Public Access The 2010 Majors

By Rex HoggardJune 9, 2010, 10:00 pm
Public Access

It was 15 years ago, but Mike Davis remembers the day David Fay poked his head into his office with HD clarity. “What do you think of a U.S. Open at Bethpage?” asked Fay, the executive director of the U.S. Golf Association.

Fifteen years after the fact the simple query, or perhaps it’s best to describe Fay’s vision as a quest, it’s easy to recognize that innocent exchange as the clarion moment in a public golf paradigm shift, an evolution that manifest itself this year in a Grand Slam first. For the first time since 1916, the year the PGA Championship assumed its spot in the major rota, three of the four majors will be played at “public access” venues.

To be clear, Pebble Beach Golf Links, site of next week’s U.S. Open, and its famously exorbitant rack rate of $495 is not exactly what Fay had in mind when he coaxed Davis out of his office in 1995 for an impromptu round at a rough-around-the-edges Bethpage Black Course. Ditto for Whistling Straits in Wisconsin, another high-end resort track that will host this year’s PGA. Yet for a game dominated, and defined, by private clubs and exclusionary practices for decades, the 2010 public trifecta is a reason to celebrate the walk-up tee time, if not the evolution of the game.

For the first time since 1916, the year the PGA Championship joined the major championship rotation, the season’s final three majors will be played on public access venues. From Pebble Beach to St. Andrews’ Old Course and Whistling Straits, the public, with advanced notice and plenty of cash, can enjoy the same Grand Slam ground as the pros. dispatched three correspondents to make the major rounds. Check the progress of each course and the people that make the Grand Slam pilgrimage.

Public Access features:
Mell: Pebble Beach Golf Links

Baggs: Old Course at St. Andrews

Peterson: Whistling Straits

To put this year’s Grand Slam triple-play in perspective the first time at least two majors were played on public access venues in the same year was in 1977 when Turnberry hosted its first British Open and the PGA was held at Pebble Beach. It’s happened four times since then, most recently last year when the U.S. Open was played at Fay’s Bethpage, for the second time, and the Open Championship returned to Turnberry.

'No, I didn’t envision anything like this in 1978 (when he joined the USGA),” Fay admits.

In Fay’s defense, no one was thinking about public access venues or small-market majors at the time. As a rule, Grand Slam events were played at private clubs – because, the thinking went, they were better equipped to maintain a golf course to major championship standards – and in large metropolitan markets.

“I remember P.J. Boatwright (the former USGA executive director), who grew up in North Carolina and played a ton of golf at Pinehurst, telling me point blank we will never take an Open to Pinehurst,” Davis remembered. “But he didn’t know about all these new grasses that can withstand the heat.”

The ’72 Pebble Beach Open begat Pinehurst in 1999 and Bethpage in 2002, Torrey Pines in 2008 and Chambers Bay, a county-owned facility in Tacoma, Wash., in 2015 – all three public access venues in form and function. But in many ways Fay’s vision and the move to walk-up facilities was simply part of the evolution of golf in America away from country clubs toward what those in the industry like to call country clubs for a day.

According to Davis, the ratio of private courses to public access courses in the United States has shifted from about 60 percent (public) to 40 percent (private), to 80 percent to 20 percent. The shift to more masses-friendly courses for the national championship was inevitable.

“It was important to acknowledge the place of fee facilities and places where people could go play,” Fay said. “Nearly half the field can qualify for an Open, that’s not on paper but it is almost written in stone.”

The PGA of America has not embraced the blue-collar likes of a Bethpage or Torrey Pines, but history shows the guardians of “Glory’sPlayer Name: First | Lasttually ahead of the curve when it came to public access venues.

The PGA was first played at a public access venue in 1924 at French Lick (Ind.) Springs Resort and has since been played on 10 courses that are open for public play, although the only current public access venue in the PGA rota is Whistling Straits.

The British Open’s all-access philosophy dates back to 1873, the first year the championship was played on the Old Course at St. Andrews, and the rotation now includes regular stops at Carnoustie and Turnberry.

Although 2010 may be the first for the public access trifecta, there is little chance it is the last. The modern major in many ways is almost as much about space as it is about the merits of a golf course or the size of the local market.

“We are looking at new venues that have the space,” said Kerry Haigh, the PGA’s top set-up man.

Corporate tents, media complexes, parking and merchandise areas are now key parts of the criteria for hosting championships, all but relegating the classic confines of a Merion – which will host what is being called a boutique U.S. Open in 2013 – to an occasional cameo if at all.

