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Sit-Down with the Championship Director

Ben Kimball is the Director of the U.S. Senior Open Championship for the United States Golf Association, and is charged with getting Salem Country Club ready for the 2017 event. The USGA conducts site visits throughout the year to check on progress, and Ben recently was in town and took some time to answer a few questions about the championship and about Salem Country Club.
Question: What are the biggest challenges in preparing for the U.S. Senior Open?
Ben Kimball: Trying to predict the unpredictable.  Whether it be how the golf course plays or what the weather does during championship week. You try and plan for everything but those that do this well and do it for a long time have become accustomed to hitting the curve.  You never know when the curve is coming but you better be able to stick the bat out there when it comes.
Q: What are you checking on during your visit? Is everything on, or ahead of, schedule?
BK: There is no one specific thing that we look at each visit but we did find ourselves discussing appropriate rough heights for areas around fairways and greens as well putting green speeds.  Donald Ross’ work can be seen at its finest on the putting greens at Salem CC so we continue to do our due diligence analyzing them to insure that we prepare them appropriately for the best players in the world.  Course preparations remain on schedule but mother nature could have a bigger hand in that as we approach winter.
Q: How different will the course play from 2001? How different from normal member play?
BK: The course will play very similar from a yardage standpoint to how it did in 2001 though we are using a few new teeing grounds that will get the total yardage to just over 6800 yards.  Our USGA course set-up philosophy has certainly evolved since 2001 so players will continue to see a stern, yet fair test of golf at Salem that will test their physical ability and their mental stability.
Q: What are the things that excite you about coming to Salem Country Club?
BK: It is always great to come back to a club that has such great USGA history.  We have had some memorable championships conducted at Salem CC and I look forward to being a part of the team that adds another chapter to the book. New England loves their golf so I am excited for the state of Massachusetts and certainly the Peabody/Salem community that get to have the golfing world ascend on their community for what will be a memorable week. 
Q: What are your thoughts about the work that was done to restore the greens complexes?
BK: I tip my hat to Salem CC for taking the necessary measures to restore these amazing Donald Ross greens.  The restoration brought back a few  hole locations that haven’t been available for membership use in years and its likely we will use a few of them for the championship proper as well which is a nice perk due to the restoration.
Tickets are on sale for the 2017 U.S. Senior Open, which will be played June 26 – July 2, and can be purchased on line here.
By: Morgan Goldstein, Marketing & New Media Manager, 2017 U.S. Senior Open