Man vs Bethpage

By Erik PetersonJune 13, 2009, 4:00 pm
bethpage black parking sign
 
FARMINGDALE, N.Y. – If you’ve ever camped out for tickets to a big event, you know the drill: Take off work, grab a few friends, cram in the back of an SUV and just go. Fanatics do it for Duke-North Carolina, 'Star Wars,' the Rolling Stones, and on Long Island they’ll even do it for golf.
 
Welcome to the Walk-Up Car Line at Bethpage State Park, host of the 109th U.S. Open this week. Known by many as the People’s Country Club, Bethpage Black is hosting the People’s Championship for the second time, but when it’s not hosting the Open, it’s a place where locals and out-of-towners alike come together for one reason: To tailgate all night with the hopes of playing the toughest damn golf course they’ve ever seen.
 
The car line has been in existence since the late 1980s when, after the state government allocated more funds to the facility, course conditions improved, as did the demand for tee times. While there are five courses at Bethpage – Black, Red, Blue, Green and Yellow – the car line is for those who want to play the Black Course.
 
Tapping the investigative journalist in me, I decided to take my chances with Long Island’s rainiest spring in recent history and participate in the walk-up car line experience.
 
11:23 p.m.
It’s the night before I head to Bethpage, so I decide to do a little research on the walk-up car line and, specifically, if spending the night even guarantees me a round at the Black Course. Here’s how it works:
 
At any of the five Bethpage courses, New York residents have the opportunity to make a tee time up to a week in advance using an automated phone reservation system. Those residing outside the Empire State have to wait until two days out before they get their chance. Translation: Only after the entire state of New York has their chance to book a time is everyone else allowed to reserve theirs. Most days, non-New-Yorkers would have a better chance getting a tee time at Augusta National than Bethpage Black via this route.
 
Those who try their hand at the car line have less competition, but also less inventory. Only the first hour of tee times is dedicated to walk-ups. With roughly seven groups per hour that’s 28 golfers who are guaranteed a walk-up tee time. The rest are left scrapping for open times freed by last-minute cancellations and no-shows.
 
9:42 a.m.
Arrival at Bethpage State Park. It’s 54 degrees and raining. Sounds like perfect tailgating weather to me!
 
As I pull into the Car Waiting Line adjacent to the main parking lot, the 9-foot-tall Rules and Regulations sign stares me in the face. I’m in New York, a place where you follow the rules or pay the price. I read every word carefully, though a few rules stand out as the most important:
 
  • Vehicles must be backed into numbered parking spaces.
     
  • Greens fee tickets will only be sold to those who possess all identifying criteria issued by park staff, including bakery tickets, hand stamps and non-removable bracelets.
     
  • Individuals must remain with their vehicle from the moment it is placed on the line.
     
    Editorial note: ON line is interchangeable with IN line. Once again, it’s New York. Just follow the rules and no one gets hurt.
     
    Spot No. 1 is the only spot taken, and the guys inside the car are sleeping (must have driven all night to get here). Otherwise, the parking lot is empty. Before committing to this experience, I decide to take my chances and play Bethpage Red first.
     
    10:00 a.m.
    Walk-up tee time at Bethpage Red. While Black gets all the attention, it turns out that Red is no slouch. Call it the Phil Mickelson of Bethpage State Park – its No. 2 ranking is more a reflection of just how good No. 1 is.
     
    (Click here for more on Bethpage Red, and the other courses at Bethpage State Park in our Destination: Long Island story.)
     
    2:35 p.m.
    After finishing my round the rain has stopped and the sun is out. I get back in my rented Ford Escape and drive across the parking lot to the car waiting line. Two more spots have filled up so I pull into spot No. 4. My new neighbor immediately reminds me I’m not allowed to park that way.
     
    “You gotta turn around,” he says, motioning toward the sign.
     
    I’ve been on line for all of four seconds and I’m already breaking the rules.
     
    I fix my mistake, get out of the car and open up the back as if to say, ‘And so it begins.’ The SUV in spot No. 3 is a threesome from Indianapolis that just arrived after making the 13-hour drive to Long Island. As I change out of my golf shoes and into my Bethpage tailgating shoes they get up from their camping chairs and introduce themselves. They offer me a seat on their cooler and a spot in their foursome. I oblige.
     