The shift away from private enclaves to public venues is as much about square footage as it was Fay’s vision to create a “People’s Open,” a reality that all but assures 2010 won’t be the last “Public Access Slam” for the season’s final three majors.

“I don’t think it’s going to happen less,” Davis said. “Some of the places we go to now are so tight (on room) we can barely make it work. The need for space at these championships are going to continue to grow. If you fast-forward 20 years, I can’t imagine an Open being smaller.”

Nor can one imagine the year’s final three majors ever returning to the exclusive domain of private clubs. Fay and fate made sure of that.

Public Access features:
Randall Mell: Pebble Beach Golf Links
Mercer Baggs: Old Course at St. Andrews
Erik Peterson: Whistling Straits

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Goat visor propels Na to Colonial lead

By Will GrayMay 25, 2018, 1:29 am

Jason Dufner officially has some company in the headwear free agency wing of the PGA Tour.

Like Dufner, Kevin Na is now open to wear whatever he wants on his head at tournaments, as his visor sponsorship with Titleist ended earlier this month. He finished T-6 at the AT&T Byron Nelson in his second tournament as a free agent, and this week at the Fort Worth Invitational he's once again wearing a simple white visor with a picture of a goat.

"I bought it at The Players Championship for $22 with the 30 percent discount that they give the Tour players," Na told reporters. "It's very nice."

Perhaps a change in headwear was just what Na needed to jumpstart his game. Last week's result in Dallas was his first top-35 finish in his last six events dating back to February, and he built upon that momentum with an 8-under 62 to take a one-shot lead over Charley Hoffman after the first round at Colonial Country Club.

While many sports fans know the "GOAT" acronym to stand for "Greatest Of All Time," it's a definition that the veteran Na only learned about earlier this year.

"I do social media, but they kept calling Tiger the GOAT. I go, 'Man, why do they keep calling Tiger the GOAT? That's just mean,'" Na said. "Then I realized it meant greatest of all time. Thinking of getting it signed by Jack (Nicklaus) next week (at the Memorial)."

Marc Dull (Florida State Golf Association)

Golden: Dull rude, caddie 'inebriated' at Florida Mid-Am

By Ryan LavnerMay 25, 2018, 1:03 am

Jeff Golden has offered more detail on what transpired at the Florida Mid-Amateur Championship, writing in a long statement on Twitter that Marc Dull’s caddie was “inebriated” before he allegedly sucker-punched Golden in the face.

In a story first reported by, Charlotte County Police responded to a call May 13 after Golden claimed that he’d been assaulted by his opponent’s caddie in the parking lot of Coral Creek Club, where he was competing in the Mid-Am finals. Golden told police that the caddie, Brandon Hibbs, struck him because of a rules dispute earlier in the round. Hibbs denied any involvement, and police found no evidence of an attack.

Golden posted a 910-word statement on the alleged incident on his Twitter account on Thursday night. He said that he wanted to provide more detail because “others have posed some valid questions about the series of events that led to me withdrawing” from what was an all-square match with two holes to play.

Golden wrote that both Dull and Hibbs were rude and disruptive during the match, and that “alcohol appeared to be influencing [Hibbs’] behavior.”

Dull, who caddies at Streamsong Resort in Florida, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“I’ve never seen an opposing caddie engage in so much conversation with a competitor,” Golden wrote. “On the eighth hole I had become extremely frustrated when my opponent and caddie were talking and moving. I expressed my disappointment with their etiquette to the rules official in our group.”

On the ninth hole, Golden informed the official that he believed Hibbs had broken the rules by offering advice on his putt. Golden won the hole by concession to move 2 up at the turn, and Hibbs removed himself from the match and returned to the clubhouse.

Golden wrote that after the penalty, the match “turned even nastier, with more negative comments from my opponent on the 10th tee.” He added that he conceded Dull’s 15-foot birdie putt on No. 10 because he was “sick of the abuse from my opponent, and I wanted the match to resemble what you would expect of a FSGA final.”

Though there were no witnesses to the alleged attack and police found little evidence, save for “some redness on the inside of {Golden’s] lip,” Golden wrote that the inside of his mouth was bleeding, his face was “throbbing” and his hand was also injured from bracing his fall. X-rays and CT scans over the past week all came back negative, he said.

Golden reiterated that he was disappointed with the FSGA’s decision to accept his concession in the final match. He had recommended that they suspend the event and resume it “at a later time.”

“The FSGA has one job, and that’s to follow the Rules of Golf,” Golden wrote. “Unfortunately, there’s no rule for an inebriated ‘ex-caddie’ punching a player in a match-play rain delay with no witnesses.”

