by Jeff Skinner
An Open Letter to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey
In 2002 when the USGA brought the U.S. Open to Bethpage Black it was nicknamed the “Peoples Open” and having the Open at a public course was certainly historic. Showcasing the best public course in New York State brought more fame for The Black and allowed the world to see what a true gem we have in Bethpage Black.
This past week the PGA Tour set up camp on The Black and once again the world got to know more of The Black. But with the Barclays scheduled to return in 2016 and the possibility of The Black being used as a permanent home for The Barclays we are dangerously close to losing what has made The Black so special all these years.
The Black is first and foremost a public course and thousands of area golfers make playing The Black a high priority. Nowhere else can a public golfer play such a renowned course on a daily basis. Having The Barclays on The Black is exciting for fans but a steady diet of professional tournaments defeats the true purpose of The Black.
The Black needs to remain accessible to public golfers and hosting a PGA tournament each year or even every other year is contrary to the purpose of Bethpage and the state parks system. We need to maintain The Black’s aura of community and its unique atmosphere. It is on The Black that firemen and laborers, truck drivers and teachers, students and businessmen blend together into that “public golfer” that makes The Black so extraordinary. It is this melting pot of golfing souls that make a day at The Black unforgettable. When a golfer plays The Black he knows he is on hallowed ground.
The danger here lies in overexposing The Black with The Barclays year after year. Hosting a U.S. Open every decade is a more acceptable alternative. There would be no yearly closure of the course and the effect that hosting an Open is so much greater than a PGA Tour event. And it appears that if The Black continues to host the tour it may have seen its last U.S. Open as Mike Davis has already voiced doubts that they would return if that was the case.
Surely the golfers that play The Black enjoy seeing the top players walk their course but it means so much more when they are doing it during a major.
I know there are financial matters that go along with hosting but this shouldn’t be about cashing checks. It should be about keeping The Black the Mecca of New York golf it has become. Hosting frequent PGA Tour events will only dilute The Black’s reputation. An Open or even a Ryder Cup every so often would do fine to bring in some profits and only enhance the aura of The Black.
We should be treating The Black as a treasure not a commodity. Keeping it the “people’s course” should be the priority not using it as a new revenue stream.