On the day that Sebonack Golf Club officially opened in August 2006, Jack Nicklaus was asked what kind of competition might be right for the layout he had just co-designed. That day, Nicklaus said, "This golf course, tomorrow, could house anything you'd want to have here, from a tournament standpoint."
It was clear then that he was including the possibility of a major championship. It is clear today that he was right.
Sebonack emerged as a major player, hosting the U.S. Women's Open. The layout in Southampton proved intensely tough on the weekend without having to be tricked up by the U.S. Golf Association -- the sign of a legitimate major track.
It also did not yield a victory to some one-shot fluky winner, but rather to Inbee Park, the dominant women's golfer of her time. Yes, the course is worthy of housing anything the club wants. The question is, what is next? "I haven't thought about it. We're just finishing this out," Michael Pascucci, the course founder and owner, said. "But I think we certainly would think about doing something every eight to 10 to 12 years."
The course proved this week it is hearty enough for a men's U.S. Open. But it is an open -- no pun intended -- question whether the property could sustain three times the infrastructure it had this week. Merion was a fun little place for the Open a few weeks ago, but logistically, it was a train wreck. Besides, people familiar with the U.S. Golf Association's thinking say the association would not bring its crown jewel so close to Shinnecock Hills, already an Open site.
How about the PGA Championship and/or Ryder Cup? It is possible, although both of those are expected to have a Long Island home at Bethpage Black.
A Walker Cup would be interesting, considering it would complete a trifecta in the neighborhood; the international amateur matches have been at National Golf Links of America (where it will be again this September) and Shinnecock. Then again, the Walker Cup is a small, two-day match. Sebonack proved this week that it is a big stage.
Sebonack has the right to aim high. The USGA went out of its way to make the course easy Thursday, and still only three players finished the week under par. Just as important, the place looked spectacular on TV. It would be a shame to not put it on the air again.
"When I saw it on high definition television, on ESPN, the course was actually sparkling," said Pascucci, who agreed with the TV people who told him that the images presented a look that no place else has. "And I watch a lot of golf. It was brilliant."
Sebonack is just different: Peconic Bay, fescue and other native grasses, fairways defined by the trees surrounding them. "Just visually, it's beautiful," said Angela Stanford, who tied for fourth. "It seems to be very linksy, and I'm not into linksy-type courses . . . I don't know, maybe it's the big American flag flying up there, but I love it. There is just something about it that is really cool."
Crowds this week were only OK, not great. Maybe it was because of the weather or the lack of American contenders. The USGA was not discouraged. "It was great to expose the world to a new course. It was just great. Everything about it was just wonderful," said Mike Davis, the USGA executive director.
The owner had said that the idea was to "start with" the Women's Open, clearly implying that more was in store. He said this weekend that his members have loved seeing the pros play their course. It is easy to believe that the world hasn't seen the last of Sebonack. "Well, Michael Pascucci would have to do the inviting," Davis said. "But we sure hope he does."
So do we.