PRESS PASS
Joe Logan 
 
Merionís prospects for a future U.S. Open just got dimmer
Wednesday, July 22, 2015
By Joe Logan

If you read between the lines, today’s news out of the U.S. Golf Association probably dims future hopes of Merion Golf Club getting another U.S. Open.

 

The USGA announced three future Open sites: 2022 is going to The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., 2023 is going to Los Angeles Country Club and 2024 is returning to Pinehurst No. 2.

 

It is no secret that Merion, which has hosted five Opens, including the 2013 Open, hopes to land another Open in the "mid-20s," in the words of Bill Iredale, chairman of the club’s Championship Committee.

 

For Merion’s hopes, the Open going to Brookline in ’22 is a gut punch.

 

Here’s why:  Over the past decade or so, the U.S. Open has increasingly become not only a major sporting spectacle but also the biggest moneymaker for the USGA.  To keep the money flowing, the USGA needs big venues, like Pinehurst No. 2, where daily crowds approach 50,000, not smaller venues like Merion, where crowds in 2013 were limited to about half that size.

 

Brookline is Boston’s version of Merion – an old, classic course that enables the USGA to demonstrate that it still cares about the legacy of the game.   But the USGA can only afford to bite the financial bullet so often.

 

Obviously, nothing is official.  Heck, Merion could land the Open in 2026 or 2027, but don't count on it.

 

For a little background, check out this exchange between Merion’s Iredale and David Fay, former USGA executive director turned Golf Digest columnist.

 

Today, after the announcement, I spoke with Iredale to find out if the club had any reaction.  He composed his thoughts in an email, which is has agreed to let me quote:

 

We knew of (or were pretty sure of) '22 and '23. We did not know of '24 but are not surprised. Pinehurst is a terrific Open venue. We are now hoping for '26.

 

We have a good feeling about hosting the Amateur in '30. In the meantime we are hosting the GAP AM next year, the Women's Eastern Golf Assoc AM in '19 and the Pa AM  in '21.

 

So we are content with what we have in store but maybe, once again, it will get even better. In '04 and '05 we were content with the upcoming '05 Am and the '09 Walker Cup. Then we were awarded the '13 Open.

 

Deja vu is possible!

 

Bill

 

 

Truth be told, these days, Merion is probably a better venue for smaller events, like the U.S. Amateur and Walker Cup.  In Iredale’s email, the Amateur in 2030 obviously refers to the 100th anniversary of Bobby Jones winning the Grand Slam at Merion.

 

If Merion never hosts another Open, so what?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Great Womenís Open, great Lancaster CC, bad FOX
Monday, July 13, 2015
By Joe Logan

LANCASTER – The verdict is in and it is safe to say that Lancaster Country Club just pulled off one of the best U.S. Women’s Opens in a long, long time.

 

Everything about the Open this past week was first-rate.  The players loved the golf course, which, by the way, was in immaculate condition.  USGA officials were practically giddy over how well-received the championship was the by Lancaster community.  On the weekend, there were 25,000 spectators a day.   I’ve been to Women’s Open’s where I doubt they had that many fans all week.

 

A big ingredient for success was taking the Women’s Open to a small- to mid-size market, where locals appreciated it and supported it in ways that big cities often don’t.

 

"It’s great when you're the biggest story in town for the week," one USGA official told me.

 

My guess is, the USGA will take the Women’s Open back to Lancaster CC as often as the club is willing to host it.  It sort of makes you wonder why it took these two so long to get together in the first place.

 

FLYNN GEM:   Another thing the Women’s Open did was raise the stock of the Lancaster CC.  I’ve played it a number of times over the years, and I walked it again ta couple of times during the Open.  The inescapable conclusion is that Lancaster CC is one of William F. Flynn’s finest designs.

 

If you could somehow hook it to a trailer hitch and drag it 50 miles closer to Philadelphia, Lancaster CC would be regarded as perhaps the finest Flynn courses in town, right up there with Huntingdon Valley CC and Rolling Green GC.  You could make a strong argument that it would be the No. 3 course in the area, behind only Pine Valley GC and Merion GC.

