June 30, 2009
A gap wedge stuck to one foot on the 18th hole secured Kevin Foley a spot in tomorrow's final 36 holes of play at the Ike Championship. Foley, the 2008 Ike champion, finished on the cut line with a 76 as his clutch wedge game helped him.
As clutch as Foley's shot was, 2008 MGA Jerry Courville Player of the Year Joe Saladino upstaged Foley by draining his approach shot on 18 for an eagle two. Saladino was in between clubs but decided on his 60 degree wedge and dunked the shot.
As the day's action comes to a close, a total of 47 players made the cut for the tournament's 36-hole second day, which is sure to contain even more excitement as the area's top amateur's compete for the coveted Ike trophy.
The excitement of the Ike has brought many Nassau members out to witness the golf, including the club's most celebrated and longest-standing member, Jim Tingley. I was able to chat with Mr. Tingley about his fantastic accomplishments on the golf course as well as his thoughts on this year's Ike. Now in his 52nd year as a member of Nassau, Tingley has to his credit an unfathomable twenty holes-in-one throughout his golf career. That number trumps Jack Nicklaus's 18 career aces. In fact, the two have been in correspondence regarding their friendly hole-in-one contest. The 90-year-old Tingley has five club championships to his name at Nassau and of the twenty aces, ten of those occurred at his home course, including five on the fifth hole, with his most recent occurring in 2007 at the age of 88.
Tingley was also singled out by President Clinton on his trip to Nassau last year when the President had received word of Tingley's aces and requested that Tingley accompany him in a photo on the first tee that Tingley now proudly has in his possession.
However, the hole-in-one race was not the first time that Nicklaus and Tingley crossed paths. They actually played a practice round together for the 1961 U.S. Amateur held at Pebble Beach. Nicklaus went on to win the championship.
In regards to the Ike, Tingley was impressed with the morning rounds of 68, 69 and 70. "It's a tough par-70, and any scores under par are something to be proud of," stated Tingley, who has served on the MGA Executive Committee. Between the great golf and legendary spectators, the 2009 Ike is off to a great start.
Now that the morning players have finished up, the low round of the day so far is Hal Berman's 68. Also coming in low were Ken Bakst of Friar's Head with a 69, tying Al Falussy, and Michael Ballo Jr. of Woodway came in with a 70. Many of the players that have gone low have championship ties to Nassau. Berman and Falussy have each won the Nassau Invitational (2008 & 1996, respectively) while Bakst won the 1996 Met Amateur at the historic course.
The wind has picked up for the afternoon competitors and will challenge the likes of 2008 Ike champion Kevin Foley, 2008 MGA Jerry Courville Sr. Player of the Year Joe Saladino and 2008 MGA Mid-Amateur champion Greg Rohlf.
The 54th Ike Championship is well underway at Nassau Country Club in Glen Cove, N.Y. The sun is shining and the putts are dropping as the morning wave of competitors finish their rounds. The low round so far is a 69 posted by Al Falussy of Bethpage. On his one-under par performance, Falussy said that although he had "bookend bogeys on one and eighteen, I was able to include three birdies in between." No stranger to Nassau, having won the 1996 Nassau Invitational, Falussy is playing confident and after a swing change a few weeks ago, "I can now feel my swing coming together." Falussy also raved about the condition of the course, including the "spectacular greens, the best I've seen," and that by keeping the ball below the hole, he was able to capitalize on those birdie putts. With the tees moved up a bit on the par threes Falussy expects that tomorrow's golf will play two to three strokes tougher.
Another player stroking the ball well is Connor Monaghan of North Fork. Monaghan fired a 32 on the front nine but cooled off a bit on the back, coming in at 73. Peter Herzog of the Sterling Farms Mens Club shot a two-over 72.
Stay tuned as players such as Hal Berman of Middle Bay and Mike Ballo Jr. of Woodway finish up their morning rounds shortly.
