How about a round of
applause for Golf Channel for Monday’s wall-to-wall coverage of U.S. Open Sectional Qualifying, which they dubbed "Golf’s Longest Day."
Starting with their "Morning
Drive" show until they signed off at midnight from Merion GC, Golf Channel had
reporters filing live reports from all 11 Sectional Qualifying sites.I don’t know about you, but I checked in
a bunch of times throughout the day, then settled in last night for three or
four straight hours.
What they captured was
precisely what I like about the Open-- that it’s open, at least to anybody with a 1.4 USGA index or
better.If you’ve got the game and
a check for $150, sign up and give it your best shot.
Yesterday, like every year,
there were stories of joy and triumph and there were stories of heartbreak and disappointment.One of those guys coming up just short was
18-year-old Brandon Matthews, who has been a standout on Temple’s golf team all
At the 36th hole at
Century CC in Purchase, N.Y., Matthews was forced to take an unplayable lie,
just off the green.He figured he
needed to get up-and-down to perhaps get into a playoff, or qualify as an
alternate for the Open.Instead, Matthews
proceeded to hit a flop shot into the hole, for a 67, and what appeared to be a
spot in the field at Merion.Alas,
a few holes behind him, another 18-year-old amateur, Gavin Hall, birdied the
final four holes to deny Matthews’ dream.
For every sad story, there
were stories of success – Gavin Hall, for example.Golf Channel was all over them.
Unless you see these things
play out, it’s easy to forget that the best stories from the Open often come
from the journey to get there, not the actual championship.Few of these Monday qualifiers will make
the 36-hole cut at Merion.We’ve seen them time and time again – guys who shot 67-68 to get
into the Open then shoot 81-82 once they get there.
I’ve interviewed a hundred
of them over the years.They’re
amateurs like Brandon Matthews and Gavin Hall, or club pros who give it a shot
every year.It’s the pressure, or
the grand stage, or maybe they just spent everything they had in the
Qualifier.Even when they miss the
cut by a mile, they generally have one thing in common: a smile on their face.
So what if they missed the
cut?They made it into a U.S. Open
and, at least for a week, got treated like golfing royalty.They get that sense of accomplishment
and they get the excitement of sharing the experience with their friends and
families.They get issued player’s
badge, which they can keep for the rest of their lives, and they often get assigned
a locker three or four lockers down from Tiger or Phil or Rory.It’s all they can do not to jump up and
down like a kid on Christmas morning.For most of these guys, making it to the Open is a dream come true, the
highlight of their golfing life.Even if they miss they cut, you can never take that a way from them.
So, thanks, Golf Channel,
for reminding us of what the Open is all about.
There is no grass growing
under Joe Bausch’s feet.
Okay, that’s corny, I know,
but Bausch, our resident golf addict
and course photographer, has recently uploaded another dozen courses to the Bausch Collection, our ever-growing archive of course photo galleries.He’s now up to more than 160 courses in
Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland.So far as I can tell, this is the most
comprehensive collection of golf course photos anywhere in the Philadelphia
I was delighted to hear from
regular reader that he uses the Bausch Collection exactly as Joe and I
envision it – as resource material and a reference guide.The guy I was talking to is the general
manager of a club in the area.A
while back, when he was in the midst of a job search, he would go directly to
the Bausch Collection whenever
someone mentioned a certain course or club that might be hiring.I’ve talked to other people who wouldn’t
think of playing a course without first checking it out through the Bausch Collection.
As I written several times
before, Joe doesn’t do this for a
living; he’s chemistry professor a Villanova.But golf and documenting each new
course he plays is his passion.Joe is also heavily involved in the
restoration of Cobbs Creek GC through Friends of Cobbs Creek. He’s in
these two videos I did about the restoration effort (Part 1, Part 2).
Joe is an
equal opportunity photographer.He
plays and shoots the best of the best (Merion)
and he plays and shoots plenty of the working-man’s courses (Twining Valley).Basically, he never met a
course he didn’t want to photograph.
Watching all three hours of last night’s
rebroadcast of the 1971 U.S. Open playoff between Jack Nicklaus and eventually
winner Lee Trevino at Merion was like climbing into a time machine.I felt like Marty McFly
in "Back to the Future."
A few observations:
-- Jack Nicklaus might be the greatest player
of all time but you could grow a 5 o’clock shadow for him to pull the trigger
over a putt.I mean, come on, I
don’t know how he survived his career without back problems.Every putt, as Jack leaned over the ball
for an eternity, I was wondering:What is he waiting for?What is he thinking about?Do you think he knows or cares that we’re
all going bonkers?
-- I had forgotten what a unique, stylized yet
fabulous and effective swing Lee Trevino had in his prime.I could watch him for another three
-- Even back then, the rough at Merion was
impossibly thick, long and gnarly.You could lose a small child in there.
