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SportsColumnistsMark Herrmann

LI in line for its own grand slam of golf

A group of golfers makes their way down

A group of golfers makes their way down the first fairway after teeing off during the New York State Open at Bethpage Black on Wednesday, July 23 2014. Photo Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

Long Island is in position to achieve its own golf Grand Slam, one that might be unique. Area golf officials and historians cannot recall any other locality that has experienced what the Island might see: Two top-echelon tour events and two different major championships in the next four years.

The four-for-four sweep seems possible now that the Glen Oaks Club board of directors has approved a proposal to host The Barclays -- the first leg of the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup playoffs series -- in 2017. The Tour has yet to finalize that plan, but if it does, the lineup would be impressive and probably historic: The Barclays at Bethpage Black next year and at Glen Oaks in 2017, the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills in 2018 and the PGA Championship at Bethpage in 2019.

Aside from Augusta, which hosts the Masters every April, it is hard to find any place with that kind of four-year run.

"First of all, it tells you about the quality of the golf courses. Long Island is just a different world," said Joe Rehor, head pro at Bethpage. "A lot of it has to do with finances also. They can reap the benefits from coming here."

"When they took the Barclays to Bethpage for the first time, they were stunned at the reception and the fans and the corporate sponsorships. That has led to these other events," said Rees Jones, the course architect whose renovation of the Black for the 2002 U.S. Open turned it into a championship layout and firmly established the Island as a big-time destination.

Doug Vergith, executive director of the Long Island Golf Association, said, "It's just great. This is one of the golf capitals of the world, there's no question about that. There are famous courses, but Glen Oaks is a name that is not known widely outside of this area. But it's just fantastic."

Glen Oaks' board of directors this week sent a letter to members, which was reported by Newsday's Robert Brodsky, saying it has approved the plan to host the 2017 Barclays. The Barclays is seeking a home because the original site, Liberty National, will host the Presidents Cup later that year.

"We have been looking at several options for The Barclays 2017," Brian Goin, PGA Tour senior vice president and chief of operations for championship management, said in a statement to Newsday. "Glen Oaks is a great venue, and while we have approval from the club's board of directors to continue discussions, it is premature to confirm anything. We do not have a contract at this time."

As a 27-hole facility, Glen Oaks would have plenty of room to hold a pro tournament. The plan is to create a composite 18-hole, par-70 course from those 27. The tour knows it can trust the course conditions to superintendent Craig Currier, who prepared the Black Course for the 2002 and 2009 U.S. Opens. Glen Oaks was named 2015 Club of the Year by the Metropolitan Golf Writers Association, having hosted the 2014 Met PGA Championship and been named as the site for the 2016 Met Open.

Vergith said the potential Island slam reflects the depth of the local course collection.

History suggests it also will reflect the legacy of the U.S. Golf Association, which opened doors on Long Island. The USGA took a chance on returning to Shinnecock in 1986 after a 90-year absence, then made the bold decision to bring the Open to a heavily trafficked New York State municipal course. The USGA decided two rain-soaked Opens at the Black were enough, but the PGA Tour and PGA of America both quickly moved in. The latter group will hold its championship there in 2019 and return for the Ryder Cup in 2024.

Jones recalled first visiting Bethpage with David Fay, then the head of the USGA, and local officials. "We all went out there on May 1, 1995 and we all concluded that with adequate funds we could resurrect the Black. And we did it," he said.

He said that, with then-parks commissioner Bernadette Castro, park director Dave Catalano and Currier, "We proved it can be one of the best conditioned events of all time . . . We brought the everyday golfer into the championship mix. And I'm as proud of that as anything I've ever done."


The 12th Annual Golf Classic for the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington will be July 13 at Huntington Crescent Club. Honorees will be Msgr. John McGann and Theresa and Robert Ahlstrom. Call 631-423-0483 ext. 102.


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