June 22, 2009
Much has been made during U.S. Open week about the difficult stretch of holes 5 through 12. But the statistics show what any regular player at Bethpage could tell you: the 15th is the Black Course's biggest backbreaker. Just a few minutes ago, this 459-yard, uphill beast derailed Tiger's rally after his back-to-back birdies on 13 and 14, as Woods made a bad bogey after hitting a solid drive and having only 175 to the green. While we mere mortals would have a hard time hitting an uphill shot of that length on the green, you don't expect to see Tiger blow a 5-iron over the green into the thick bluegrass rough, as he did. It just goes to show that when the players cross Round Swamp Road, they are faced with the toughest test on the Black.
June 21, 2009
I got the chance to catch up with Sean Farren after what would be his final round of the 2009 U.S. Open on Saturday. Farren, who posted a 80-75-155 missed the cut but remained positive as he discussed the awesome experience. "It was great, just great" replied Farren regarding his first U.S. Open as a competitor. "It was long and I left a few shots out there, but it is very scorable for those guys." When asked about the course conditions and how much it affected his play, Farren admitted that it was a bit soggy out there, but he feels that it was the length of the course that was the toughest challenge. "I don't hit the ball far enough like these other guys, holes like 5, 10 and 12 I had to play as par fives - it definitely is a bomber's paradise out there. On more than a few holes Farren was forced to hit hybrids into greens where others were coming in with 7 and 8 irons.
But it has been a fairy tale week for the head pro from the Creek Club, and Farren commented on how great a lifestyle these professional golfers lead as he was able to live it for a week. "Being able to play the best golf courses in the world and get paid for it, it's like Christmas every day - the food, the transportation and just how they are treated in general.
Farren was also impressed with how nice the other golfers were, especially after having a friendly chat with Jim Furyk, who asked about the Creek and the history behind the fantastic course. Farren also believes he was a little bit of luck for some of the guys who have been on their A game this week, having played with Lucas Glover, Todd Hamilton and Matt Bettencourt all at some point during the week.
Farren stated that in regards to playing in a U.S. Open, "anyone who loves golf should be able to experience this once in their lifetime. If I had the chance to do this again, I would give it up for someone else to have the chance."
When asked if he was going to stick around to see the outcome of the Open, Farren said that he has to go back to work on Sunday now that he doesn't have the Open as an excuse. Regardless, Sean Farren can always look back on the fact that not only did he qualify, he was able to play golf on Saturday at the U.S. Open in front of friends, family and strangers who embraced him as their hometown guy.
June 20, 2009
Most players in the U.S. Open are playing for prize money -- plenty of it, in fact. But the amateurs in this year's field are having a good time, too. Three amateurs made the cut, and one of them, 21-year-old Nick Taylor of British Columbia, is legitimately in contention at 2-under-par 138. Drew Weaver, the 22-year-old who won the British Amateur in 2007 and is a graduate of Virginia Tech, is particularly animated with the crowds, who are eating it up. The third amateur to make the cut is 21-year-old Kyle Stanley of Clemson.
The USGA has a strong relationship with the state and regional golf associations, and the affiliation with the MGA is particularly strong. A few MGA staffers have had large roles inside the ropes at the U.S. Open. Here's a summary:
--On Thursday, longtime MGA Tournament Director Gene Westmoreland was the walking Rules official with the Tiger Woods/Angel Cabrera/Padraig Harrington group.
--On Friday, MGA Executive Director Jay Mottola was an observer walking with the Phil Mickelson/Ernie Els/Retief Goosen group.
--On Saturday, Mottola observed for the Woods/Cabrera/Harrington group.
--All three championship days thus far, MGA Assistant Tournament Director Brian Farrelly has assisted the NBC television crew with equipment out on the course. On Saturday, Farrelly was assigned to the Woods/Cabrera/Harrington group in the morning, and then went back out at the end of the day for the Woods/Romero third-round pairing.
These three members of the MGA staff played key roles in the U.S. Open, demonstrating that these championships could not run without the help of volunteers. Farrelly described his experience helping NBC as "unbelievable, far over my expectations," and said that he helped with everything from driving a cart that had camera equipment on it to holding cables.
