back a few years to 1995. I was
home for the summer prior to my sophomore year of college and my dad suggested
going to see my first major golf tournament.
host club was Congressional Country Club
and the event was the U.S. Senior Open. I remember a few things from that
day. Jack Nicklaus "fatting" a chip shot from the approach of the 11th
fairway. Seeing Tom Weiskopf during the second round,
having no idea that he was going to be crowned champion two days later.
dad remembers one "special" memory that he never fails to mention whenever Congressional Country Club is
mentioned. We left the course that evening after stopping by the
merchandise tent only to find it closed. We wanted a souvenir before heading heading
back to Pennsylvania after a long day of watching golf. I spotted a trash container with the
official U.S. Senior Open logo on
each side. Large and cumbersome, I
managed to fit the large box container in the back of my dad’s Honda Accord and
off we went. I never knew that action
of minor thievery would be remembered by my father for so many years.
returned to Congressional in 2005
for the Booze Allen PGA Tour. By
then, I was in the golf business and living in Richmond, Va.; and my dad met me
at Congressional for the event. We hung out mostly on the 3rd
green and watched Sergio Garcia
knock in a remarkable chip shot from just behind the green.
Congressional seemed to be
a place where my dad and I had enjoyed many special moments in golf
together. I knew the 111th
U.S. Open was coming to Congressional, but hadn’t decided that
I wanted to go and make the trip.
But as the Open neared, I
knew I had to find a way to get back to the course -- not just go back by
myself, but to surprise my dad for Father’s Day.
a PGA Member, I receive
complimentary admission to the event each year, but I did not want to go alone.
A couple of well-connected friends
helped me get a ticket for my father for the final round on Sunday.
week in advance, I secretly communicated to my dad’s wife the surprise I had in
store. On Saturday, I traveled to
my dad’s house in Hanover, Pa., trying to surprise him that I was coming home for
Father’s Day. We watched the end of
the of the third round of the Open on
TV, then had dinner, drank a few beers
and tossed a soggy, wet tennis ball around to my dog. I needed to tell my dad of my plan for Sunday.
dad," I said, grabbing a copy of Sports Illustrated with a map of Congressional on the inside. "Look at
this page and tell me where you want to sit tomorrow."
looked at me and paused. I wasn’t
sure if it had sunk in yet. He
said, "No." I said "Yes...we are
going to the Open tomorrow."
the 90-minute trip down to Congressional
Sunday morning, we parked and hopped on the shuttle bus. As we entered Congressional just off the 17th
fairway, I was reminded of 1995 and 2005.
This time we were both older and, hopefully, wiser. But what attracted us to the event was
the same thing: Our passion for
dad had taught me the game at a very young age. I would wack a putter around at a par 3
golf course named Sluggos, just east of York, Pa. It wasn’t until about the 7th
grade that I began to take the game more seriously, and it would be four more
years before I beat my father for the first time. Over the years, my dad and I definitely
have had our moments on the golf course -- several that I will not mention (I
had some growing up to do).
Congressional on Sunday on we went to watch the golf; we soon found
ourselves on the same knob behind the 3rd green, where we watched Garcia six years earlier.
my dad and my cousin, who went with us, were three of 40,000 fans at the course
that day. Fans were stuffed in
bleachers, stacked behind and under trees, lined eight- and nine-deep at each
tee box, green and fairway approach.
were going up on the boards early by many who started out their final rounds
over par. My father, my cousin and
I crossed fairways and perched ourselves on knobs behind greens to witness the
early action. What we would see
later could be the beginning of a long list of majors for Rory McIlroy.
a spectator early on was manageable.
We could get close to some greens and tee boxes to see the players
coming through. I even made eye
contact with a friend who caddies for Brian
Gay, and we exchanged a handshake and a quick conversation at the fourth
tee box. But that mellow atmosphere
would change as the 3 o’clock hour approached and so would the ability to get
close to the players.
we were standing outside the ropes to the left of the fairway on the first
hole, waiting for the leaders tee shots, you could hear the echo’s of "Rory, Rory, Rory" and "Let’s Go Rory" throughout the front nine. Before he drilled a fairway wood down
the fairway and avoided a divot by a centimeter, I thought to myself that even Tiger, who has heard louder ovations
for his play, probably never had an entire following of fans voice his name
that loudly prior to teeing off.
