U.S. Open: With spectators banned at Winged Foot, merchandise pavilion moves online
Reality began to register back in April when the USGA announced the U.S. Open was being postponed. In the midst of a pandemic, a (...)
Reality began to register back in April when the USGA announced the U.S. Open was being postponed.
In the midst of a pandemic, a full-scale championship was unlikely.
And while she was bracing for bad news, Mary Lopuszynski still felt the sting at the end of July when Gov. Andrew Cuomo weighed in. He gave the U.S. Open a needed go-ahead, but announced only essential personnel would be allowed inside the gates at Winged Foot Golf Club next week.
The longtime senior director of licensing and U.S. Open merchandising was left holding the bag.
“I threatened to sell this stuff out of the trunk of my car in front of Sal’s pizza,” said Lopuszynski, a Rye native whose career roots extend to Winged Foot where she once picked the range and worked in the golf shop.
A tag sale wasn’t the answer, either.
“You have to be safe and with everything we’re doing, with all the testing protocols in place, merchandising really doesn’t fit into those plans,” she added.
The merchandise pavilion is a U.S. Open centerpiece.
It would have occupied 30,000 square feet on the driving range at Winged Foot, with some 20 semi-trailers nearby to warehouse the goods not on display. Lopuszynski oversees the operation with the help of 14 full-time staffers and 1,200 volunteers.
The pavilion routinely handles north of 100,000 transactions.
Revenue numbers are not shared publicly, but $10 million is a popular estimate given the scale of the operation and the fact that most golf shirts with a 2020 U.S. Open logo run $72.
As the COVID-19 metrics in the region began to raise the level concern, Lopuszynski was in contact with vendors.
“We typically start ordering product in July for the following year’s U.S. Open and we continue that process into March, so when our world changed and we saw what was happening, we contacted all our vendors and hit the pause button,” she said. “At that point, I’m going to say about 40 percent of our merchandise had been produced, so not everything we planned to offer at Winged Foot had been made.”
That’s still a monumental pile of hard and soft goods.
Fans went online ahead of Father’s Day and purchased merchandise that normally would’ve been picked up onsite during the championship’s traditional June date.
“We actually had a pretty good week,” Lopuszynski said.
Right now, the entire operation is online at usgashop.com with a wide assortment of polos, sweatshirts, head wear, posters, flags and other U.S. Open paraphernalia readily available.
“After the decision to postpone until September was made, we started to put more of the merchandise online,” Lopuszynski added. “Fanatics is a large sports apparel company and they run our online store. Most of the product went there and they’ll have a more robust offering from now through September.
“I’m sure a lot of people will still want product with the Winged Foot logo, which is one of the greatest of all time.”
No lines. No waiting.
The club’s pro shop is well-stocked and members have been sporting the U.S. Open gear all season.
“Ralph Lauren has been our official outfitter for 10 years now and they have product that will go on their own website, too,” Lopuszynski said. “A few other vendors are doing the same thing. … Obviously, we can’t have fans, which is extremely unfortunate and disappointing, but this is what we had to do.”
Impulse buys are usually a big part of the bottom line.
“People who come to the U.S. Open, depending on the location, they might need outerwear, maybe they forgot an umbrella,” Lopuszynski said. “People come in and get hats when the sun is out, they buy chairs. That won’t happen on USGAshop.com because everyone is watching from home, but a lot of the apparel, the head wear and the accessory items that are good sellers for us year to year are going to be available on the website. And we’re going to be doing some fun promotions on our social media channels just to make sure people know we have the product and if they’re interested where they can get it.”
Golfers like bargains, too.
Lopuszynski will be onsite next week with a role to play. It’s good to know all of the right people at the USGA.
“I’m going to be a walking scorer so I’m going to be watching golf for the first time in my 27-year career at the USGA. “I’m looking forward to it. This is a silver lining for me. Growing up in the area, working at Winged Foot and picking the range … the home game part of this is exciting. I’m really happy to do this and I’m happy (USGA senior manager of championships) John Bodenhamer found a spot for me.”
Mike Dougherty covers golf for The Journal News/lohud.com, part of the USA Today Network. He can be reached at email@example.com, or on Twitter @hoopsmbd and @lohudgolf.