One of the caddies at the New York State Open Wednesday thought it is a great idea that the PGA Championship and Ryder Cup reportedly are coming to Bethpage Black. "It is a beast," said the caddie, Joey Sindelar, a seven-time winner on the PGA Tour and participant in the 2002 U.S. Open on the Black. It was meant as a high compliment for the course.
Sindelar has learned this week that, as hard as it is to play the Black (he missed the cut in '02), it is no picnic to loop either. He huffed, puffed and smiled through 18 holes on the bag for his son, Jamie, 23, a former Ohio State player who recently turned pro. The elder Sindelar was pleased that his "boss" shot 2-under- par 69 in the second of three rounds. He also was impressed with the layout that is almost certain to host two of golf's biggest events in the next decade.
Reflecting back 11 years, 55-year-old Joey Sindelar said, "The story I like to tell is that Craig Currier had this place in magnificent condition. Those greens were so hard and fast, if it hadn't started raining that Wednesday, we would still be finishing that tournament. That was the hardest golf course ever built."
This has not escaped the notice of Ted Bishop, the president of the PGA of America, who has said in several interviews with Newsday that bringing his association's major championship to the municipal course is one of his big priorities. The association also has spoken to state officials about holding the Ryder Cup on the Black, possibly in 2024.
People familiar with the workings of the park say that PGA of America officials have been at the Black recently. Although nothing has been announced, they are hoping something will be said at this year's PGA, the week after next at Oak Hill in Rochester.
Rob Labritz, director of golf at GlenArbor in Westchester who will play in this year's PGA and has won the State Open, said of the Black yesterday after his round: "It's one of the best tests of golf on the planet. The golf course is second to none."
Long Islander P.J. Cowan, a three-time State Open champion who has played an estimated 1,000 rounds on the Black, added, "We all know it's one of the hardest courses in the country."
Rain-softened greens Tuesday produced a couple of 5-under-par 66 rounds, but the Black played tougher yesterday and probably will be even harder Thursday. Defending champion Danny Balin, who shot 68 Wednesday, leads at 8 under
No matter who is ahead or who wins, the appeal of the Black is in recognizing it as the site of past and future majors.
"I can still hear people yelling at Sergio for re-gripping his club," said the elder Sindelar, a Champions Tour player from Horseheads, N.Y. "This is the greatest. It's a big property, it's near the greatest city ever. A Ryder Cup here would be bizarre, yes."
That also was meant as a compliment for the Black. "It's cool because there's not out of bounds, there's no water [well, on the eighth hole]. It's just black-and-blue, bloody-nose golf and it's the coolest thing ever," he said.
Sindelar got a charge out of seeing his son play the Black differently than he once did. He also liked recalling that the win that propelled his career was the 1983 State Open at Grossinger's resort. "Not to be too goopy, but it's the whole circle-of- life thing. It's very, very cool," he said. "Golf is a funny game because it has changed enormously, but it is still very much the same." Outings
The 33rd Annual Southold & Greenport Rotary Golf Classic, benefiting Eastern Long Island Hospital, Camp Paquatuck and other Rotary service projects, will be Sept. 4 at Island's End Golf & Country Club, East Marion. Call 631-298-8026.