I hope you've had a chance to look around campus. Clubhouse Hall, the famous pass-through with our school crest on the keystone...very inspiring, to be sure.
But we here at USOA are proudest of our classrooms. Take Room 12: a 640-yard par 5, often into the wind. No shortcuts in this class. You may be able to skip a midterm exam on your garden-variety par 5, but here you'll need to ace every test: the opening quiz, all essay, no multiple choice. Here's a hint: the answer is the fairway.
Then there's still a long way to go, even if you get a 300 (yards) score on the driving test. To get around that little buttonhook near the green, you'll have to place a very perceptive answer on Quiz No. 2. This is closed-book, because you can't see the gentle slope in the second-shot landing area that throws balls to the right, towards the rough. (By the way, there's a remedial seminar in jungle biology going on in there. Here's your machete.)
It's that third quiz that may really have you pulling an all-nighter. Craft a thoughtful answer that will stay below the always difficult hole location. Don't get wordy and go long....that will just make the final harder.
And the final? As with every other green here on the Winged Foot campus, you'll need touch and nerve. When A.W. Tillinghast, founder of our campus, said the winner will need to stand 'the gaff' from start to finish to win, this is what he was talking about.
Oh, and if it seems as if each test counts toward 100 percent of your grade....it's because it's true.
You're all bright enough students to have been accepted here, so you've probably figured it out. The operative verb here at U.S. Open Academy is 'think.' You must think your way around this course, through these courses in graduate golf mastery. Verbs that won't work, at least as overall approaches to your academic career here, are hammer, pummel, overpower, slop, slap, flip, or clobber. And while you're at it, banish from your game adjectives such as automatic, brain-dead, greedy, impetuous and impatient.
You see, students, our model of golf at USOA is built on 14 factors designed to identify the best among you. Far and sure tee shots, thoughtful approaches that must sometimes work away from tempting but foolhardy hole locations, devilish chips and pitches that force you to manage your churning emotions...this is what we have built.
Is it the only valid championship model? No, decidedly not. The coastal links approach often found in British Opens, with its unpredictable bounces and shifting winds as primary thought provokers and patience testers, is another notable way.
But is our way a completely thought-out, defensible test of golf as it has developed over more than a century in the United States? Just as decidedly, yes. And it's the difference between our approach and others that adds interest to the game at its highest level.
Now, there may come some times when you find your lab work results a little messy and embarrassing. For instance, we had some unintended trouble at our Shinnecock Hills campus a couple years back. We will do everything we can to make such episodes the exception, not the rule.
As you work your way through the syllabus, observe the methods of some of our more distinguished alumni and faculty. Professor Woods holds the emotion until the 18th-hole flashbulbs go off. Dr. Mickelson, seeking tenure here, has published some intriguing papers recently, including one last summer at Baltusrol, another Tillinghast campus. And dig back into the library to review the work of Professor Casper, holder of the Bobby Jones Chair in Patient Course Management.
All over our campus this week, great thinkers have been putting their minds to use, from the equipment trucks to the practice range to the tee boxes. Shorter drivers? Perhaps. No sand wedge, but a 64-degree? Sure. Three-wood instead of driver to not hit through the doglegs? Good research.
Youll all get an education this week, even those of you who only get an associate degree and a Friday exit. But the valedictorian? That will be the best thinker.
Now, please open your scorecards to Hole No. 1.
Email your thoughts to Adam Barr