    Here's the skinny on the rest of my foursome:
  • Beau, 16.5-handicap, accounts manager for a medical billing company;
  • Jim, 12-handicap, financial consultant;
  • Kevin, 4-handicap, auto sales manager
     
    5:16 p.m.
    As the number of filled spaces increases, I do some quick math: 28 golfers from this line are a lock to play Bethpage Black (barring a rainout), while the rest will have to rely on no-shows. I count 14 vehicles on the line. The people at the end have to be wondering about their chances.
     
    I’d imagine the only thing tougher than spending the night in the parking lot is to do so and end up not getting to play.
     
    6:28 p.m.
    Using a plastic milk crate as the target, eight of us throw a buck on the cooler and begin a chipping contest. First one to sink it wins the pot. Chipping from 30 yards on a hardpan lie, across the road, nothing but net? As Beau skulls his fourth chip in a row over the road, we share a supportive laugh. “I’m just glad to be here among friends,” he says with a smile.
     
    We’re in way over our heads, but staying humble. We figure it’s fitting for Bethpage Black.
     
    7:39 p.m.
    Beau, Jim, Kevin and I debate the ultimate golf destination. Names like TPC Sawgrass, Pebble Beach, Bandon Dunes and St. Andrews are tossed around between puffs on cigars.
     
    “I’ve played Sawgrass and Crooked Stick,” Kevin proclaims. “But I can’t explain the excitement I have knowing I’m only a few hours away from playing the Black Course. I mean, it’s the U.S. Open!”
     
    12:13 a.m.
    Time for a little shuteye, because everyone’s aware that at 4:30 a.m. sharp, bakery tickets will be handed out. These simple tickets are the key to the Bethpage castle. Sleep through this, and all is lost. Get this ticket and lose it, and my trip is a waste. No pressure.
     
    I open the back door, throw all my luggage in front, and fold down the seats. I climb inside, shut the door and assume the fetal position. It’s my unsuccessful attempt to stay warm. The low tonight is 47 degrees. I consider turning the car on and running the heat. I’m no Eagle Scout but I know that breathing exhaust fumes all night certainly won’t help me make birdies at Bethpage Black. I empty my suitcase on top of me, dirty undies and all. It’s Bethpage. You do what it takes to survive.
     
    1:30 a.m.
    A word to the wise – from the unwise: No matter how tough you think you are, bring a blanket and a pillow with you to the walk-up car line. I thought I’d get through the night on adrenaline, with rain pants as a pillow. Boy, was I wrong! Spending the night freezing your butt off in a car is no way to prep for the challenge of a U.S. Open course.
     
    4:23 a.m.
    I awake from my half-slumber to a furious tapping on the window. “He’s here! Get up! He’s here!” Beau sounds like a kid on Christmas morning.
     
    An official from the Bethpage pro shop has emerged from the darkness to begin dispersing bakery tickets, which work just like those at your neighborhood bakery. The line at the pro shop to pay for your greens fee is ordered by the number on your ticket.
     
    4:32 a.m.
    I drive away from spot No. 4 and head for the pro shop, bakery ticket in hand. If I somehow manage to lose it between here and there, everything I’ve invested up to this point goes to waste.
     
    5:05 a.m.
    As we wait in the bakery line, I notice a man in front of us pay $35 for his greens fee. Senior resident rate. Thirty-five measly dollars wouldn’t get you a parking spot in New York City and this guy just paid that to play a U.S. Open course.
     
    It’s my turn to pay and I’m still nervous that I’m somehow going to mess this up. Maybe the anxiety comes because I haven’t slept all night…
     
    After each of us gladly pays the $120 out-of-state price, our date with destiny is set: 8:16 off the first tee. We’re given a wristband which will be cut off when we get to the first tee.
     
    We have a couple hours to kill. I think I’ll take a nap.
     
    8:00 a.m.
    After a few stiff swings at the driving range I feel like… Well, I feel like I slept in a car last night. Those around me have a similar running-on-fumes look about them. This is as close to playing in the U.S. Open as any of us will ever come. Now is no time for excuses.
     
    8:16 a.m.
    At 8:16 on the dot, our group is called to the tee. As our wristbands are sliced off I feel like a Labrador set free at a dog park. But this isn’t just any dog park. This is a freaking U.S. Open dog park!
     
    I take a practice swing and look down the first fairway. I’ve done it! I’ve made it to Bethpage Black! Little did I know the journey was just beginning…
     
    8:28 a.m.
    On the first hole Jim and I both hit our tee shots in the right rough. From the tee we all saw exactly where the balls disappeared into the 6' rough – at least we thought we did. We search for almost 10 minutes before finally finding them. I'd heard people talk about how severe the rough is at the Black course, but this borders on insanity.
     
