After nearly a month of sometimes bumpy negotiations, the United States Golf Association, which will conduct the 118th United States Open next month at the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club on Long Island, is close to an agreement with the Shinnecock Indian Nation that will not only include the tribe in the event’s most public ceremonies but also afford the Shinnecock some financial gain from the tournament.
While the deal has not officially been agreed upon, both sides appear to be amenable to a variety of conditions, which will include enabling the tribe to provide parking on their territory, which is a couple of miles from Shinnecock Hills, according to people briefed on the discussions who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about them. A spokesman for the U.S.G.A. confirmed that progress had been made.
The relationship between the U.S.G.A. and the tribe dates to 1896, when the second U.S. Open was held at Shinnecock Hills, a course on a strip of Long Island once owned by the Shinnecock Indians and built by a Shinnecock work crew.
For generations thereafter, the Shinnecock worked at the golf club as groundskeepers and caddies. When the championship returned to Shinnecock Hills in 1986, 1995 and 2004, the tribe and the U.S.G.A. continued to partner in various ways, including arrangements that generated substantial revenue for the Shinnecock.
But in the run-up to this year’s Open, the 122-year relationship seemed to be fraying. About two weeks ago, talks between the U.S.G.A. and the Shinnecock appeared to have broken down with several tribal members dissatisfied by the terms of a potential deal.
In the latest negotiations, which included a conference call on Tuesday, there have been a variety of other elements proposed, including a U.S.G.A. donation that would benefit the Shinnecock Nation’s golf club and help introduce golf to the tribe’s youth. The parking is expected to be on land near the golf course that is owned by the tribe, and the U.S.G.A. has confirmed that a shuttle van will be able to drop spectators from the tribal lot at the Shinnecock Hills site.
“We’re very pleased with the quality of the dialogue, and we’re confident that we’ll reach an agreement of our shared mission to celebrate the Shinnecock Nation in our championship,” Craig Annis, who directs the U.S.G.A.’s communications and community affairs, said in a telephone interview Tuesday night.
The Open, including its practice rounds, will attract a vast, global collection of fans from June 11 to June 17. At past Opens at Shinnecock Hills, the tribe made $100,000 or more, renting out part of their adjacent land for parking or as the site for hospitality tents.
In 2004 and again this year, the U.S.G.A. has chosen to route the bulk of the spectator parking farther away from the golf course to avoid congestion near the tournament site.
The U.S.G.A. has already says it wants to include the Shinnecock in this year’s opening ceremony and during the trophy presentation at the conclusion of the tournament. The U.S.G.A. also invited the tribe to sell a locally made product in the association’s giant merchandise tent.