PGA considering Bethpage Black
KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C.
Roots mean plenty at the PGA Championship, which began in 1916 and, like just about everything else in American golf, almost immediately came to Long Island. After a two-year break for World War I, the second-ever PGA was held at Engineers in Roslyn and the fourth was held at Inwood in Far Rockaway.
So in that sense, the PGA might be in store for a homecoming. The major championship, which begins its 94th installment this morning, could be heading to Bethpage. Officials of the PGA of America and New York State began talks two years ago about holding this tournament, as well as the Ryder Cup, on the Black Course.
"It's safe to say that those discussions are ongoing and it is clearly on the radar for the future," said Ted Bishop, vice president of the PGA of America, who will take over as president later this year.
"Our last identified championship site is 2018 at Bellerive [in St. Louis] and everything after that is open. So as far as I'm concerned, it's a very viable and interesting site," Bishop said. The Black Course has hosted two U.S. Opens, which were held in June, and is preparing to hold the Barclays, a PGA Tour FedEx Cup playoff event, the week after next. The course has maintained its good shape this summer.
"That's an important thing for our championship," he said.
A visit by the fourth of the season's four majors would offer a chance to add to some fancy history, which already features the first and fourth of Walter Hagen's five PGA titles in a seven-year span. In those days, under a match-play format, Hagen beat James Barnes 3 and 2 at Inwood in 1921 and thrashed Leo Diegel, 5 and 3, in 1926 at Salisbury Golf Links (now Eisenhower Red).
Golf legend Gene Sarazen was the host pro for the 1930 PGA at the original Fresh Meadow Country Club in Flushing. Reports at the time said he looked stunned that Tommy Armour made a 12-foot putt on the final hole, then he missed his own 10-footer to keep the match going.
The background is not lost on Matt Dobyns, head pro at the current Fresh Meadow in Lake Success, one of three Long Island pros in the field Thursday. "I love the history of the game and I really appreciate how hard people work to get good at this game," he said after practicing with Deepdale's director of golf Darrell Kestner and Tam O'Shanter head pro Mark Brown.
"You look at the history of a place like Fresh Meadow and it just makes me all that much more appreciative to be there," Dobyns said. He and his fellow local pros are grateful to be in a championship that hasn't been east of the East River since the 1939 PGA at the now defunct Pomonok Country Club in Flushing. Chances are, within the next 10 years, it will be back.
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