-- How about those candy-apple wing-tippy
saddle shoes?They were quite the
rage back then.I had a pair
myself, with the little flappy things.I wore them all through high school and into college.If my non-golf friends had seen
them...well, I made sure they never did.
-- Did you catch the quick greenside interview
with Trevino after the final round of regulation?He said of Merion, "It’s a great golf
course; it’s a thinking man’s golf course."Not much has changed.
-- Even then, Merion was a pint-sized Open
venue.They said it was the
first time the Open was a sellout.They also said the gallery was limited to 14,000 per day because the
grounds were limited to 126 acres.This year, the gallery will be 25,000 per day.Could be close quarters so make sure to
bring your breath spray.
-- Even then, the predictions were that the
pros would "tear old Merion apart.""They certainly haven’t so far," said the commentator."Only one player is under par."
-- Finally, as my golf writer buddy Jeff
Silverman just called to point out: How about those marshal uniforms?Wow!"Have you ever, in your life, seen
anything so bad?" said Jeff.
I wonít claim to be a golf historian. In that regard, I bow to my friend James W. Finegan. But I have played the game for 50 years and I am old enough to have watched Jack Nicklaus in his prime, and I was among those who resented him in real time when he dethroned Arnold Palmer.
Iím also a huge fan of Jack Nicklaus. I have interviewed him often and I have the utmost respect for him as a man and as a father, and I revere his accomplishments as a player. Itís just that I think he took longer over a putt back then than he did later in his career -- or so it seemed as I watched that í71 playoff.
[5/30/2013 4:38:45 AM]
Joe, guess youíre not much of a golf historian, nor Nicklaus fan. it is fairly well known that Nicklaus took a long time over putts. His competitors were amazed that he could even pull the trigger after being over the putt so long. Not sure why it took a í71 Open rebroadcast for you to know that? Holing 5-6 footers on 15, 16 and 17 in the final round with the Open on the line were amazing. Imagine the hype had Tiger done that...
Golf Channel to air í71 Trevino-Nicklaus Open playoff at Merion
Heads up because this could
be good: Tuesday night (5/28) Golf Channel plans to rebroadcast the 18-hole
Monday playoff between Jack Nicklaus and Lee Trevino in the 1971 U.S. Open at
The network says it’s the
first time the since the tournament’s original airing that the playoff has been
rebroadcast.Trevino, of course,
The playoff is best recalled
because of the rubber snake Trevino pulled from his bag and tossed to Nicklaus
on the first tee.
Below is the press release
from Golf Channel:
TREVINO-NICKLAUS U.S. OPEN SHOWDOWN IN 1971 REBROADCAST FOR
FIRST TIME ON GOLF CHANNEL
Dan Hicks Takes Viewers
Through Final Round and 18-hole Playoff on GOLF’S GREATEST ROUNDS, Tuesday at 8
ORLANDO, Fla., May 24,
2013 – The 1971 U.S.
Open at famed Merion Golf Club featured one of the more dramatic battles in
U.S. Open history when Lee Trevino and Jack Nicklaus went toe-to-toe in an
intense 18-hole Monday playoff to crown that year’s national champion.
For the first time since the tournament’s original airing in 1971, viewers will
have the opportunity watch the drama and excitement unfold on television on GOLF’S GREATEST ROUNDS,Tuesday,
May 28 at 8 p.m. ET on Golf Channel.
Golf Channel on NBC’s
Dan Hicks will take viewers through the dramatic showdown between Trevino and
Nicklaus at Merion Golf Club, featuring action from Sunday’s final round and
Monday’s 18-hole playoff. Missing a six-footer on the 72nd hole to
win in regulation, Trevino fell into a tie with Nicklaus and forced a Monday
playoff. The tension on the first tee was thick but soon lifted as the
ever-playful Trevino pulled a rubber snake from his golf bag, held it up for
the gathered crowd to see and tossed it at Nicklaus, who broke out laughing.
As part of the Inquirer’s on-going run-up to
the U.S. Open at Merion, my former Inquirer colleague Joe Juliano
has a nice story in the Sunday sports section
on Chis Patton, who won the U.S. Amateur on the East Course in 1989.
Patton is an interesting case.In those days, the first thing you
noticed about him was that he was enormous – you couldn’t help but
notice.Patton was 300 pounds and he
was all doughy and baby-faced, hardly the stereotype image of a champion
athlete.His soft outer shell
turned out to mask an inner strength and athleticism, as the kid from Clemson
mowed down the competition at Merion in ’89.
The second thing you noticed about Patton was
that he was South Carolina farm kid with a drawl right out of"The Dukes of Hazzard."