June 19, 2009
I arrived to Bethpage this afternoon and as the sun poured down, there was one thing that kept drawing my attention - feet. The heavy rains that doused Bethpage yesterday made for quite the mudfest today and the New York fans were up to the challenge...well...most were. Some of the more creative and smart solutions to the muddy mess I encountered were a few gentlemen who had tied plastic bags around their feet and up their lower legs. Another man wore plastic bags around his socks inside his shoes. Others wore mid-calf rubber galoshes while another wore crocs.
Some of the footwear blunders of the day included a frequency of sandals, including ones that someone had given up on and abandoned in the sticky swamp that was the gallery walkways. And with the mud kicking up the back of legs, the sundresses that were being sported today turned out to be a big mistake.
With the expected precipitation tomorrow, it again looks like proper footwear will be a must as today's sun managed to not dry out the mud, but turn it into a pine tar-esque paste. Alas, it will take more than a little rain and mud to quiet the rambunctious fans as cheers, boos, laughs and gaffs continue to echo through the grounds of the Black.
You'd be forgiven if you turned on the TV coverage of the U.S. Open and been confused as to what was producing the bright light that is actually creating shadows on the wet ground. That's right, the sun has come out at Bethpage Black! Even for those of us who put our sunglasses away for the week, this is a very happy occurence.
Unfortunately, this bright cloud has a dark lining. Rain is in the forecast again tomorrow, and unless we get lucky, it's going to be nearly impossible to finish 72 holes by Sunday evening. It's looking like the first non-playoff Monday finish since 1983 at Oakmont.
If that happens, USGA Executive Director David Fay announced this morning that fans who were disappointed following yesterday's postponement of play will be able to use their Thursday tickets on Monday. To the USGA's credit, they responded to widespread criticism by fans and the media regarding, as Fay put it, the "vague yet rigid" ticket policy.
June 18, 2009
Sportswriters, not to mention professional golfers, can be a demanding lot. Toss in a waterlogged U.S. Open that looks like it might not finish until Monday (or Tuesday), and the crankiness factor goes way up. That's why it was so impressive to watch USGA Senior Director of Rules & Competition Mike Davis in action at a packed press conference on Thursday afternoon, at which he discussed in detail the way the weather is impacting this 109th U.S. Open Championship.
Davis is a straight shooter, and the media respect him greatly for that. So too the players, most of whom agreed with the decision to start play today despite the morning drizzle: Tiger Woods said, "We had to get in as many holes as we possibly could, and we played more holes than we thought." Sure, a few players, especially the ones who struggled in the wet conditions, bemoaned the fact that they had to go out there at all, but they have to realize that the forecast is iffy at best for the next several days, and as Davis pointed out, "The USGA will not determine a national champion until we play 72 holes." And there is absolutely zero chance they will employ the lift, clean and place policy sometimes used on the PGA Tour.
Some other snippets from Davis in the press conference:
--"If the forecast we've got right now for Saturday and so on were absolutely accurate...yes, finishing on Sunday would be borderline impossible."
--"This course, if you come out here most of the time, plays beautifully firm. So it's very frustrating that we're not really getting to see the true Bethpage, where you're bouncing balls in."
--"If it takes us into Monday or Tuesday, whatever, we had a Women's Open several years ago back in the 1980s finish up on Tuesday, and unfortunately we had a playoff that went into Wednesday. Not trying to be pessimistic, but we will play 72 holes."
--"If there is one silver lining in this, a glimmer of hope, it's that the course drains beautifully."
The more than 400 members of the media typing away in the media center appreciate Davis's candor, and know that he's as frustrated as anyone by the start to this U.S. Open. Let's all hope the forecast improves and a new U.S. Open champion will be crowned by Sunday or, at worst, Monday.
As the noon hour approaches here at Bethpage, play has been suspended for more than 90 minutes and there has been no let-up in the nasty weather. Sheets of rain and occasional gusty wind is combining to make it miserable for the spectators, many of whom are taking cover in the merchandise tent. So between memorabilia and beer sales, it could turn out to be a profitable rain delay for the USGA!
