CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Golf aficionados can debate the merits of switching the PGA Championship from August to May until the sun goes down, and that itself could be an issue at Bethpage Black in 2019. Sunset in Farmingdale this past May 16 was 8:05 p.m., which could be a problem if there is a weather delay during one of the early rounds.
Nonetheless, people here at Quail Hollow for this year’s championship believe the change will be beneficial, or at least that everyone will make the best of it.
“I’ve played there when I was a club professional at Trump Bedminster, I think it might have been in the May neighborhood,” said Jim Herman, who was the leader here late in his Thursday round. “I know the director of golf, Joe Rehor, very well. I don’t know that everyone there is thrilled with it, but everyone will adjust and they’ll put on a great championship. It’s just going to be a little different. We’re not going to have the heat that we normally have in August. There will be a little chill—sweaters or sweater vests, it will be just fine. We do it at the British Open so why can’t we do it over here?”
Johnson Wagner, a PGA Tour winner working this event for Golf Channel, used to sleep in his car to play the Black and won the 2001 Met Open there as an amateur.
“I don’t think I’ve ever played Bethpage in May. When I heard the announcement and was looking at future sites, I thought that one was a question. But the U.S. Open is only about three weeks later, so I think everything is going to be fine,” he said. “I’m sure the fescue won’t be where it normally is, but it will be nice to have cool weather. It’s always going to be an awesome site.”
Matt Dobyns, head pro at Fresh Meadow in Lake Success, focused on the agronomics: “If they alter their program to make it peak then, I think it will be great. Now that might ruin the summer. But I think it will firm, it will be fast. It could be windy. It could be brutal.”
Brutal in a good sense, meaning the way the Black is meant to be played.
The one who will have the most say, Kerry Haigh, chief championships officer for the PGA, detailed the positives. “Growing bent grass on greens in August is extremely challenging. Early in the year, the roots are deeper,” he said. “In the summer you’ve got to try to keep them alive. So, you’ve got to water them. Then they are softer. In a normal May, you will probably have firmer greens, faster greens, healthier greens. May usually is windier than August. All of those factors make it more exciting, from a golf standpoint.”
Haigh said he has not determined whether the Black will play as par 71, which the public does, or par 70, which the U.S. Golf Association did for the two U.S. Opens. He also was noncommittal about structural changes to the course (there was speculation about carving a new tee box on No. 18 out of a piece of the Red Course), but people familiar with the state park do not expect anything like that.
Bottom line, there will be a lot of fingers-crossing and breath-holding for the next 18 months. “It will all depend on the winter up there. If it’s a mild winter, the turf will be right, if it’s a tough winter it will be a little hard to get it into the shape they want. But we’ve got two years to figure it out,” said Lucas Glover, who won the 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage. “Obviously, it’s a great venue for any tournament — Open, PGAs, tour events. Hopefully, I’m there.”
It will always be meaningful for him, no matter the season. “You drive down the entrance and go, ‘Ahh, I like this place,’” Glover said. “So it’s cool.”
Abbondandolo wins at Glen Head
Daniel Abbondandolo of Brookville Country Club won the inaugural Glen Head Classic at Glen Head Country Club Thursday, shooting 1 over for 36 holes and beating his nearest competition by nine shots. Jay Sessa of Gardiner’s Bay won the Senior division, Ron Vannelli of Forsgate won the Masters class.
Don Schultz (age 93), Northport VA GC, seventh hole, 145 yards, 5-wood
Marvin Natiss, Old Westbury G&CC Bluegrass, third hole, 155 yards, 4-hybrid
Steven Tolman, Old Westbury G&CC Bluegrass, third hole, 155 yards, 6-iron
Mike Dunn, Golf Club at Middle Bay, third hole, 158 yards, 4-iron
Peter Mormino, Garden City CC, second hole, 203 yards, 5-iron
Kent Seelig, Glen Oaks Red, third hole, 165 yards, 6-iron
George Wasielke (of West Sayville), Wild Turkey Course, Crystal Springs Resort, Hamburg, N.J., 14th hole, 165 yards, 6-iron
Jonathan Freed, Colonial Springs Pines, third hole, 146 yards, 8-iron
Glenn Egor, Glen Head CC, 16th hole, 120 yards, pitching wedge
Bill Allen, Hempstead CC, eighth hole, 155 yards, 5-iron
Joe Rotter, Merrick Park GC, eighth hole, 151 yards, 6-iron
Henry Mathes, Timber Point White, sixth hole, 110 yards, 8-iron
Ted Berry, Donald E. Conroy GC, third hole, 90 yards, lob wedge
Ryan Decoursey, Heatherwood GC, 15th hole, 125 yards, 9-iron