Local troopers pitch in at U.S. Open

First Posted: 6/11/2014

PINEHURST — Richmond County’s state troopers will help ensure the only driving that raises eyebrows at the U.S. Open happens on the golf course.

Troopers L.E. Sampson and R.B. Goodwin of Richmond County and Sgt. S.T. Harper of Scotland County will direct traffic during the tournament, getting spectators where they need to go and providing a uniformed presence to discourage speeding and unsafe driving, said 1st Sgt. A.K. Dietrich of the North Carolina Highway Patrol office in Hamlet.

Sampson and Goodwin are posted at a traffic circle on N.C. 2 East in Pinehurst and Harper is stationed at a large traffic circle on U.S. 15/U.S. 501.

“We’re trying to get people out as quickly and safely as possible,” said Trooper Mike Baker, a Highway Patrol spokesman. “We have 185 uniformed personnel from the Highway Patrol. At any given time, we have at least 100 troopers who are boots-on-the-ground.”

Rockingham and Hamlet police officers and Richmond County sheriff’s deputies haven’t been called on to help with traffic or security during the U.S. Open men’s and women’s championships. The state Department of Public Safety is providing law enforcement and ancillary services for the United States Golf Association-sanctioned tournament.

State agencies under the Department of Public Safety umbrella working the U.S. Open include the Highway Patrol, Alcohol Law Enforcement Division, Division of Adult Correction, N.C. Emergency Management and the state’s U.S. Army National Guard.

About 250 personnel will staff the event, which began Monday and runs through June 22. The State Bureau of Investigation, which is under the attorney general’s supervision, has teamed up with the Department of Public Safety to provide SBI agents for tournament security.

“The Department of Public Safety will provide security and traffic support to help ensure the U.S. Open championships run safely and smoothly,”state public safety Secretary Frank Perry said in a statement. “We want golfers and spectators alike to gain a newfound love for North Carolina, having truly enjoyed their experience at Pinehurst.”

State public safety officials met with USGA representatives over the past year to iron out security, parking and transportation plans. Authorities said disruptions would be handled discreetly.

“DPS personnel will strive to manage security quietly and professionally with the goal of being unnoticed by participants and attendees,” the department said in a release.

Traffic snarls in Pinehurst have been few and far between since the tournament opened.

“The flow is going better than planned,” Baker said. “We’ve been in the planning stages for this for at least a year. Traffic direction and traffic plans are doing exactly what they’re supposed to do in light of a huge influx of traffic.”

State officials said they’re working to remind spectators that cellphones, cameras and electronic devices capable of making noise are not permitted on the U.S. Open championship grounds. The Highway Patrol encourages attendees to read the USGA’s “Know Before You Go” guide to the tournament at www.usopen.com.

Reach Editor Corey Friedman at 910-997-3331, ext. 13.