    9:45 a.m.
    From personal experience I've learned that in order to get your ball out of the rough you need to either pick it up and throw it back in the fairway (best option), or hit it with a downswing that's steep and aggressive. Hybrids and long irons? Forget about it.
     
    10:51 a.m.
    As we make the turn the rain has started to come down more heavily. Wet grips don't help you hit fairways, and wet rough means advancing the ball up the fairway is next to impossible. Our group begins pondering what the winning score will be if it rains all U.S. Open week.
     
    We share a good laugh.
     
    12:22 p.m.
    No. 15 is the toughest par-4 I've ever played. The most amazing part: No water, no trees, no fairway bunkers and no out-of-bounds.
     
    I hit my tee shot in the left rough. Dead.
     
    I try to chunk a wedge out to 150 yards so I can have a chance to hit the severely elevated, heavily bunkered green. It comes out hot and skips into the right rough. Typical of most holes at the Black course, there is no option for a run-up shot; you have to fly it all the way there. So for my third shot, I lay up – again.
     
    I hit my next shot from 80 yards onto the green, which is the most severe on the course. Luckily it stays below the hole. I make the putt and walk away with one of the best bogeys of my life.
     
    Toughest par-4 I've ever played.
     
    1:03 p.m.
    As the four of us trudge up the hill to the 18th green I look over at Jim, who's soaking wet, looking less like a leisurely golfer and more like a boxer who's just gone 12 rounds.
     
    'What would it take for you to walk over to the first tee and play another 18 holes right now?' I ask him.
     
    'Erik, there's no amount of money because I just wouldn't be able to do it, physically. My body wouldn't let me.'
     
    Mercy, Bethpage! Mercy! She's chewed us up and spit us out, and we couldn't be happier about our experience. It was Man vs. Bethpage, and Bethpage won in a landslide.
     
    Related Links:
  • Full Coverage -2009 U.S. Open
  • First- and Second-Round Tee Times
  • Bethpage Black Ballpark
  • Rates and info for each course
  • How to book a tee time at Bethpage
  • If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

    By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

    NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

    She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

    You don’t believe it, though.

    She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

    Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

    Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

    “In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

    Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

    Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

    Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

    At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

    She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

    She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

    And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.


    CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


    There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

    Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

    It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

    Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

    Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

    “I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

    About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

    Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

    “She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

    David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

    “She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

    Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

    Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

    “Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

    Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

    “It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

    Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

    “No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

    Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.

    National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

    The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

    Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

    These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon:

    Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience

    By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:36 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.

    This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.

    “I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”


    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


    Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.

    In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.

    If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Web.com Tour finals.

    “He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”

    Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic

    By Associated PressNovember 17, 2017, 10:26 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook made a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at the RSM Classic.

    Cook has gone 36 holes without a bogey on the Plantation and Seaside courses at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside - the site of the final two rounds in the last PGA Tour event of the calendar year - on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.

    ''We've just been able to it hit the ball really well,'' Cook said. ''Speed on greens has been really good and getting up-and-down has been great. I've been able to hit it pretty close to the hole to make some pretty stress-free putts. But the couple putts that I have had of some length for par, I've been able to roll them in. Everything's going well.''

    The 26-year-old former Arkansas player was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.

    The 45-year-old Gay won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2013.


    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


    ''I've hit a lot of greens and fairways,'' Gay said. ''I've hit the ball, kept it in front of me. There's a lot of trouble out here, especially with the wind blowing, so I haven't had to make too many saves the first couple days and I putted well.''

    Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. He earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour, and has hired Gay's former caddie, Kip Henley.

    ''With him being out here so long, he knows everybody, so it's not like I'm completely the new kid on the block,'' Cook said. ''He's introduced me to a lot of people, so it's just making me feel comfortable out here. He knows his way around these golf courses. We're working really well together.''

    First-round leader Chris Kirk followed his opening 63 on the Plantation with a 70 on the Seaside to drop into a tie for third at 9 under with C.T. Pan (65) and Vaughn Taylor (66).

    Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back at 8 under.

    ''I was hitting the ball really well coming down here,'' Snedeker said. ''I was anxious to see how I would hold up under pressure. I haven't played a tournament in five months, so it's held up better than I thought it would. Ball-striking's been really good, mental capacity's been unbelievable.

    ''I think being so fresh, excited to be out there and thinking clearly. My short game, which has always been a strength of mine, I didn't know how sharp it was going to be. It's been really good so far.''