Historic Congressional is capital site for U.S. Open

By Associated PressJune 10, 2011, 6:25 pm

BETHESDA, Md. – It doesn’t take much of a detective to work out the origins of a place with a name like Congressional Country Club. Nor is it hard to realize what it has become today – a prestigious, must-play destination for the world’s top golfers, who will reconvene at the splendid but often unforgiving Blue Course for next week’s U.S. Open.

In between, however, the 580 dazzling acres near the U.S. capital have a vibrant history that hasn’t always gone according to script. The bunkers – not the kind made of sand – are left over from the 1940s, when the club was leased to the Office of Strategic Services as a World War II training ground. Fairways became target ranges and craters marred the course.

It’s easy to say the club was doing its bit of sacrifice in the name of noble service for its country, but actually the country was saving the club. The OSS – predecessor to the CIA – paid $4,000 per month to rent the place.

“Having gone through the Depression years of the ’30s, the club was in serious financial trouble at that time,” Brundred said, “and was probably on the verge of perhaps having to shut the doors, when the opportunity to lease the property to the OSS came along. It was being able to shut the doors and not have any expenses during those years and to put some money in the bank that allowed the club to sort of regroup.”

Money woes didn’t seem possible when Congressional was founded during the Roaring ’20s, the brainchild of two Indiana congressman who envisioned an idyllic setting for politicians and businessmen to recharge their psychological batteries while contemplating the world’s problems. Oscar Bland and O.R. Lubring wanted a place “where talk has no fetters and where exchanged opinion leads to clarity,” according to a 1921 prospectus.

“The official or member of Congress, brain cleared by the bracing air, and exhilarated by the play in which he is engaged, finds a new and more adequate conception of his problems of government; and from his contact with minds that know the nation’s needs, develops more surely the solutions essential for America’s well being,” the prospectus continued.

Five former American presidents – Herbert Hoover, William Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson, Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge – are listed as founding life members. The opening gala in 1924 at the stylish clubhouse with its Mediterranean-style architecture was a grand occasion, but for many years Congressional was too lavish for its budget, particularly during the lean years before the war. Its remote location and lack of local dues-paying members posed problems.

Back on firm footing after the war, Congressional became less of a course for men in power and more of a conventional, exclusive country club for members and their families.

It was also during the postwar era that Congressional realized it could become a place of champions. Renowned designer Robert Trent Jones was hired to overhaul the back nine of the Blue Course in the 1950s and later did the same to the front nine, a much-needed update to Devereux Emmet’s original setup from the 1920s. Jones’ son, Rees Jones, was called on to do another renovation in the late 1980s.

“When I was on the board and we were getting ready to redo the Blue Course,” said Enos Fry, another former club president, “I can remember some of the past presidents coming up to me saying, ‘You’re going to ruin this place. You’re going to change this course, and you young guys should just never do anything like this.’ And it was amazing after we got finished doing it, a couple of them came up to me and said, ‘I’m glad we decided to do this.”’

The Blue Course’s list of blue-chip events is impressive: the 1959 Women’s Amateur, the 1976 PGA Championship, the 1995 U.S. Senior Open, and, of course, the U.S. Open in 1964 and 1997.

Fry worked at the 1964 Open, selling scrip coupons that spectators used to buy refreshments, and he got to witness Ken Venturi walking the down the fairway at No. 18. Exhausted and at times disoriented by the notoriously stifling mid-Atlantic heat and humidity, Venturi persevered through 36 holes on the final day to claim the championship in one of the most extraordinary performances the sport has seen.

But Congressional always had one nagging feature that caused a stir every time the big names came calling. Robert Trent Jones’ redesign in the 1950s left the Blue Course with a par-3 finish, a scenic hole with a tee shot over a lake with the full expanse of the clubhouse in the background.

The members didn’t mind, but it wasn’t deemed fitting for a major event. Officials had to find ways around it. When Venturi won, the Blue Course borrowed two holes from the Gold Course so the tournament would end on the members’ 17th hole, a classic and difficult par-4 finishing hole that leads downhill onto a peninsula by the lake. At the 1995 Senior Open, No. 18 became No. 10, creating a long and awkward walk from greens to tees at the start of the back nine.

In 1997, the U.S. Golf Association decided to give the par 3 finish a chance. The Open was played the members’ way, and it proved a lackluster means for ending a major. The make-or-break shots everyone remembers – particularly Tom Lehman’s fateful 7-iron approach that bounded into the lake – happened at No. 17. The 18th hole was anticlimactic as Ernie Els took home the trophy.

“While the tournament was a great success,” Brundred said, “in the years immediately following as we began to lobby the USGA to return the U.S. Open to Congressional, they kind of let us know that they would very much like to return, but they didn’t want to finish again on a par 3.”

So another facelift was in order. The par-3 hole has been reversed, with the tee and green swapping sides of the lake. It’s now the 10th hole for everyone, members included, and fits naturally into the flow of the course. Next week, the golfers will finish on the same hole as Venturi did all those years ago.

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Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.

Masters victory

Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative

Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ

Green jacket tour

Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket

Man of the people

Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief

Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together

Ace at 17th at Sawgrass

Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018

Departure from TaylorMade

Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade

Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'

Victory at Valderrama

Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm
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Montana parents can't watch kids play high school golf

By Grill Room TeamDecember 11, 2017, 9:47 pm

Well, this is a one new one.

According to a report from KTVQ in Montana, this line in the Montana State High School Association rule book all but forbids spectators from observing high school golf in that state:

“No spectators/fans are allowed on the course except for certain locations as designated by the tournament manager and club professional.”

Part of the issue, according to the report, is that most courses don't bother to designate those "certain locations" leaving parents unable to watch their kids compete.

“If you tell a parent that they can’t watch their kid play in the Thanksgiving Day football game, they would riot,” Chris Kelley, a high school golf parent, told KTVQ.

The report lists illegal outside coaching as one of the rule's chief motivations, but Montana State women's golf coach Brittany Basye doesn't quite buy that.

“I can go to a softball game and I can sit right behind the pitcher. I can make hand signals,” she is quoted in the report. “I can yell out names. I can do the same thing on a softball field that might affect that kid. Football games we can yell as loud as we want when someone is making a pass or a catch.”

The MHSA has argued that unlike other sports that are played in a confined area, the sprawling nature of a golf course would make it difficult to hire enough marshals to keep unruly spectators in check.

Meanwhile, there's a lawyer quoted in the report claiming this is some kind of civil rights issue.

Worth note, Montana is one of only two states that doesn't allow spectators on the course. The other state, Alaska, does not offer high school golf.