U.S. Open’s merchandise shop is big business. Here’s what makes it go

The U.S. Open merchandise pavilion

The USGA team at the U.S. Open Merchandise Pavilion.

Courtesy of the USGA

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Imagine a crowd of 19,500 fans at Madison Square Garden, all wanting to bring home mementos from the game or concert they just witnessed. That total is comparable to the 20,000 or so transactions that we conduct on a busy Friday or Saturday at the U.S. Open Championship.

Our goal during the 124th U.S. Open at Pinehurst in mid-June — our 1,000th USGA championship! — is to greet every person who comes through our 35,000-square-foot Merchandise Pavilion, help them choose a size or point them in the right direction, then quickly move them through the checkout line, all while striving to ensure that their experience is as good as it can be. 

It probably won’t surprise you to know that we have a dedicated team of 15 USGA staffers, 20 interns, nearly 1,200 volunteers and 300 or so merchandise vendor representatives who work to make it all happen. Our staff will have spent much of the past year strategizing to ensure that our 11-day operation (a four-day pre-sale followed by championship week) goes as smoothly as possible.

USGA President Fred Perpall, USGA CEO Mike Whan and USGA Chief Championships Officer John Bodenhamer speak to the media during a press conference prior to the 123rd U.S. Open Championship at The Los Angeles Country Club on June 14, 2023 in Los Angeles, California.
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It’s fun to stand near the entrance to the tent and watch people, because sometimes you can actually see their jaws drop. They’re expecting to walk in and find 8-foot tables with boxes of hats on them. It’s great to get that immediate visual feedback when they see a retail experience that is far more than they expected.

We are always on the lookout for the next hot product, the up-and-coming vendor, the local craftsman who warrants this year’s spotlight. One reason we are so passionate about our efforts is because they help fund everything that the USGA does on behalf of the game, its players and its future. Just as with tickets, TV contracts and other U.S. Open revenue sources, each purchase supports a deserving player within the new U.S. National Development Program, preserves golf history through our USGA Museum, or advances turfgrass research for a more sustainable game

My first championship for the USGA was the 1995 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills. I came here after eight years working for renowned golf instructor Jim McLean. Before that, I spent high school and college summers working for Tom Nieporte at Winged Foot Golf Club, not far from my hometown of Rye, N.Y. Little did I know when he asked me to help pick out a line of shirts for the golf shop that it would serve as an entrée into my career.

Many aspects of this job have changed over the years, while others haven’t changed much at all. One thing that continues to resonate is the synergy when everyone on our team is carrying out their roles and it’s all flowing smoothly to create a great fan experience. There’s nothing like it. Come visit us at Pinehurst!

Mary Lopusynski is USGA managing director, merchandising and licensing.

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