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
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
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!
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.
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
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
innovative graphics – the kind of stuff that FOX has brought to the their
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Fay offers his personal predictions about who’s in, who’s out:
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
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.
Open could hurt Merion’s reputation?It might be time to step aside?
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 onthe 100th anniversary of
Bobby Jones winning the Grand Slam there.
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.
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.
the heck, here’s Iredale’s letter in full:
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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 Caddyshackas an comedy achievement and enduring
cult classic.Even if Caddyshackcan 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."
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
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.
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.
Yes, it’s about time. I foresee more. How about a US AM at Cricket using their 2 courses? Foster’s restoration of the Tillinghast course has brought the club into the higher echelon of classic courses, jumping from 102 to 32 on Golfweek’s ratings of Classic courses.