GET INTO GOLF: Taking a closer look at the PGA Championship
Over the last few weeks we have covered a shift in the annual calendar for the PGA major tournaments, as well as opportunities for golf’s lesser known players to enter Tour events.
Now, we get to see both in action. This week is the PGA Championship.
Granted, these unknowns are not playing golf for a living. They may have played on a tour or tours and definitely try to keep their game in shape. Yet, they are now also selling merchandise out of their pro shop, giving golf lessons, and running tournaments for their club members.
They are club professionals from around the country. For many club professionals, the older they get, the better they used to be. However, a small percentage are in a club environment which encourages them to practice, play, and compete. Twenty of the nation’s best will be teeing it up with the world’s top players in the year’s second major.
As mentioned, the PGA Championship has been moved up on the schedule. Historically, the tournament was played in August.
More than a century ago (1916) a group of golf professionals gathered to develop what is now known as the Professional Golfer’s Association. From that meeting also came the concept of a national championship, a chance for the country’s golf pros to compete and determine who was best.
A department store magnate, Rodman Wannamaker, hosted the meeting, provided the trophy and purse ($2,500) for the event.
Fast forward and today, these club professionals and the household names alike still have the Wannamaker trophy as their goal.
Another aspect that makes this event unique is the venue. Bethpage Statepark in Farmingdale, New York, has five golf courses. They are open to the public and colors identify them. Red, Yellow, Blue, Green, and the most challenging, Black.
Simplified as Bethpage Black, it is affectionately known as the “People’s Country Club.” It is very cool that a course of this quality is available to the public, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it is a pedestrian walk.
For the Tour players, Bethpage Black is a par-70 with a length of 7,436 yards. Three of the par-3’s are over 200 yards and a couple of the par-4’s are close to 500 yards.
With few exceptions, a major championship course will be hosted by a private club. Members may play the course, but the general public may not. Even though Pebble Beach Golf Links (where the US Open will be held next month) is available to the public, the $500 greens fee creates its own exclusivity.
Bethpage Black, however, is around $80 for New York residents and $130 for non-residents.
That is great to see. And, one of the reasons golf is such a great game. We will never play basketball in Madison Square Garden or play tennis at Wimbledon, but we can tee it up at many of the world’s best golf courses. A couple of tracks that fall in this category are much closer to home. Plan a trip to San Franciso and play Harding Park Golf Course. Or, enjoy some time in Napa with a round at Silverado. Both host PGA Tour events.
So, as the boys chase the Wannamaker trophy this weekend, plan your next adventure to one northern California’s great tracks.
John Renslow is a PGA Professional, VP of Yugi Golf Management, and provides golf instruction at local courses.
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