Asked last week about his organization’s alcohol policy during events, FSGA executive director Jim Demick said that excessive consumption is “highly discouraged, but it falls more broadly under the rules of etiquette and player behavior.”

Dull, 32, was back in the news Wednesday, after he and partner Chip Brooke reached the finals of the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship. They lost to high schoolers Cole Hammer and Garrett Barber, 4 and 3.

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D. Kang, M. Jutanugarn in four-way tie at Volvik

By Associated PressMay 25, 2018, 12:50 am

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Amy Olson crossed paths with her coach, Ron Stockton, on her walk to the 18th tee at the Volvik Championship.

''Make it another even $20,'' Stockton said.

The coach was already prepared to give his client $35 for making seven birdies - $5 each - and wanted to take her mind off the bogey she just had at 17.

Olson closed the first round with a 6-under 66, putting her into the lead she ended up sharing later Thursday with Moriya Jutanugarn , Caroline Masson and Danielle Kang.

Do small, cash incentives really help a professional golfer?

''Absolutely,'' said Olson, who graduated from North Dakota State with an accounting degree. ''He'll tell you I'm a little bit of a hustler there.''

Olson will have to keep making birdies - and petty cash - to hold her position at Travis Pointe Country Club.

Jessica Korda, Minjee Lee, Nasa Hataoka, Lindy Duncan, Morgan Pressel, Megan Khang and Jodi Ewart Shadoff were a stroke back at 67 and six others were to shots back.

Ariya Jutanugarn, the Kingsmill Championship winner last week in Virginia, opened with a 69.

The Jutanugarn sisters are Korda are among six players with a chance to become the LPGA Tour's first two-time winner this year.

Moriya Jutanugarn won for the first time in six years on the circuit last month in Los Angeles.

''What I feel is more relaxed now,'' she said. ''And, of course I like looking forward for my next one.''

Olson, meanwhile, is hoping to extend the LPGA Tour's streak of having a new winner in each of its 12 tournaments this year.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship

She knows how to win. It just has been a while since it has happened.

Olson set an NCAA record with 20 wins, breaking the mark set by LPGA Hall of Famer Juli Inkster, but has struggled to have much success since turning pro in 2013.

She has not finished best finish was a tie for seventh and that was four years ago. She was in contention to win the ANA Inspiration two months ago, but an even-par 72 dropped her into a tie for ninth place.

If the North Dakota player wins the Volvik Championship, she will earn a spot in the U.S. Open at Shoal Creek in Alabama. If Olson finishes second or lower in the 144-player field, she will enjoy an off week with her husband, Grant, who coaches linebackers at Indiana State.

''I'll make the best of it either way,'' she said.

Olson was at her best in the opening round on the front nine, closing it with four birdies in a six-hole stretch. Her ball rolled just enough to slowly drop in the cup for birdie on the par-3, 184-yard 13th. She had three birdies in five-hole stretch on the back, nearly making her second hole-in-one of the year at the par-3, 180-yard 16th. A short putt gave her a two-stroke lead, but it was cut to one after pulling and misreading a 6-foot putt to bogey the 17th.

Even if she doesn't hold on to win the tournament, Olson is on pace to have her best year on the LPGA Tour. She is No. 39 on the money list after finishing 97th, 119th, 81st and 80th in her first four years.

''Two years ago, I started working with Ron Stockton and whenever you make a change, it doesn't show up right away,'' Olson said. ''That first year was tough, but we've turned a corner and I've just found a lot of consistency in the last year. And, it's a lot of fun to go out there and play golf a little more stress free.''

Stockton helped her stay relaxed, walking along the ropes during her morning round.

''Maybe some people feel a little more pressure when their coach is there,'' she said. ''I'm like, 'Great. If he sees the mistake, he knows what can go wrong and we can go fix it.' So, I like having his eyes on me.''

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Club pro part of 6-way tie atop Sr. PGA

By Associated PressMay 25, 2018, 12:04 am

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. - Nevada club professional Stuart Smith shot a 5-under 66 on Thursday for a share of the first-round lead in the Senior PGA Championship.

Smith closed his morning round with a double bogey on the par-4 18th, and Scott McCarron, Tim Petrovic, Wes Short Jr., Barry Lane and Peter Lonard matched the 66 in the afternoon.

One of 41 club pros in the field at Harbor Shores for the senior major, Smith is the director of golf at Somersett Country Club in Reno.

Full-field scores from the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship

McCarron won the Senior Players Championship last year for his first senior major.

Defending champion Bernhard Langer is skipping the event to attend son Jason's high school graduation, and Steve Stricker is playing the PGA Tour event in Texas.