 

KOREAN DOMINATION:      If we needed any further proof, the Women’s Open demonstrated that women’s golf in America is dominated by Koreans.   Much of the time on Sunday, the only non-Korean surname on the leaderboard was Stacy Lewis.

 

You can debate all you want about whether that is a good thing or a bad thing for women’s golf, but it is most certainly a thing.

 

FOX HUNT:  FOX Sports is only two championships into its gazillion dollar, long-term contract with the USGA, and I’m no TV critic, but so far, I am underwhelmed.

 

When the FOX deal was announced last year, I recall a certain amount of insinuation that NBC Sports was too ho-hum, old-school, that FOX would introduce a modernized, jazzier presentation.  Cool commentators, innovative graphics – the kind of stuff that FOX has brought to the their NFL coverage.

 

So far, I’m not seeing it.   Either FOX vastly underestimated how tough it is to produce golf tournaments, or the USGA vastly overestimated what FOX brought to the table, other than much, much more money than NBC.

 

The viewers are the losers.   In the booth, the biggest disappointment is Greg Norman.  He may be a Hall of Fame player, and a shrewd, self-made millionaire many times over, but in the booth, he’s a journeyman.

 

I’ve sat through enough Greg Norman interviews and press conferences to know that he is plenty smart, and thinks quickly on his feet.  So, why is he finding it so difficult to bring that A-game to his commentary?  Johnny Miller anticipates the next shot, and senses what a player is thinking, then he lays it all out there for the viewer, without fear or favor.  Norman seems to be reacting to what he sees on the monitor in front of him – and a bit timidly at that.

 

For Johnny Miller, his livelihood depends on his insightful and candid commentary. For Norman, this FOX thing is only a side gig, a break from his golf course design and many business interests.  You’ve got to wonder whether he wants to be a TV guy badly enough to devote the time and effort to be as good as viewers deserve.

 

 


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Joe Bausch[7/14/2015 7:42:13 PM]
This tournament was simply the best. Congrats to all involved.

Jim Smith Jr. at the 18th on Wednesday 
Philadelphia Cricket wins the 48th Club Pro Championship
Thursday, July 2, 2015
By Joe Logan

Endings don’t come much crueler in golf tournaments than the way Ben Polland melted down Wednesday on the 72nd hole of the PGA Professional National Championship at the Philadelphia Cricket Club.

 

It was painful to watch.  I was sitting just off the 18th green when the whole thing went down.

 

Polland, 24, an assistant pro at Deepdale GC in New York, held a four-shot lead for much of the final day.  But by the time he reached the 72nd at Cricket’s Wissahickon Course, his lead over playing partner Matt Dobyns was down to two.

 

But Polland was cruising.  He appeared to be in command of himself and the tournament.  It was truly his to lose, which he did.

 

A so-so tee shot left him with an awkward lie in the fairway bunker at Cricket’s 18th, a hole notorious for wrecking good rounds and upending the outcome of matches.  Foolishly, one might suggest, Polland, 24, tried to muscle a 7-iron out of a bad lie, to reach the green.  Instead, he found the creek that crisscrosses the 18th fairway.

 

Polland had no choice but to take a penalty drop, then he hit his fourth shot to 10 feet.  He putt – and his attempt to escape with a bogey – came up short of the hole.

 

Meanwhile, Dobyns, 37, head pro at Fresh Meadow CC in Lake Success, N.Y., a wily veteran and winner of the national club pro championship in 2012, hit his approach shot to four feet and smoothed in the birdie putt.

 

Poof, a three-shot swing, just like that.  Dobyns walked off the green with the win and a $75,000 check.  Polland walked off the green looking like somebody had hit him in the gut with a fungo bat.

 

Afterward, he lamented the crummy lie in the bunker and his effort, in hindsight, to go for the green.

 

Dobyns took no pleasure in watching Polland crash and burn.  "When he hit the ball and it went in the water, I was shocked," said Dobyns.  "I felt really bad for him, because I know Ben and know him well."

 

Besides Dobyns, the big winner of the week of Philadelphia Cricket Club, which staged the event magnificently.  Dan Meersman, director of grounds, had both the Wissahickon and Militia Hill courses groomed to perfection, despite the 1½ inches of rain that pounded the area the night before the championship started.