What I’m getting at here, delicately, is that Patton
did not exactly fit the mold of the cavalcade of champions in Merion’s great past
– at least not in outward appearance.Merion is a very proper place and no member
would be so boorish as to come right out and say that, or to acknowledge it
beyond a wink, but ideally the club prefers its champions be a little more
dashing, iconic and historic, like Ben Hogan and Bobby Jones.
Merion seems to like its connection in history with
Lee Trevino (’71 Open), because he turned out a great champion and a popular
figure in the game; David Graham (’81 Open) seems to earn a measure of respect
from Merion, even if you can’t really feel the love.The club doesn’t quite seem to know what
to make of Edoardo Molinari (’05 Amateur), or know
whether it should even bother.
Chris Patton?Well, your sandwich could go stale
waiting for a Merion member to bring up his name, or, for that matter, by extension,
the ’89 Amateur. On the occasions when I have taken it upon my self to broach
the subject, say, over lunch, I’ve known Merion members to stare at their feet,
or offer a blank expression, saying nothing while their eyes say everything.
I offer you this priceless passage about Patton
and the ’89 Amateur from Merion’s 2005club history, Golf at Merion:
Smith, Merion’s president at the time, remembers Patton requesting a lunch of
three cheeseburgers, apple pie and vanilla ice cream.He then asked to use a telephone and
called home.A portion of the short
conversation has been reported as follows:
"Guess you could say I’m winnin’, Mom.Dad there?"
"Nope.He’s out fishin."
As it happens, the first time I ever
laid eyes on Merion was the Sunday afternoon of that final match, when Patton
faced Danny Green, a Tennessee riverboat gambler of a golfer, with a weird, slapshot golf swing.Green had taken down
favorite son Jay Sigel in the semifinals. It’s debatable whether a victory by
Green would have been any easier for Merion to swallow.
This was seven years before I started
covering golf for the Inquirer.In fact, I wasn’t even playing much golf at the time; my kids were little,
only two and four years old at the time, and I was lucky go get in a round or
two a year.My clubs spent long stretches
in the hall closet.
That didn’t mean I didn’t watch golf on
TV or obsess about golf.When I saw
that the Amateur was coming to town, I had to try to get over to Merion, which
I’d heard so much about.I didn’t
know or care who was in the finals; I just wanted a golf fix.
I first spotted Patton from Ardmore
Avenue, as he made his way up the 12th fairway toward the
green.It was a hot and muggy and Patton
showed the strain of the summer heat and the heat of competition in what is perhaps
the most demanding championship in golf.You’ve got to hand it to Patton: he pulled it off.
Patton eventually turned pro and
bounced around the mini tours for 14 years.He never made it to the PGA Tour and when
he retired from competition in 2004, he returned home yo Fountain Inn, S.C..
where he works on his family’s farm. Patton is happy and fulfilled; he only
plays a handful of rounds a year, and he doesn’t really miss game.
By 1999, I was covering golf, when
Casey Martin’s lawsuit against the PGA Tour was in the news.I went down to a Nike Tour event in Pompano
Beach, Fla., to do a story.On the range one day, it was Patton, who
was trying to make a comeback from an injury, who caught my eye.
He was still very big man then, although
not the 300 pounds he had been when he won the Amateur at Merion.I just remember watching as he went
about the business of limbering up and hitting balls before his round.Much to my surprise,Patton bent and stretched in ways that I
sure couldn’t.Once he began to
work his way through his stack of balls, it was clear he had a pure, sweet golf
swing that is the rare gift of the natural athlete.
In Joe Juliano’s
piece, Patton had nice things to say about Merion, remembering it as a course
where the rough is brutal but winning is all about placement, position tee
shots off the tee and approach shots into the correct area of the green.
For serious Merion-watchers, it is
impossible not to wonder who will win the U.S. Open and join the select club of "Merion champions."
They would kill for Tiger Woods to win,
or Phil Mickelson.Adam Scott
looked good in a Masters green jacket and winning the second leg of the Grand
Slam at Merion would be a dream come true for all involved.
Remember, this is more than about winning
the Open, this is about becoming part of Merion history.
If you think many of the details of next
month’s U.S. Open at Merion GC are left to chance or are done on the fly, think
again.They had worked out many, if
not most, logistical problems before the 2013 Open was ever awarded to Merion,
back in 2006.
That hit home today when I looked up an old story
I wrote for the Inquirer that ran a few days before the start of the ’06 Open
at Winged Foot, where they made the announcement.
Here’s how it began:
will say so officially, it's going to happen: Merion Golf Club is getting the
2013 men's U.S. Open.
