-- What a spectacular U.S.
Open for Merion!The City of Philadelphia
thanks you, Philadelphia sports fans thank you, the entire world of golf thanks
you and hails you.
Merion put its neck and its
reputation on the line to host this Open and worked out better than anyone ever
could have imagined.No player finished
under par?That’s astonishing,
especially after all the predictions (I made a few myself) that these guys
could go low and embarrass Merion in the process.
-- Who deserves the most
credit? I’ve got two names.One is Matt Shaffer, the superintendent
at Merion.That guy could grow
grass in a cave.He worked miracles
and he never panicked, even when rains of Biblical proportions early in the
week threatened to wash away the course and the Open.
The other is Mike Davis,
executive director of the U.S. Golf Association.If you had to pick one guy to stand up
and take a bow for the success of the Open, it would be Davis.He was the junior staffer who was
sent to Merion in the early 2000s to tell the club it was no longer a viable candidate
to host the Open.What he saw, and
the people he met, changed his mind.
Davis, in turn, convinced his
boss, then-executive director David Fay.Together, they sold the USGA Executive Committee.When Fay retired a couple years ago and
Davis succeeded him, the Open at Merion became his baby, right down to setting
up the course each day.If you
could buy stock in Mike Davis, I’d bet the family farm.
-- One guy who deserved a
share of the spotlight this week slipped in an out of town very quietly,
walking the course for two days but otherwise drawing no attention. I am
referring to Bill Greenwood, who was the chairman of Merion’s Green Committee
from 1994 to 2006;he was
instrumental in masterminding and ramrodding the restoration project that made
the Open possible.
Greenwood lives on Cape Cod
these days and is no longer even a member of Merion but, arguably, none of this
would have happened if not for him.Greenwood was at Merion on Tuesday and Friday, walking with Buddy Marucci and Brad Bradbeer, both
members of the Green Committee with him back in the crucial years of the
I spoke to Greenwood by
phone on Saturday, and he was happy for Merion and happy to see the work of his
committee come to full fruition."Everybody is thrilled," said Greenwood.
As Greenwood tells the
story, it was the summer of 1995 and Merion was hustling to re-grass its greens
in time for a 100-year anniversary celebration of the club the following
year,which was going to include a
members-only tournament on the East Course.Problem was, over the years, trees had
been planted all over the course that had grown to cast long shadows over
fairways and, more problematic, over several greens.
the superintendent at the time, told Greenwood."I can’t grow grass in the shade."
Two days later, when they
took out a tree that was blocking the sun from getting to the 15th green, Grenwood and Latshaw liked what
they saw.It opened up the hole so
much, they began looking at other trees, other shade patterns.One thing led to another, until the
full-blown restoration project was born,
"This is Merion’s big
moment," Greenwood said Saturday.Did he miss being part of the hoopla of the Open? "Nah, my big moment was
six years ago."
-- I know we all were
pulling for Phil Mickelson to win the Open, and he would have been a great
champion.But Justin Rose is
a great substitute.An proper Englishman,
Rose is a gentleman, very popular among his peers, and he has as a gorgeous
golf swing.He was on the short
list of great players who hadn’t yet won a major.Now that he has, look for him to win
more.Rose is a fine addition to
the list of remarkable championship Merion has produced.
-- Working for the week in
the big media center next to the big merchandise tent was a pleasure,
especially listening to out-of-towners marvel at Merion and Philadelphia.Because there is hasn’t been a major
here since 1981, and there is no regular PGA Tour stop, many of my media
colleagues hadn’t been to Philadelphia before and knew very little about the
city.What they saw, they
loved.Most of them could not
believe that cool little Merion had been quietly sitting here for all these years
and they didn’t know a thing about her.
-- Just because the Open was
a success, don’t necessarily expect Merion to be back in the U.S. Open rota of courses every 10 years or so.I’d be surprised if they want to host
another Open for another 20 to 30 years.Despite all the great publicity for Merion and the city, hosting an Open
is a hassle and an imposition on the club and its members for years.Merion needs and deserves a breather.
There’s another thing, which
I hadn’t thought about until a Merion mentioned it to me the other day:There’s a bit of the
passing-of-the-torch going on inside Merion right now.The U.S. Amatuer
in 2005, the Walker Cup in 2009 and now the Open were the work of an older
generation of very active Merion members.Now, their work is done.They are ready to step back and let a younger generation of members assume
leadership roles at the club.It’s
up to those younger people to want and seek out future Opens.
-- Finally, this is my last
blog post for a week, maybe two.Last summer, I was out of commission for a month or so because of left
hip replacement surgery.Less than
a year later, same thing on my right side.
Assuming the surgery goes as
well as it did last time, I’ll be back at my laptop in a couple of weeks playing
golf again in 8-9 weeks, in mid- to late-August.
Until then, I am your
faithful golf correspondent.
I agree completely but I think a debt of gratitude is also owed to the local townships, the neighbors and the volunteers. They were all great hosts and very friendly. Philadelpphia which always takes a black eye from the national media looked like the major league city we always knew it was. A speedy recovery Joe.
Woods, Rory McIlory and Adam Scott are still on the
course in the first round, but the inescapable conclusion so for is that Mike
Davis was right and most of the rest of the world of golf was wrong: Merion can
still host a U.S. Open.
of course, is the executive director of the U.S. Golf Association.He was also the staffer, back in the
early 2000s, who was dispatched to Philadelphia by
then-executive director David Fay to break the news to Merion that it was no
longer a candidate to host an Open.
at Merion, Davis saw enough to convince him otherwise.He returned to Golf House and informed
his boss that he thought the conventional wisdom was wrong, that if everybody put
their heads together, Merion was up to the task.
months, Fay made his own trip to Merion, played the course, and came around to
Davis’ way of thinking.Together,
they convinced the Executive Committee of the USGA.
Fay is gone, and the Open at Merion has become Davis’ baby.The master plan, or the vision, is in
his head.It was also Davis who told
Merion superintendent Matt Shaffer how to prepare the course, and Davis who sets
it up each day.So far, Davis is
looking very, very smart.
Mickelson has the lead, with an opening round of 3-under 67, on a day that he felt
Merion played as easy as it possibly could.It seems unlikely that anybody is going
to go truly low, embarrassing Merion in the process.
the looks of things, Merion is going to hold up just fine.The Open is off to a good start.
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.