The US Open at Bethpage Black, back in 2002, was lost on me while it was happening. It was not until after that I realized how special it was to host an Open at a muni (municipal course).
I mean, I’m a public course guy, so I am not sure why I didn’t embrace it during the build-up. I can venture a few guesses. First of all, the Masters is my number one sporting event on the face of the earth, so everything kind of pales in comparison. I love to watch dudes rack up birdies on the back nine on Sunday…that does not happen at a US Open. That course set-up that the USGA seems married to is just plain old stupid.
Second, I view the USGA as a bunch of east-coast, country club types who think golf stops at about central Pennsylvania and does not start up again until the Pacific coast.
And finally, I can’t sit and watch golf on a weekend in the middle of June. Summer weekends are treated like gold here in the Chicago area and I won’t be inside for one.
Now, I can’t really defend any of these reasons. They probably show how childish and irrational I can be when it comes to certain things that I am passionate about. In fact, I’m just dead wrong on a few counts and this book really opened my eyes to a lot of things about the USGA and the Open that have changed my view of this fine championship.
Feinstein walks you through the whole process of how the Open at Bethpage Black came to be. He starts with David Fay’s (executive director of the USGA at the time) dream of an Open at the Black and ends with Fay exiting the clubhouse, rather discreetly, after Tiger’s victory. In between, he fills the book with tons of insight on golf, sports broadcasting, New York state, and the people and places that make up each.
All of the major players in this story get a decent sized bio. You will learn plenty about where everyone grew up, how they developed a love for the game, and what kind of person Feinstein thinks they are. It certainly changed my view of the makeup of the USGA, in a positive way. There is also a very interesting section about how NBC got the TV contract for the Open. It made me a bigger Johnny Miller fan than I already am. The book also takes you through the highlights of all of the Open qualifiers, which includes a lot of touching stories and some great golf history.
The meat of the book is Feinstein going into great detail on the course reconstruction, the course setup, and the preparation and playing of the Open. I’m a golf junkie, but I learned a lot from this book and had a good time reading it. It’s a lot of fun to read non-fiction about a subject that you are familiar with. I didn’t feel like I had to be as alert and engrossed. I just sat back during a relaxing vacation and consumed it over the course of a week, stopping in the middle of chapters more than ever. I may grab some more Feinstein non-fiction for my next vacation.