 

Also earning a bow was Jim Smith Jr., director of golf at Cricket.  He all over the place – on Golf Channel, in the pro shop, schmoozing like the pro he is.  On Wednesday, Smith spent the entire afternoon standing behind the 18th green, greeting every single player in the field as they concluded their rounds.  He got a lot a slaps on the back.

 

 

 

 

 


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Juicy reading about Merion on the eve of the U.S. Open
Tuesday, June 16, 2015
By Joe Logan

Although I missed it in Golf Digest’s U.S. Open preview issue, there was some very interesting reading, especially for the folks at Merion Golf Club .

 

In his monthly column for the magazine, former U.S. Golf Association executive director David Fay weighed in with his thoughts on potential venues for future U.S. Opens.  The headline was, The Odds of Hosting a U.S. Open are Getting Tougher.

 

Merion, host of five Opens, including the 2013 Open, more or less gets dissed.

 

Remember, David Fay is a man who played no small role in helping Merion land the ’13 Open.  It was Fay, then executive director, who dispatched Mike Davis, now his successor, to head down to Merion to break the news to the storied club that its days of hosting Opens were over.   The course was too short, the property too cramped.

 

But once Davis got to Merion and took a good long look at the restored East Course, he thought otherwise.  Davis returned to USGA headquarters in Far Hills, N.J., and did everything he could to change’s Fay’s mind.  That led to Fay’s own visit to Merion and, he too, changed his mind.  The rest is well-documented history of an Open that generally got rave reviews.

 

Now comes Fay’s June column that basically handicaps club’s chances of staying in the Open rotation.

 

Fay writes:

 

The Open dance card has become overcrowded, and the list of very attractive wallflowers is growing.

 

For much of the 20th century, the Open was played at private clubs near large and mid-size cities. Unlike the British Open with its rota of 10 seaside links courses, the U.S. Open has been a movable feast, with no formal rotational schedule. In the past 50 years, the U.S. Open has been played on 23 courses.

 

 

Next, Fay offers his personal predictions about who’s in, who’s out:

 

At the top of his list as "locks every 10 years" are Oakmont (8 Opens) and Pinehurst No. 2 (3 Opens).  He describes Pebble Beach and Shinnecock Hills as "locks" every 10 years, too, presuming the clubs are willing to host the Open.

 

 A few more predictions later, Fay’s column gets very interesting.  To wit:

 

MAYBE EVERY 25 YEARS

Merion (five Opens)

The Country Club At Brookline (three Opens)

These two squared off for the right to host the 2013 Open. At the time the decision was made, The Country Club's composite course had yet to be reworked by Gil Hanse.

 

Merion would need to get the full support of the community as it did in 2013. It worked then, but with the changes in the game and the size of the place, could it succeed 25 years from now? That's probably too much of a gamble. The members would have to consider whether another Open could hurt Merion's reputation. If so, it might be time to step aside, as Myopia Hunt did after its fourth and final Open in 1908.

 

Another Open could hurt Merion’s reputation?  It might be time to step aside?

 

This, despite the fact that it is a badly kept secret, if it is a secret at all, that Merion has already reached out to the USGA about hosting another Open in the 2020s, and it definitely wants to host the 2030 U.S. Amateur on the 100th anniversary of Bobby Jones winning the Grand Slam there.

 

I couldn’t help but wonder what Merion thought about Fay’s column – specifically Bill Iredale, chairman of the club’s Championship Committee.  If anybody knows about whether Merion might be thinking about stepping aside, it is Iredale.

 

Turned out, Iredale hadn’t seen Fay’s column, either.  When I sent him a link, he most definitely had a reaction, which he put in writing in the form of a letter to the editor of Golf Digest.  Iredale sent me a copy as well and gave me permission to quote from it.

 

What the heck, here’s Iredale’s letter in full:

 

I consider David Fay to be a friend and supporter of Merion Golf Club. We worked together to have the USGA conduct the '05 Amateur, the '09 Walker Cup and '13  Open at Merion. But, based on his comments in this article, he may not be aware of the level of commitment of the Merion membership to continue with our Championship story.

