have a pretty big crowd following him, so my wife bought me a periscope for Christmas. The next thing I know all of my friends were using mine and passing it around to see a lie or how far a player was from the ball. I decided to buy 12 for my friends and give them for Christmas presents. After speaking with the owner in 1997, I ended up buying the company.” Mickelson Sr. went on to upgrade the original periscope, used to see over crowds and give viewers a better view of tournament play, and a few years later he created a version that had zoom capabilities. It allows a person to see 22.5 inches higher and 5 times the distance. Without any endorsement from Phil junior the Sportscope has done very well, selling out three times at the 2008 US Open, and again at the Ryder Cup. It is an officially licensed PGA TOUR product and is also used for hunting, law enforcement, military, concerts and parades. Mickelson Sr., now almost 80 years old, plans to retire soon from the periscope business. The onetime Navy fighter pilot turned commercial airlines pilot is happy he was able to give golf fans a way to have a better experience.
If a taste of Washington State is what you desire, the Washington State Wine Commission has created an exceptional wine experience showcasing the best of Washington wines in the Rainier Village hospitality tent lining the 18th fairway. Chris Stone, VP of marketing and communications for the wine commission explains, “We wanted to showcase the diverse selection of wines that represent the region and diversity of varietals and price point.” Many of their guests are wine industry professionals including sommelier’s and wine buyers. With over 800 wineries in the state of Washington choosing which ones would be represented was no easy task. An outside five person panel was created to review the over 420 wines submitted. Ultimately, 140 were chosen and 20 wines are showcased per day during the event. Most notable is the fact that Chateau Ste. Michelle, Washington State’s oldest winery, is the largest single producer of Riesling in the world. In addition to their 49 plus wines, they currently have a new collaboration, Tenant, a Rhone style blend made up of 40% Grenache, 35% Shyah and 25% Mourvedre. It is the love child of Chateau Ste. Michelle and the Rhone’s Michel Gassie… and it is delicious.
While many golf professionals have ventured into the wine industry, most notably Ernie Els, Greg Norman, Luke Donald and Annika Sorenstam, to name a few, some NFL players have also found a passion in winemaking. Two vineyards in the Washington area have strong ties to football and more specifically quarterbacks.
Passing Time Winery, the joint vision of Damon Huard and Dan Marino, was inspired by their respective great grandfathers’ roots in the wine industry. This is part of what propelled them to execute on the dream of creating Passing Time. Huard grew up in Eastern Washington and his great grandfather grew Concord grapes while Dan Marino’s great grandfather made homemade wine. The name Passing Time rightly suits the passion both gentlemen possess for family and football. As Huard explains, “It is what you do when you are with your family and friends passing time enjoying wine; as well as when it is third down and you are in the red zone, six points down with ten seconds left in the game and you have to score…then it is passing time.” The wine venture for both Marino and Huard is a passion that runs as deep as their love of football. “Our vision is to make big, bold Cabernet Sauvignon and we use Merlot and Cab Franc from iconic Washington vineyards to create a complex and complete blend that compliments the Cabernet Sauvignon without taking away from its unique character.” Using 86% Discovery Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Klipsun Vineyard Merlot and 5% Champoux Vineyard Cabernet Franc, Passing Time has created a spectacular wine.
Huard walked the course at Chambers Bay this week with his father. While he regrets his game has suffered due to lack of time, he notes he was able to get his handicap to an 11 at one time. “I really enjoy golf, I just don’t have as much time to play. My dad played golf and he taught me to play so it was great to be out there with him at Chambers Bay,” says Huard.
Drew Bledsoe, the New England Patriots starting quarterback from 1993 to 2001, is originally from Ellensburg, Washington. After a very successful NFL career Bledsoe founded the Doubleback Winery along with close friend Chris Figgins. Coming home after his career provided the inspiration to name the wine Doubleback. For former NFL quarterback Drew Bledsoe, owning a winery has been a longtime aspiration that would allow him to combine his passion for fine wine and the love of the Walla Walla Valley. The company’s grapes are harvested from McQueen Vineyards and Flying B Vineyards, located in and around Walla Walla, Washington where Bledsoe grew up. He is very proud of the region and notes the region’s ability to produce great wines at a reasonable price as well as superior quality. His first production, a 2007 vintage, quickly sold out of its initial 600 cases. In 2012, Marvin R. Shanken, noted NY Giants fan, invited Ernie Els, Greg Norman, Tom Seaver and Bledsoe to introduce their wines, despite Shanken’s dislike of the NE Patriots he welcomed Bledsoe and his wine.
Pride for the Washington State region resonates with both quarterbacks when describing their wine and reasons for returning home. Along with a souvenir U.S. Open golf shirt, a great bottle of Washington State wine makes for a lasting memory long after the ropes are down.