USGA will have an announcement next week," Marty Parkes, spokesman for the
U.S. Golf Association, said yesterday. "Until the formal announcement, I
can't confirm any site."
responding to an erroneous report that said Merion would be announced yesterday
as the 2013 Open site. It was off by a week. The news conference is scheduled
for 11 a.m. Wednesday at Winged Foot in Mamaroneck, N.Y., on the eve of the
At Merion, lips also were officially zipped. Or
maybe they were just biting their lips.
A few paragraphs later, this:
But with Fay
and Davis leading the Merion charge, and with its main competition (the Country
Club at Brookline outside Boston) falling by the wayside, suddenly, all that
stood between Merion and its first Open since 1981 was the matter of working out
the outside-the-ropes logistical problems.
are no small problems. Unlike the grand-scale clubs and courses that host the
Open these days, the Merion clubhouse and its fabled East Course are tucked
away on a rather small plot of choice real estate in the middle of a
residential neighborhood in Ardmore.
to be worked out about where to put the sprawling corporate village, the
merchandise tent, the media center and parking for thousands of spectators, as
well as getting cooperation from SEPTA. Although all the details haven't been
finalized, enough have that the USGA is satisfied.
Merion and USGA sources, because of the physical constraints, several changes
or concessions will have to be made for the Open at Merion:
will be limited to 25,000 per day, down from galleries of the 40,000 to 50,000
at Pinehurst No. 2 in North Carolina last year.
the flow of spectators, instead of a few giant grandstands, many smaller
grandstands will be situated around the course.
Much of the
corporate village will be on the nearby campus of Haverford College. Smaller
corporate tents will be scattered throughout the neighborhood.
practice on Merion's nearby West Course and be shuttled to the East Course.
Ardmore train station within walking distance, fans will be urged to take
Like many of you, when I saw
that Vijay Singh had sued the PGA Tour for supposedly damaging his reputation over this deer antler spray
dust-up, I was amused.Okay, not
amused -- I sat there slack-jawed, in utter disbelief.
Why?Because in my years covering the PGA
Tour for the Philadelphia Inquirer, I had the displeasure of actually dealing
with Vijay Singh on plenty of occasions.The PGA Tour damaged his
reputation?Huh?If you ask me, he did that all by
You know that
word-association game, where somebody says a word and you say the first thing
that pops into your mind.With me,
mention Vijay Singh and I think, Prick. After that, maybe, Sourpuss.
I can remember 10 years or
so ago, when Vijay was at the top of his game, in the spotlight, winning
tournaments and even majors.There
was no disputing that he was very good and one of the hardest workers on the
Tour.Still, whenever his name
would climb to the top of the leaderboard, you could almost hear a collective
groan go up in the media center.Vijay being at or near the top of the leaderboard meant we had to deal
Assuming the PGA Tour could
coax him into the media center for an interview – and that was no easy
task – he would sit there sullen and moody, like a hostile witness being
cross-examining.He could be
insulted by the easiest, softball inquiry into his round or the tournament at
hand. The only question in my mind was
whether Vijay found us more distasteful than we found him.
I never could figure out why
Vijay Singh was so disagreeable.I mean, winning over sportswriters is so
easy.Rule No. 1: Don’t be a
prick.Rule No. 2: Don’t be a
The best conclusion I ever
came up with was that somewhere along the line – perhaps when he was a
young pro in 1985 and got suspended by the Asian tour for cheating – Vijay decided to shut down and shut out the
media.Eventually, the media
stopped giving him the benefit of the doubt on anything.You don’t like us; we don’t like
you.It’s like a bad marriage and
it ain’t going to change.
(Pertinent paragraph from
John Garrity’sstory in
Sports Illustrated in 2000.
There is nothing alleged or unsubstantiated about the fact that
the Southeast Asia Golf Federation suspended Singh indefinitely for altering
his scorecard in the second round of the '85 Indonesian Open in Jakarta. It's
also a fact that Singh was banned from playing the Australian PGA
circuit—not for cheating but for failing to pay off loans and
long-distance phone bills.
In 2003, Vijay crossed swords with Doug Ferguson,
the golf writer for the Associated Press, when he quoted
Vijay as saying he would WD from
the Colonial Tournament if he was paired with Annika Sorenstam, when she was
making her historic foray onto the PGA Tour.
For quite some time after that, Vijay had no use
would ask a question in a press conference and Vijay would look at him blankly,
ignore the question, then call for another question from somebody else.
From time to time, you’d hear from other
players that deep down, Vijay was a decent, generous, even likeable guy.That may be, I don’t know, but he did a superb
good job of not showing it to the media.
On occasion, he did rise to the level of not
being a total jerk.Once, I even
saw him smile.My most enduring
image of him is as a solitary figure out on the range, long after all the other
players have packed it in for the day, hitting balls into the dusk.