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Bethpage Black shined as 'a special place' for PGA Championship

An aerial view of hole No. 8 at

An aerial view of hole No. 8 at Bethpage Black. Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang

Bethpage Black will host more PGA Championships if the chief executive officer of the association that runs the tournament has his way. Seth Waugh, the former Long Island resident who is in his first year as head of the PGA of America, said, “It is just a special place.”

When he was asked, on the 18th green Sunday after Brooks Koepka’s victory, whether he would like the major championship to come back to the Black, Waugh did not hesitate for an instant in saying, “Oh, sure. Absolutely.” The event is booked through 2024 and from 2026 through 2029, but Bethpage seems certain to get consideration for whatever dates are open.

“I don’t know that there is a better golf course, but there certainly is no better story in golf than this,” Waugh said. “It speaks for everything that we stand for: inclusion and welcoming and accessibility, affordability. I wish everybody could see the other four [Bethpage] courses.”

The Black, which is 83 years old, prevailed and ultimately starred during the PGA. Without having been severely expanded or “tricked up,” the course was intensely difficult on Sunday afternoon. Koepka’s winning score was 8 under. Jordan Spieth told CBS it was the hardest course he has played this year. Paul Casey noted, after seeing a pet with an “emotional support dog” jacket, that “is what I feel I need after playing that golf course.”

Earlier in the tournament, it appeared scores would be significantly lower. Koepka shot a course-record 63 on Thursday, and Adam Scott threatened it on Friday before finishing with a 64. But Koepka was only 1 under for the rest of the week, Scott finished at 1 over.

“We let them play. That’s what we do. You could see that the first couple days,” Waugh said. “Then the wind blows [on Sunday] and the course shows an awful lot of teeth.

“The beauty of this place is, obviously, it’s hard and everybody says that. But no one doesn’t like it, no one doesn’t think it’s fair,” he said. “And no one doesn’t get a kick out of our fans, and the culture and the whole thing. I thought the fans showed up and did a remarkable job and the right guy won.”

Judging from social media, emails from Newsday readers and reports from the golf media, some operational areas need to be addressed before the Black hosts another PGA or the 2024 Ryder Cup. Issues included too little bleacher seating and food concessions and too much available beer. Critics cited the latter in talking about fans shouting on players’ backswings.

There was no denying the quality of the course or the health of the grass, especially the rough. Bethpage staffers said they heard from many people about how impressive the Black looked on TV.

“It went as well as we could have hoped.” said Andy Wilson, superintendent of the park’s golf courses, adding that his greatest concern about holding a major here in May had been winter-storm damage, which did not happen.

“Our crew is really happy. It was a lot of work to pull off something like this. It’s a very satisfying feeling,” he said. “Everybody had a good time. It was great for the PGA, great for the state, great for the park, great for Long Island.”

Waugh said, “I had said it’s a miracle this place was built. It’s a bigger miracle that the state has done what they’ve done and that they continue to do it every day, for all of us.”

That is the epilogue of the Black’s first PGA Championship: This coming Saturday, only six days after the Wanamaker Trophy was hoisted by a golfer who played his first tournaments on the Okeeheelee public facility in West Palm Beach, all five Bethpage courses will be open again for everyone.

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