John Renslow: US Open reveals nation’s best golfer
The hats are woven with a vendor’s logo. Shirts have at least one vendor’s crest on the chest and perhaps a second or third on the sleeves. Signage is draped on the grandstands bearing the names of America’s largest companies and retailers have tents filled with millions of dollars in product for sale.
The game has become much more commercialized and there are pluses and minuses to this marketability. More and more people are being exposed to the players and the sport and yet sometimes it looks like a minor league baseball park.
Thankfully, it hasn’t changed the heart of the game. One stands or falls on their own merits. The professionals don’t get paid unless they play well. You can even play on the same golf courses they do (and probably see a lot more of it). In fact, many of the tournament sites are available to the public the other 51 weeks out of the year.
A significant number of golf’s 20 million players around the country (professional and amateur) are what we call “purists,” those who keep the game’s origins in the forefront. An organization that is a great resource for them and an ardent supporter of the game is the United States Golf Association (USGA).
Toward that end, each year since 1895 the USGA as hosted an event to find the nation’s best golfer, regardless of their background or career choice. It is known as the United States Open Championship.
For over a hundred years it has been truly that; open. Virtually any player, from anywhere, professional or amateur, rich or poor, could attempt to qualify and play in this open Championship.
Yet, as with everything in the year 2020, all has not gone as planned. Traditionally, Sunday of the U.S. Open has coincided with Father’s Day in June. Golfers from all over the world would travel to the site and walk the course and view the event.
Professionals and amateurs alike attempted to gain entry through local qualifying. Thousands of competitive players from all walks of life placing a ball on the tee with great hope.
Most active players with recognizable names are exempt from qualifying and the field was then filled with these open (primarily amateur) qualifiers. With some solid play and maybe a little luck, one could find himself rubbing elbows with the game’s best at this year’s Championship.
But in 2020, there has been no open qualifying. Due to precautions taken to protect players (travel, accommodations, location logistics, etc.) these preliminary rounds were suspended.
Granted, the odds were long, but there was still an opportunity for a diamond in the rough (well, likely fairway) to rub shoulders with top players. Who knows, maybe one could live a Cinderella story.
Knowing that the USGA is committed to amateur golf and their participation in our national championship, they chose to round out the field in a manner similar to the professional’s. Rather than open qualifying, they used the current amateur ranking list (WAGR) and performance in USGA events.
It is good for the game, and perhaps good for the soul, to know that the purpose and integrity of the event is held intact. As many things slowly return to normal, it will be great to watch the elite players in the world compete on a golf course designed to find out who is the best.
It is still a wonderful spectacle for television. The best in the world will still rise to the top. By Sunday, nearly all, if not all of the players in the final groups will be household names. The location, Winged Foot Golf Club in New York, has hosted the U.S. Open five times.
We know the date is certainly unusual, the dads won’t be getting any socks, ties, or Old Spice this weekend. This year’s open will likely finish earlier in the day with daylight be shorter in September.
And, one thing you might consider, perhaps our biggest challenge, may be toggling back and forth the with all of those Sunday football games.
John Renslow is general manager and director of golf at Alta Sierra Country Club. Please contact John with your questions or comments at email@example.com.
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