by Jeff Skinner
Earlier this month I sat down to make plans for one of the busiest weeks of my golf season. I had been granted media credentials to each of the professional tournaments that took place in the Northeast this past week: The LPGA Championship in Rochester NY, The Champions Tour Dick’s Sporting Goods Open in Endicott NY and The PGA Tour’s Travelers Championship in Cromwell Connecticut. I hoped to attend all three tournaments.
I had spent a few days at The Travelers last year and got to talk to newly crowned US Open Champion Lucas Glover and stayed around for the Travelers winner, Kenny Perry’s press conference and even got to ask him a question. The people at The Travelers were great and I was excited about going back.
Since The LPGA had decided to stage The LPGA Championship in Rochester and it was only a five hour ride from my house I thought I couldn’t pass up a chance at attending a major as a member of the media.
In addition I also had media credentials to the Champions Tour in Endicott. I have yet to attend a Champions Tour event as a member of the press so I was thrilled that I could get to see the old guys up close.
Unfortunately all these tournaments took place on the same weekend so I would need to be a little creative in my travel plans. I even had the title of my post that would detail my week: Four Days, Three Tournaments and a Wedding. Here was the plan. I would drive the five hours to Rochester and start at The LPGA Championship in Rochester on Thursday, spend the night and drive the two hours back to Endicott on Friday to spend the day with The Champions. After that on Friday evening I would drive the three hours home and spend the night. On Saturday I had a family wedding in Worcester Massachusetts so I would drive up to the wedding, have a ball and spend the night. On Sunday the plan was to drive down to Connecticut and see my old friends at The Travelers and catch the winner’s press conference.
Oh, but the best laid plans of mice and men. It was not to be. It’s funny sometimes how the plans you make never turn out to be what you expected but that’s not necessarily a negative. My plan never had the chance to happen because I traded it for something I had never done before. A few things forced me to trade my old plan in for a new one. I had a business commitment on Friday I could not change and the five hour ride to Rochester now sounded like a five hour ride to Rochester.
The plan was scrapped and traded in for a new and exciting one. It was an even more exciting adventure because I wouldn’t be watching others golf, I would be golfing. I was finally getting to do something I had hoped to do for years, something many golfers dream of. I was going to play where the pros play. I was going to play a major championship course. I was going to play Bethpage Black.
I shouldn’t have to give much more explanation other than just to say it’s The Black, but I will. Bethpage Black was the first truly public course the USGA staged its premier event, The US Open on. A.W Tillinghast designed the course which opened in 1936. In 2002 Tiger Woods was the champion and in 2009 Lucas Glover hung on to beat Woods, Phil Mickelson, David Duval and Rickie Barnes for his first major title. I had spent that week at The Black in the rain and mud and heat to watch the world’s best become undone by the length, rough and greens of The Black. We sat in the bleachers at number seventeen and watched the entire field come through on Monday. (Remember it finished on Monday due to the heavy rains.) We watched Tiger, Phil and Duval bogey seventeen and any hope of a victory die when their putts failed to fall. Now, I would have the same chance to bogey seventeen. I couldn’t wait.
It was a bit of good luck and a lot of determination by my son that got us a tee time on the coveted Black. He had called for weeks in an effort to get through and finally got lucky and landed a 2:21 slot on Thursday afternoon. We were delighted that we finally had a chance to play on such a wonderful course. It was then I realized that there was a small conflict, my brother, who had to be one of our foursome at The Black had a conflict, a big conflict. His daughter’s rehearsal dinner was to be held on Thursday night and there was no way he could play and get back to Worcester on time for the dinner. My son thought there was no problem, “They’ll understand Dad, it’s The Black.” Unfortunately, there was never a choice for my poor brother but I give him credit, he insisted we play and wished us luck. I really felt bad, but not bad enough to cancel, it was The Black. I called my brother-in-law and he was excited too, until I told him it was walking only. “Walking only?…Oh s**t!” he said. The last time he walked a course it was with Old Tom Morris, so he needed a little encouragement. I assured him that if he had any problem on the course I would make sure we came back to get him after we finished our eighteen. He wasn’t amused. To fill out our group I called my nephew and he was as pumped up as we were at the chance to play The Black. He even volunteered to drive the two hours to Long Island and his mini-van which normally carries his beautiful and always pregnant wife (due in August) and his three gorgeous and crazy daughters around was the perfect vehicle for the trip. The new plan was set; The Black it was and we all thought we were ready.
Check back tomorrow for part two where four hackers take on The Black.