Legend has it that one of the first members of the National Golf Links of America said that a windmill would look nice on the property. So Charles Blair Macdonald, the club's founder and arguably the father of American golf, obliged him. Macdonald spotted a windmill in Europe, bought it and had it transported to Southampton and rebuilt on the links.
Then he sent the bill to the member.
Thus began a tradition of having members pay for the improvements that they suggest. (It's still going: Peter Quick, a patriotic member at Sebonack Golf Club, the National Golf Links' neighbor, recently was given the bill for a flagpole that he had proposed.)
A more tangible tradition also came from the early years of "the National" (it opened in 1911, well before Augusta National) and it also still is thriving. The Walker Cup, a biennial match between amateur teams from the U.S. and Great Britain-Ireland, was born at National Golf Links in 1922. For the first time since then, it is returning to the National next year.
"We love it. This has got to be one of our quintessential Walker Cup spots," Tom O'Toole, chairman of the U.S. Golf Association's championship committee, said last week at the U.S. Open. "That is going to be such a wonderful venue, historically, because of 1922, but also because it's a great match-play golf course."
For now, most people will have to take his word on that, and on everything else about the National, considered one of the most exclusive clubs in the country. The beauty of having the Walker Cup there -- Sept. 7-8, 2013 -- will be that Long Islanders finally will get to see the course, including the signature Peconic hole (No. 17) and the landmark windmill on No. 2.
"We've spent a lot of time out there, talking to them about the setup. The club has been great," O'Toole said. "We have absolutely a great relationship."
The Walker Cup actually was a subplot to the Open last week what with John Peterson finishing tied for fourth after having made a hole-in-one Saturday. He was best known for having been left off the 2011 Walker Cup team, and was gracious in not criticizing the USGA for it.
Open champion Webb Simpson played on the winning 2007 U.S. team. Jordan Spieth, the low amateur on Sunday, was on the 2011 squad. Earlier in the week, defending Open champion Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland said, "I played amateur golf for two years just to make the Walker Cup team . . . I think, looking back on my career, if I hadn't played in the Walker Cup, I probably would have regretted it."
Americans who have played in the Walker Cup include Jack Nicklaus, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods. The U.S. has a 34-8-1 advantage, starting with an 8-4 win in 1922. Bobby Jones, Francis Ouimet and Chick Evans were on that team and received the trophy donated by USGA president and National Golf Links member George Herbert Walker (grandfather of U.S. President George Herbert Walker Bush).
"We couldn't be more excited to have a chance to renew that opportunity, to revisit the history of Charles Blair Macdonald," O'Toole said. "It's just a special place."