Still, they'd obviously much rather be playing golf. I arrived here at 8:15 this morning and caught up to Tiger, Angel Cabrera and Padraig Harrington on the fifth hole -- where both Tiger and Harrington made double bogey. Tiger then curled in a nice birdie putt on the sixth green, and the crowd roared its approval. It was at that moment that the rain started picking up, and by the time the group reached the seventh green, the horn had blown. Tiger and Cabrera elected to play their bunker shots onto the seventh green and mark their balls there.
Walking back to the media center was a slog. Mud is everywhere out here -- if you're going to come out any of the remaining days, waterproof shoes are a plus. Right now, the greens have rivers of water running through them and the fairways are puddling up. If it stops raining, the maintenance staff will need at least an hour and a half to get the course playable again. Stay tuned.
June 17, 2009
By Billy Condon
J.J. and I…Round Two – After what I thought was an exciting morning, this afternoon was a real treat. After lunch I headed to the practice greens and got the chance to catch up one-on-one with J.J. Henry. Again in good spirits, J.J. said that although the course is playing long, it is playing fair. “Everything is right there in front of you to go and get it,” said Henry. Henry reiterated how special it is playing a U.S. Open here in the Met Area so close to where he grew up and knowing he will have the hometown crowd supporting him. With the looming threat of rain tomorrow, he said that today’s conditions were ideal, but if the weather gets bad “it means you have to hang in there so much more, it’s the same course for everybody, so those that can stick it out will have success.”
Player Impressions – Between Phil Mickelson’s press conference this morning, word of mouth around the course and my interaction with other players, the one thing on everyone’s mind is length and strategy, particularly with where the tees will be located. With the predicted forecast, players are finding that a common word this week will be “hybrid” and they are hoping that the USGA will keep this in mind when setting the tees for tomorrow’s opening round.
I was able to catch up with Sean Farren as he was getting ready to call it a day and he said how he is hitting an iron on his second shots about every six holes and that his hybrids are getting a ton of use. However, he feels confident that with solid play he can hold his own and he is enjoying every minute of the experience.
Chat with Paul – I was fortunate enough to have a lengthy conversation with the number-three ranked player in the world, Paul Casey. Many different topics were covered including the course layout, his thoughts on golf in New York, and Twitter. Having not played at Bethpage in the 2002 Open, Casey played a practice round last week and is getting a great feel for the course and is confident with his ball-striking. He also said how he hasn’t really played much golf here in the Met Area apart from Baltusrol and Winged Foot and doesn’t really know many of the other courses the area boasts. Casey did say that although the Black plays long, it is also a friendly course for those shorter hitters that are deadly accurate. Ball placement will be a big factor this week and players won’t necessarily need 300 yard drives to gain an advantage.
Casey talked about how Twitter has become the new rage on the Tour although he was still trying to figure how to use it. While on the topic of Twitter, the Tour’s Twitter King, Stewart Cink, came over and joined the conversation (photo evidence above). It was awesome to be involved in a conversation with some of the game’s best. A great end to a terrific day out at the Black!
I managed to catch up with J.J. Henry for some of his morning practice round today and he appeared very cool and collected. Cracking smiles and stopping to sign autographs and pose for pictures, he has been one of the most accomodating pros out here to fans of all ages. When a cameraman laid on the ground right behind him for his tee shot for the par three third hole, Henry gave a glance and said "That's a great spot to take the picture." He then knocked a long iron down the pipe. When asked if he would play with a Met Area club member in his member-guest next week, Henry asked which club it was being held at and that he would be there (followed up by a quick wink). Of all the personalities out at Bethpage this week, Henry may not be as in-demand as Tiger, Phil and Rocco, but the pro golf faithful recognize that he is a local guy who can make some moves out here.
I was able to catch up with a local golf fan, Nick D. of Huntington, N.Y. Nick and his buddies had been camped out on the 17th green the since 7 a.m. and were particularly excited to see Mickelson. I got a chance to talk to Nick while we watched Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Billy Mayfair, and Phil Mickelson play the tough par three. The one downfall of this prime spot for the Long Island boys is that there is no "dibs" on grandstand seats, making them forfeit a frosty beverage in order to catch a glimpse of Mickelson.
