Saturday, June 20, 2009

"I SEE A BETHPAGE AND I WANT IT PAINTED BLACK"



PURE PERFECTION GETS TRASHED BY MOTHER NATURE


"I see a golf course and I want it painted black,

no birdies anymore, not here at Bethpage Black..."

Course Superintendent's Theme Song

---with apologies to the "Rolling Stones"


Let me start off this column by telling you that I am, on a good day, a very lousy typist. This despite the fact that I obtained a degree in journalism and had a newspaper business and sports magazine in the early '80s.

On top of simply telling you that I'm a lousy typist, let me give you this added contributing factor into my lousy typism (newly created word). Not more than 48 hours ago I had surgery on BOTH of my ring fingers for a major nuisance called "trigger finger" where your fingers decide to bend and stay bent whenever they feel like it. Not wanting to go through two separate anesthesias, I bit the bullet and decided to have both surgeries done at the same time. When I get over this I'll think it was a good idea. Today? Ahh, no.


ABOVE: This is an example of trigger finger easily found on "GOOGLE". I don't know what's worse, having this or going through the surgery to correct it.

Yesterday was a day of unimaginable misery, but today I'm beginning to start on the road to recovery and thank God for that! But being a faithful blogger, I had planned to do a story on the fabulous U.S. Open at the reknowned "Bethpage Black" golf course on Long Island, New York. For months I've been reading stories about how the U.S.G.A. spends a couple years getting each of these Open venues "Tiger-proofed." The line of thinking is that the U.S.G.A. wants to make these courses so tough that par is considered a great score. Each year, golfers come to America from all over the world to compete on a course that has been honed to sheer perfection and that is considered the most severe challenge for golf professionals anywhere.

Enter Mother Nature.

It's amazing how a few million gallons of water can de-fang a golf course when guys this good are playing. Of course for bad amateur players such as myself, I always hated playing on a wet course. I needed every inch of roll that I could get and the old "hit and plug" routine did nothing to help my game. On top of the hitting and plugging came the inevitable ten pound divots that I would routinely carve out of fairways. Yes, I was a greens keeper's nightmare.

But with these pros, the exact opposite seems to happen. They don't need roll to get anywhere and the softened greens allows them to "shoot fish in a barrel" as they aggressively go after the flag sticks with complete impunity. The result is that suddenly the leader board starts dropping well below par and lo and behold the pros are back to looking superhuman again... to the point where Ricky Barnes, hardly a household name, shot a 67 in the first round and a 65 in the second, the lowest first two rounds in the history of the U.S. Open! I can just imagine the weeping and gnashing of teeth that is going on in the course superintendent's office over that. They sharpen a golf course to incredible dimensions only to see rain, of all things, stick a fork in their efforts.


For around $30 you can get a set of these. That is if you dare step foot on the hallowed ground of Bethpage Black with a golf club in hand.

Johnny Miller himself said that he had never seen greens that were softer than the greens at Bethpage Black and he's been coming to U.S. Opens since the early '60s!

Over the last couple days stories have been circulating about how the U.S.G.A. had brought in superintendents from all over to assist with getting the course back in shape all night long after Thursday's deluge. On Friday morning, Bethpage Black was able to host the world's greatest players when virtually any other course in the country would have been closed due to the excessive amount of rain...already five inches worth in June...that it had received. It was a miracle that the U.S.G.A. managed and one which they more than likely will have to keep repeating. Looking at a doppler weather report for Long Island, there is a massive weather front the size of the state of Ohio heading their way. In between dodging additional downpours, the final two rounds are going to be a test of character and endurance...not just for the golfers, but more importantly for the grounds crew.

ABOVE: The famous sign that they use to scare off the amateurs at Bethpage Black. Good golfers can tend to be elitist snobs. Greens keepers don't like us either.

So I'll just sit back and recuperate my ring fingers and enjoy my Father's Day too. My fingers have been telling me for at least a half hour that I've already overdone it. Let me finish by saying that, the moral of the story is when you constantly take, not beaver pelts but entire beaver bodies on the golf course, it's going to take its' toll on you someday. I'm walking proof of that. Enjoy the remainder of the Open, it just started raining again.



ABOVE: This is the badge that poor Tiger Woods has been forced to wear by the U.S.G.A.