McIlroy for all 18 holes would have
been asking for a possible trampling by the bulls of Pamplona. A little fresher in the legs than my
father these days, I would serve as the leader and direct my father to where we
would try to catch the action next.
watching McIlroy’s approach into No.
1, we headed over to the seventh tee box, an up-hill par 3. From there we had a nice view over to
the sixth green, a reachable par 5 that day. I played the course, firmer and faster,
in 2006 during a PGA Section
Championship while living in Virginia, and I remember having a 4 iron into
that green. But on this day, Lee Westwood caught my demons and he
hit his second shot into the front right pond as I did.
is a helpful hint to any of you who want to see a U.S. Open in the future, more specifically at Merion in 2013: When
you get well ahead of the leaders on Sunday, and you find yourself standing
against the ropes guarding the tee boxes in hopes of getting a great look at
the next group coming to the tee, get ready to be disappointed. Is there really a reason why seven, yes
seven, marshals need to be surrounding the back of the tee with there hands
held high, saying "Quiet Please!"?
Each one of them seemed to block our previously perfect view. I found myself trying to always make
sure my dad had the best view to see the action.
McIlroy and Y. E. Yang came through the seventh and
headed up to the green. What
accompanied this final group was spectacular. I would say easily there were 50-60
people inside the ropes. From USGA
Executive Director Mike Davis, PGA
Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem,
agents, close friends, media members from ESPN, NBC and The Golf Channel, even
Isao Aoki from an Asian media group following Yang, to dozens of photographers ready to capture a possible
historic photo, the following was intense.
was the red carpet of golf. It just
so happened that the red carpet was laid out for McIlroy after each tee shot.
headed to a familiar spot on the back nine, settling in to the left of the 11th
fairway, where 16 years earlier we had witnessed my father’s golfing hero and
mine growing up, Nicklaus, fail to
hit a solid pitch shot. It was
comforting to know some things in life hadn’t changed. It was still my dad and I, at Congressional, watching golf and
nothing else mattered at that time.
most of the day, I had been traveling with a large, bright green leprechaun hat
tucked in the back of my shorts. I
had given the hat to my dad during a family Christmas exchange a few years ago. With Irish blood in me, I figured I
would support the Northern Irish player at some point during the round. On went my hat as McIlroy strutted up the 11th fairway and as he
approached the 13th tee box.
My dad joked that he wouldn’t stand beside me if I wore the hat. Really? My dad had to be worried about being
embarrassed by me? Ha!
the sun finally peaking out and my dad and I getting tired from the nearly
eight hours at the course, we decided to watch the finish at No. 18 from a
bleacher behind the 10th green.
The mob of people lining 18 and sitting in the stands was
impressive. What was more
impressive was looking over at the leaderboard just behind the pond behind the
18th green and seeing how far the 22-year-old was out in front of
was good to see Rory celebrate with
is dad on this day, and it was good to be with mine. We headed back to catch the shuttle to
our parking spot, but not before stopping in the merchandise tent to grab a
couple of souvenirs from the day.
This time the tent was open.
merchandise tent is more like a department store and the responsibility of
running this store lies with a friend, Michael
Quirk (thanks Michael for the lunch vouchers as well)! A great job he does each and every
year. He has a watchful eye over
the massive sales floor; having his staff stock the shelves to make sure there
is quality merchandise available right up to the final minutes after play.
our day at the U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club, planned a
few weeks in advance to surprise my dad, started early and ended in a sea of
red and white (on the scoreboard)!
A dominating victory by a player, whose nation’s flag carries those same
colors, was not expected. What was
expected was a great day to celebrate Father’s Day and I will always remember
my dad’s words to sum up the day, "This was the best Father’s Day I can
luck next year on Father’s Day, Beth.
Beth is my sister.
Ryan Gingrow is PGA teaching
professional at Whitford CC. His
full bio is here.