Nick plans to attend the Open on Sunday with the intention of following Tiger as much as he can and then heading back to his spot on 17. Besides Tiger, Nick thinks that gonna Mickelson has a great chance to win as well as Rocco Mediate. His dark horse pick is Sergio Garcia. Only time will tell as the 2009 U.S. Open kicks off tomorrow.
Walking back to the Media Center I bumped into last year's U.S. Open runner-up Rocco Mediate and shook his hand and wished him luck for this week. He is sure to be another fan favorite out here.
Ok, down to business - At least for today, the weather has not been an issue out here at the Black. Sunny skies and vocal crowds have been around all day and it keeps getting more crowded. The most attention of the players playing this morning was on Phil Mickelson. Lefty has had a mass of people following him and each tee and green that he approaches people shout their support. Playing alongside Jim Furyk today, Mickelson has been chatting it up with the 2003 U.S. Open champion, and Furyk has also been speaking a fair amount with Mickelson's caddie, Jim Mackay.
Also, quite a few spectators are sporting periscopes that they bought at the 2002 U.S. Open and happen to be designed by Mickelson's father and his company, the Mickelson Group.
A few notes from walking around during this mornings practice rounds:
-They were using a large fan on the 17th green, all the rain has resulted in soft greens with the players attacking the hole locations.
-Players MUST keep the ball in or near the fairway. Jeff Brehaut got caught in the long hay on 13 and his attempt to hack it out resulted in the ball advancing two feet.
-Especially today, players are not hesitant to drop a second, third and even fourth ball and test different clubs on par threes, chipping from different lies around the green, and are investigating strategies they will take for the tricky hole locations lined up for the next four days.
-While everyone is supporting Phil full-force, the buzz around the grandstands and concession stands are on Tiger, how he will perform, and if anyone has seen him.
I just got out of Phil Mickelson's press conference where the bulk of questions were geared towards his wife, Amy, and her recent diagnosis of breast cancer. Mickelson said how much he and Amy appreciate all of the support they have received, including the "Pink Out" held a few weeks back. He also spoke of how appreciative they are of all the articles the media has written in not only support of Amy, but of the individual stories they all share. This week, Amy has been leaving her husband notes, cards, and texts cheering him on and hopes that he can "bring home a nice silver trophy for her hospital room" when her treatment begins July 1.
Mickelson also spoke of how excited he is to be back in New York and how Bethpage (Black) is one of his favorite golf courses. He went on to say how he has brushed up on all current news regarding the Giants, Jets, Yankees and Mets so that he is prepared to talk sports with the New York fans.
You can be sure that all of the fans this week - and when Mickelson steps up to his first tee shot tomorrow will be cheering him on 100%.
June 16, 2009
Phil Mickelson's caddie, Jim "Bones" Mackay, arrived at Bethpage today to scout the golf course for his boss. He walked onto the driving range as Tiger was hitting balls and fans recognized him right away. He had to disappoint them, unfortunately. "Sorry guys," Mackay said. "He's not here today." He does have an 8:00 a.m. press conference scheduled in the media center on Wednesday, however, so fans with Wednesday practice round tickets should get to see their man Phil tee off around mid-morning.
June 12, 2009
By Billy Condon
Yesterday I got my first real taste of competitive golf, playing in the MGA/MetLife Public Links Qualifier at Mohansic Golf Course in
The last “serious” stroke play event I played in was when I was around 13 at the local nine-hole course, where I came away the winner, but where the One-Ball Rule and Doubt as to Procedure were not in anyone’s vocabulary.
As a 2008 P.J. Boatwright intern, I worked on the other side of MGA tournaments setting up courses and giving rulings. Being on the other side of the ball was intimidating. After warming up on the range, I arrived at the first tee with my caddie. A deep breath and a swing later I had missed the fairway left, but I was relieved I didn’t whiff. Salvaging a bogey, I was just glad that the first hole was over. The next six holes were a struggle as I only made one par but I started hitting my stride after parring the eighth and ninth holes. At this point, my caddie and good friend Jason stepped in and made sure that I was loose and not worrying about numbers. His tactic worked as I started hitting fairways and greens, including a near hole-out for eagle on the 15th that came to rest a foot from the hole.