 

The Merion membership feels strongly that we are a golf club and one that enthusiastically supports championship golf. After the '13 Open the Board of Governors authorized our Championship Committee to continue to have the Club host smaller, but meaningful championship events. Merion will host the Golf Association of Philadelphia Amateur in 2016, the Women's Eastern Golf Association Amateur in 2019 and the Pennsylvania Golf Association Amateur in 2021.

 

After a brief rest, Merion hopes to host a U S Open in the mid 2020s and the Amateur in 2030, the centennial year of Bobby Jones completing the Grand Slam with his Amateur win at Merion.

 

Those invitations are in the hands of the USGA.

 

As to the crucial "support of the community" there is no doubt, based on the post '13 Open comments we have received, that Pennsylvania, Haverford Township, Haverford College and our immediate neighbors would enthusiastically support those future USGA Championships at Merion.

 

So.....The USGA may not accept Merion's Open invitation for the mid 2020s but the Club does not plan to step aside and we are not worried about our reputation....any more than we were before our 7000 yard East Course hosted the '13 Open. And, everyone knows how that turned out. The Championship story at Merion will continue!

 

Bill Iredale

Chairman Championship Committee

Merion Golf Club

 

 

 

 


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The Squeeze...I wish it was better
Tuesday, June 2, 2015
By Joe Logan

I have finally watched the latest golf movie, The Squeeze, and I am here to report that it is better than I expected but not as good as I had hoped for.  Oh, well.

 

Granted, you can count the truly inspired, well-done golf movies on a couple of fingers (Tin Cup, The Greatest Game Ever Played), three if you are among the many people who regard Caddyshack as an comedy achievement and enduring cult classic.   Even if Caddyshack can elicit several good laughs from me, I personally have always been a little embarrassed for the game of golf that such buffoonery represents the pinnacle of the genre.

 

In the case of The Squeeze, it is the first time I can recall feeling that the golf action – the actual playing of the game in the movie – surpasses a supposedly true story that nonetheless strikes me as a bit hokey.

 

If several industry indicators mean much, know that The Squeeze did not spend much time in theaters, before going to DVD, streaming and downloadable on iTunes.   In the old days, they called that going straight-to-video.

 

The plot revolves around a likeable small-town, half-poor Southern kid, Augie, who turned himself into a shockingly excellent self-taught golfer.   Augie is so good, in fact, that he gets recruited against his better judgment (and the complete opposition of his girlfriend) by a sleazy gambler named "Riverboat" to hustle rich guys out of their money on the golf course. 

 

After a couple of early hustles, they head to Las Vegas, where the stakes get into the millions and death threats start to come at Augie from every direction.  The movie takes you to the precipice of life-and-death drama, then, poof, wraps everything up very nicely in short order.  What, that’s it?

 

The Squeeze does have its admirers.  I came across a couple of favorable reviews on line.  And just yesterday, I was playing golf with a guy from Las Vegas, where much of the movie was filmed.  I asked him if he had seen The Squeeze yet?

 

"No, but I want to," he said.  "I hear it’s really good, with a great story."

 

 

 

 


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More love for Philadelphia Cricket
Wednesday, May 6, 2015
By Joe Logan

Finally, Philadelphia is starting to get some of the golf tournaments it richly deserves.

 

In June, the newly-restored Philadelphia Cricket Club Wissahickon Course will host the National Club Professional Championship.  For club pros across the country, this is the biggest deal all year.  It’s also a great tournament for fans.

 

Then, in 2018, Aronimink GC will host the BMW Championship, the penultimate FedEx Cup event of the year on the PGA Tour.  This, no doubt, is thanks to the fine job Aronimink did as fill-in host of the then-AT&T National in 2010 and 2011.  It also bodes well in the club’s quest to land a major or a Ryder Cup.

 

Earlier this year, the USGA announced that Cricket’s Wissahickon course will host the 2020 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball, a new much-anticipated event. 

 

And just yesterday, the PGA Tour announced that it is bringing the 2016 Senior Players Championship to Cricket and the Wissahickon course.

 

For local golf fans, this is a bonanza that was long in coming.  For Philadelphia Cricket, which has often found itself in the shadows of Merion GC, Aronimink GC and Pine Valley GC, this trio of tournaments -- the National Club Pro, the Senior Players and the Amateur Four-Ball -- is nothing less than a major conquest and sign of respect.


