Countless little details compose the depth and breadth of golf, which turns its full attention this week to the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black. Here is a history lesson, of sorts, of the game -- from A to Z:
A: Arnie’s Army was the name of the vast following at every tournament for Arnold Palmer, golf’s most charismatic figure and the one who brought the sport into the TV age. His only disappointment was never having won the PGA.
B: Golf icon Ben Hogan had a sterling swing and an iron will. His stunning comeback from devastating injuries in a car crash was the basis for the movie, “Follow the Sun.” The first leg in his career Grand Slam was the 1946 PGA.
C: “Caddyshack” is to golf what “Slap Shot” is to hockey: a classic. “I don’t think the heavy stuff is going to come down for quite a while”— Carl Spackler, played by Bill Murray (who hung around with Peter Jacobsen at the 1986 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills and Scott Simpson at the 2009 Commerce Bank Championship in East Meadow).
D: Deepdale Golf Club’s Darrell Kestner, the dean of Long Island club pros, made the cut in the 2005 PGA at Baltusrol. His many wins include the 1994 New York State Open on the Black. A putting lesson from him during the 2012 Barclays helped Nick Watney win on the same course.
E: Earl Woods’ son was named Eldrick, but the Green Beret lieutenant nicknamed the child “Tiger” in honor of the same moniker he had given to a South Vietnamese lieutenant colonel. The name Tiger Woods would become one of the most famous on the planet, inscribed on many trophies such as the U.S. Open prize at Bethpage in 2002.
F: Raymond Floyd won the PGA 50 years ago. He still had major game in 1986, winning the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills and enjoying the atmosphere so much that he bought a house in Southampton and joined the club.
G: Lucas Glover won the rain plagued 2009 U.S. Open on a Monday at Bethpage Black. He finished 4 under, two shots better than Ricky Barnes, David Duval and Phil Mickelson. It was the latter’s fifth of six U.S. Open runner-up finishes.
H: Walter Hagen won the PGA Championship five times, including twice on Long Island—in 1921 at Inwood and 1926 at Salisbury (now the Eisenhower Park Red Course).
I: Hale Irwin won three U.S. Opens and followed with a strong senior career. He lost a seven-hole playoff with Hubert Green, a U.S. Open and PGA champion, at the Meadow Brook Club in 2002.
J: Bobby Jones is one of golf’s greatest legends, having won the original Grand Slam (U.S. and British Opens and Amateurs) in 1930 and co-founded Augusta National Golf Club. His career took off after his first major championship, the 1923 U.S. Open at Inwood Country Club, where there still is a plaque marking the spot of his pivotal 2-iron shot.
K: Brooks Koepka won the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills last June, making him the championship’s first repeat winner since Curtis Strange in 1989. Then Koepka went on to win the PGA Championship in August, bringing him to Bethpage this week as defending champion.
L: Lee Trevino, a six-time major champion, beat Jack Nicklaus by one shot to win the 1974 PGA Championship--before and after Nicklaus won in 1973 and 1975 — and won the title again 10 years later. As a senior golfer, he won back-to-back Northville Long Island Classics.
M: Michael Jordan shot 86 on Bethpage Black with a U.S. Open setup as part of a celebrity challenge in 2009. As for the personal challenge that had been issued by his friend Woods, who had insisted Jordan couldn’t break 92, the basketball legend said, “I don’t take checks.”
N: Jack Nicklaus burnished his reputation as the greatest golfer ever in the PGA. Five of his record 18 major victories came in that tournament as did four of his 19 second-place finishes. He now is golf’s goodwill ambassador and a busy architect. Nicklaus is particularly proud of his co-design (with Tom Doak) of Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton, site of the 2013 U.S. Women’s Open.
O: Ozzie Smith, the Cardinals Hall of Fame shortstop, was honorary chairman of the 2018 PGA near St. Louis. For this year, he has handed the title to David Wright.
P: Patrick Reed, the 2018 Masters champion, won the 2016 Barclays at Bethpage Black, finishing 9 under.
Q: Queens has hosted two PGA Championships, both in Flushing: 1930 at the original Fresh Meadow and 1939 at Pomonok.
R: The Red Course at Bethpage State Park, adjacent to the Black, is a gem in its own right, hosting numerous tournaments. It was there in 2012 that Levittown’s Annie Park was the first girl to win the Nassau boys high school championship, on her way to becoming an NCAA champion and LPGA tour winner.
S: The sand wedge was the invention of Gene Sarazen, who supported himself as a Long Island club pro as he was becoming the first to win the career Grand Slam. He won the PGA three times. His former club, Fresh Meadow, annually hosts a big amateur tournament in his name.
T: A. W. Tillinghast was a premier golf architect in the early 20th century whose credits include Bethpage Black and Winged Foot, site of the 2020 U.S. Open.
U: The U.S. Golf Association took the bold step in 2002 of having the U.S. Open at Bethpage, a purely municipal facility, changing the Black’s stature and condition forever. An assist went to architect Rees Jones, who redesigned the course for no fee.
V: Vijay Singh (a two-time PGA champion) and Woods were the only regulars in the tour fitness trailer in the late 1990s, Woods said, adding that the scene is completely different now. “Even Phil [Mickelson] works out,” he said.
W: The Walker Cup, prestigious amateur team match between the U.S. and Great Britain & Ireland, was born in Southampton. It was organized by former USGA president George Herbert Walker and debuted in 1922 at National Golf Links of America. The event returned to the National in 2013 with Walker’s great-grandson George W. Bush in attendance.
X: Xander Schauffele is in the field this week, having tied for second at the Masters last month, one stroke behind Woods.
Y: Y.E. Yang won the 2009 PGA, becoming the first to defeat Woods when the latter led a major after 54 holes.
Z: Former Masters champion Zach Johnson, wearing his green jacket, was among the fellow pros waiting to congratulate Woods as he walked off after his first Masters victory in 14 years. Johnson this week is shooting for his third major title.