The U.S. Open at Chambers Bay will feature of series of firsts.
It’s the first time the national golf championship will be played in the Pacific Northwest.
It’s the first time spectators will be allowed to bring cell phones onto the course.
And, for the first time in 25 years, someone other than artist Linda Hartough produced a painting of the championship course for the United States Golf Association.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Bellingham Herald
The job this year was given to John Traynor, a New Hampshire-based painter with a passion for links-style courses.
For his subject, Traynor chose the 10th hole at Chambers Bay, a par-4 whose tee box offers sweeping views of Puget Sound, Fox Island and, on a clear day, the Olympic Mountains beyond.
Traynor said he hopes the painting, titled “High Dunes,” captures the “flavor of the Northwest.”
“This course, it looks natural,” he said during a recent telephone interview. “It’s quite beautiful.”
The artist visited Chambers Bay for inspiration before he started the painting and will return during the championship, June 15-21. He will sell signed prints of “High Dunes” in the merchandise pavilion. The limited edition includes 250 paper prints, 150 canvas prints and 25 remarque —personally annotated— prints.
Former Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg, who led the effort to construct Chambers Bay out of a gravel mine, said Traynor’s choice of subjects was spot on.
“Nice. He picked No. 10 hole to feature. It’s my favorite hole,” Ladenburg said in a Twitter post earlier this month.
The oil-on-canvas painting shows a golfer lining up a tee shot, a caddy standing nearby with a bag of clubs slung behind his back. The 10th fairway runs away from them, through yellow-and-green dunes toward the Sound, where a sailboat glides through the water under pastel clouds.
Rand Jerris, USGA senior managing director for public services, said “High Dunes” validates the association’s selection of Traynor to produce the first post-Hartough-era painting.
“We wanted someone versed in landscapes and light, who could tie together land and water and clouds and sky,” said Jerris, who oversees the USGA’s museum and art collection in Far Hills, N.J., one of the biggest collections of golf art in the world. “We saw his style work out very well.”
Hartough, a world-renowned golf landscape artist, decided that 2014 would be her last year painting U.S. Open courses for the USGA.
Her paintings of golf courses from Medinah Country Club in Illinois to Pinehurst No. 2 in North Carolina drew praise for their meticulous attention to detail.
Jerris, who holds a Ph.D. in art and archeology from Princeton, described her work as “almost photographic.”
The USGA considered three artists to take up Hartough’s mantel and selected Traynor for this year’s championship, said Mary Lopuszynski, the USGA’s senior director of merchandise and licensing. He also has been commissioned to paint the course for the 2017 U.S. Open. Artist David Lussier will paint next year’s course.
“We were looking for different types of art,” Lopuszynski said.
They got it in Traynor.
His work, in contrast to Hartough’s, is more impressionistic, as the soft lines and warm glow of “High Dunes” attest.
Traynor said he has long loved golf and sometimes incorporates golf courses into his work.
“Of the 5,000 paintings I’ve done in my career, maybe 100 or so are of golf,” he said. “It’s just part of what I do.”
Traynor said he developed a fondness for links-style courses during a series of trips to Ireland and Scotland, where he once traded a painting of Ireland’s Waterville links for golf lessons from the pro there.
Painting Chambers Bay, itself a links-style course, seemed natural, Traynor said.
He traveled to University Place in September and spent a week working. The course was closed for part of that time, and Traynor was able to traipse the fairways to sketch ideas and seek inspiration.
He said he was impressed that the course was built on the remains of a played-out gravel mine.
“I was impressed with the way it looked,” Traynor said. “I’m kind of surprised they were able to do that.”
After he and the USGA agreed that No. 10 would be his subject, he set up his easel on the fairway and went to work.
The weather wasn’t the greatest, “but there was enough sun to get a peek at it,” Traynor said.
He also got to play a round, shooting 82 from the middle tees.
“When you played it, you got a totally different perspective on the course,” Traynor said.
The painting hangs inside the USGA administration building in Far Hills.
“It’s in a prominent location,” Jerris said. “It will become a permanent part of our museum collection.”