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Steve[5/7/2015 4:05:14 PM]
Yes, itís about time. I foresee more. How about a US AM at Cricket using their 2 courses? Fosterís restoration of the Tillinghast course has brought the club into the higher echelon of classic courses, jumping from 102 to 32 on Golfweekís ratings of Classic courses.

My first round of 2015 is in the books, and it was a doozy
Monday, April 27, 2015
By Joe Logan

My first round of the young golf season is finally in the books and, let me tell you, it was a doozy.

 

Before Saturday, my last round was Dec. 10th, in Arizona, during an annual golf trip/confab for golf writers.  That trip is always good to get in a few mid-winter rounds, plus catch up with my old pals from the golf circuit.

 

Back home in Philadelphia, my first round of the year is usually when we get the first day of decent weather.  I’ll drop whatever I’m doing and go play.  Some years that’s mid-March, some years, mid-April.

 

This year has been different.  Not that we haven’t already had good weather; we have.  There have been four, five, maybe six days just in the past three weeks that I was itching to grab the clubs and head out the door.

 

Problem was, ever since Easter, I have been nursing a sprained left ankle.  It’s not the worst sprain I’ve ever had, but it blew up like a volley ball, turned black and blue, and hurt like hell.  I’ve been hobbling around, to some degree, ever since.

 

I wish I could say the sprain was due to some impressive athletic endeavor on my part.  Not so.   Rather, that Sunday night three weeks ago, walking to my car in the dark, with my arms loaded with stuff, I stepped in a small hole, rolled my ankle and went crashing to the ground like a 100-pound sack of potatoes.  I slammed into the side of my car so hard I put a little dent in it.  Before I even tried to get up, I laid there for a minute or two taking a personal physical inventory. 

 

Head?  There was blood over my eye.  My twin titanium hips?  Much to my relief, they felt fine.  Elbows and knees?  Scrapped and a little bloody but nothing to worry about.  Ankle?  Not so good.  Instantly, as I laid there, I had visions of my golf season being postponed until about August.

 

I proceeded to do all the things you can do for a sprained ankle:  Iced it, elevated it and rested it for the rest of the night.  The next morning, I went to the drug store and bought one of those maximum-support ankle braces.  Still, golf or any serious activity was out of the question, at least for a while.

 

Then, about a week ago, I got a call from a friend.  He and I had been invited by another mutual friend to play golf on Saturday at his club.  His club is Pine Valley.

 

I believe you can appreciate my dilemma.

 

I hadn’t swung a club or hit a ball in more than four months.  My ankle, while improved, was at best 75 percent, not to mention untested.  You can only take so much Advil without doing yourself harm.  And, of course, Pine Valley is not only a walking-only course, it is a beast of a walking course.

 

Still, Pine Valley is Pine Valley, bum ankle be dammed.   So, I gamely showed up at Pine Valley on Saturday morning, sporting a new, lighter compression ankle brace under my sock.  I was going to play if they had to carry me around on their shoulders like some kind of Egyptian pharaoh.

 

My swing was as rusty and creaky as an old barn door latch.  Much to my surprise, I was able to hit my driver pretty well.  My iron game stunk to high heaven, and around the greens I had all the finesse and touch of a blacksmith.

 

Since it was Pine Valley, and a gorgeous afternoon, so I tried to keep my whimpering and complaining to a minimum.  I hobbled and limped, struggling to keep up with the others, which can be tough on some of the sandy footpaths at Pine Valley.

 

One of the other guys in the group kept score in our little $2 Nassau match, and he was kind enough not to bring the scorecard to the table afterward at lunch. But, out of curiosity, when I got home, I sat down and reconstructed my round as best I could from memory.  I will tell you I had a handful of pars, several double-bogeys, two triples, one snowman and an "X," which I tallied as a second snowman.  On the positive side of the ledger, I had one tap-in birdie.  All I will disclose is that I shot somewhere north of 90, but south of 100.  Just another day at Pine Valley. 

 

Anyway, my season is officially underway.

 

 

 

 

 


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