After a 43 on the front nine, my game came together on the back nine as I came in with a 37 and finished with an 80 on the day. It wasn’t good enough to qualify but respectable enough to get the thumbs-up from friends and coworkers, even those who lost the office pool by picking the “over.”
June 8, 2009
The combination of perfect weather and receptive greens at both Old Oaks and Century is setting the stage for an afternoon shootout at U.S. Open sectional qualifying. Three players shot 68 in the morning round, including Sean Farren, the head pro at Creek Club on Long Island, and Michael Tulacz, from the Hudson Valley town of Connelly, N.Y.
Other Met Area players in good position to earn one of the four available spots in the 109th U.S. Open Championship include Saint Andrew's head pro Greg Bisconti (69), former MGA/MetLife Public Links champion Paul Dickinson of Montauk, N.Y. (69), and two former Met Open champions, John Stoltz and Andrew Svoboda, who both shot 70.
Stay tuned to www.mgagolf.org for updated scoring all afternoon and video interviews with the qualifiers at the end of the day.
We're underway at Century Country Club and Old Oaks Country Club, as 77 professionals and amateurs compete for 4 spots in the 109th U.S. Open Championship at Bethpage. Scoring conditions are ideal, as there is no wind adn the greens were softened a bit by overnight rain showers. It should give the players an opportunity to display their talents as they compete for a coveted spot in the national championship.
The field includes Mathias Gronberg, who won this weekend's Nationwide Tour event in Maryland in a 36-hole final day. Gronberg will be playing his second consecutive 36-hole day, but this time the prize will be a spot in the toughest tournament in golf.
We did have one withdrawl: Frenchman Jean Van de Velde, who was replaced in the field by Kirk Oguri of Huntington, N.Y.
June 3, 2009
By Billy Condon
The hottest ticket in town this summer is not to see the American Idols concert tour or even the Jonas Brothers, but rather one of the remaining qualifying spots to play in the 2009 U.S. Open…and StubHub won’t be able to help. The only chance to punch a ticket to the Black is to earn a spot at one of 13 sectional qualifiers being held nationwide on June 8. Vying for these spots are a cast of characters that ranges from teenagers, college All-Americans, club professionals, pros with multiple Tour victories, and guys who work 9-5 jobs but pack a summer schedule of golf. The exciting thing is that all of these people have an equal chance to qualify…whether your name is Brad Faxon, an eight-time PGA Tour winner or Mike Stamberger, a finance broker in New York City.
Here is a quick breakdown on some of the Met Area amateurs looking to qualify:
• Morgan Hoffmann – Too many accolades to list after a tremendous freshman debut at Oklahoma State (see post below). Qualifying in Columbus, Ohio.
• Michael Quagliano – Qualified for Torrey Pines last year from the Memphis, Tenn. qualifier. Looks to again qualify in the Volunteer State – why mess with a good thing?
• Cameron Wilson – At 16 is the second-youngest competitor to make it to Sectionals and who just finished his junior year of high school. A strong lefty that backs down to no one and thrives in competition.
• Max Buckley – Recently finished his freshman year at SMU. A past Carter Cup champion that did a post-grad year at the Hank Haney International Golf Academy.
• Mike Stamberger – A past Met Amateur champion that advanced to the quarters of the 2008 U.S. Mid-Am.
June 1, 2009
By Billy Condon
Morgan Hoffmann, Oklahoma State’s freshman phenom who now holds the top-ranked spot in the R&A World Amateur Golf Rankings, was recently awarded the Phil Mickelson Award, as the most outstanding freshman in Division I men's golf. Hoffmann, who finished as the medalist in three events, including the Big 12 championship, was also named first-team All-American, All-Big 12 and Big 12 Player and Newcomer of the Year. He was also named to the U.S. Palmer Cup team and a semifinalist for the Hogan Award as the top player in college golf. It is an understatement to say that Hoffmann’s freshman campaign as a Cowboy was impressive as he now sets his sights on qualifying for the U.S. Open in
Photo Credit: Oklahoma State Athletics