Underneath the surface of our bitter, frozen winter, there was a big, glowing thaw in the future of Long Island golf. It looks now like the Island is about to regain its traction as a golf crossroads.
That didn’t look to be the case last golf season, when there seemed no way to shake the images of the soggy 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage, the parched 2004 Open at Shinnecock Hills or the departed Commerce Bank Champions Tour event, which quietly faded away two years ago.
But now, it appears likely that Shinnecock Hills, Bethpage and the Champions Tour all are back in a big way, among other developments. Among people in the golf industry, it is conceivable — even likely — that in the next seven years, all three major pro tours will be on or near the Island; two major championships will be held here as will one of the world’s most prominent amateur events.
“There would be a good reason. I say it’s because of the fans,” John Daly said yesterday during a conference call to promote his appearance Saturday at the Long Island Golf Show. “The greatest fans in golf are in the Northeast. They’re loyal, they know who they want to go see. I call them like NASCAR fans.” From Daly, that’s high praise.
Daly has good memories of Shinnecock from 1986. “That was my first pro tournament ever, I was a sophomore in college and I qualified,” he said. “I just fell in love with it. The first day, it was windy and I shot 89, then I came back and shot 76 and I was the happiest guy in the world.
“To me,” he said, “it’s still a great golf course.”
It looks that way to the U.S. Golf Association, too. Officials have made no announcement, but Shinnecock is believed to be among the leading contenders for the Open in 2018, the next available date. The USGA’s new executive director Mike Davis had predicted in 2009 that the Open will be back at the Southampton club. USGA president Jim Hyler said at last year’s Open, “We want to go back to Shinnecock, absolutely.” USGA officials visited Shinnecock when they were at Atlantic Golf Club in Bridgehampton for the U.S. Mid-Amateur last fall.
A decision on 2018 is expected in June. Word also should arrive this season about the PGA Tour bringing The Barclays, one of its playoff events, to the Black Course for next year. There have been no denials of published reports that it will stop at Bethpage in 2012, although tournament director Peter Mele said yesterday there is nothing to report. He said, “We’re looking at options beyond 2011, that’s all that I can say.” PGA of America executives publicly have said they are in talks to bring the PGA Championship and/or the Ryder Cup to the Black Course.
Westchester Country Club, within decent driving distance of the Island, will be the site of the Champions Tour Senior Players Championship. That is a major on the 50-and-over circuit, and will be held in August.
Preparations continue, meanwhile, in Southampton for the 2013 U.S. Women’s Open at Sebonack Golf Club and Walker Cup amateur matches at National Golf Links.
And there is even hope that the former long-running Northville/Commerce Bank tournament will be revived. Scott Dexter, who was on the event’s board, said former KeySpan chairman Bob Catell is meeting with business and civic leaders to resume the senior tournament that was first held in 1988 — and is optimistic. “People come in to City Cellar and ask, ‘When is the tournament coming back?’ ” said Dexter, who runs the restaurant. “It should. Long Island is a golf mecca.”
Daly, Breed highlight LI Golf Show
To be sure, people will be interested in seeing major champion John Daly when he appears at noon and 4 p.m. Saturday at the three-day Long Island Golf Show (Suffolk Community College, Brentwood, just off L.I. Expressway Exit 53). But Daly likes looking at the merchandise exhibits staffed by folks who aren’t big names.
“It’s cool to see what new products are out. I kind of like to see an underdog product make it big,” Daly said. “It’s cool to see a guy spend so many months or years on a product and then make it big.”
By the time the show is over on Sunday, though, the biggest hit might have been Michael Breed, a Westchester-based teaching pro who hosts “The Golf Fix,” a popular instruction program on Golf Channel. LI Golf Show organizer Tom Tarry said Breed appeared at a similar function upstate “and he tore the roof off the place.”
The 27th St. Jude’s Golf Outing, benefiting the Outreach program at St. Jude’s Roman Catholic Church in Mastic Beach, will be May 4, at Rock Hill Golf & Country Club, Manorville. Call 631-921-6793 . . . The inaugural Candi Alma Memorial Golf Outing to benefit the Lustgarten Foundation for pancreatic cancer research will be May 16 at the Hamlet G & CC, Commack. Visit lustgarten.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.