TODAY'S PAPER
Good Evening
Good Evening
SportsGolf

Kerry Haigh is the Bethpage Black set-up man for the 2019 PGA

Hole #15 at Bethpage Black on July 18.

Hole #15 at Bethpage Black on July 18. Credit: Peter Frutkoff

ST. LOUIS — The person who will set up Bethpage Black for the PGA Championship next May will be quite pleased if no one realizes that he was ever there. Kerry Haigh is content to let the course speak for itself, without any extra tricks. If golfers make a ton of birdies, so be it.

“The philosophy at any venue we play is to make it more enjoyable, make you think and that the best players hopefully will enjoy that,” Haigh, the chief championships officer for the PGA of America said at Bellerive Country Club Wednesday, on the eve of this year’s PGA. “We want to showcase the best players in the world on great golf courses. We just try and prepare the golf course so that players have opportunities to think and play. Truly, it’s the players who are the show.”

But Haigh is something of a star in his own right among golf cognoscenti. He is highly regarded for his setups, drawing praise from players who are often critical of the way the U.S. Golf Association prepares courses for the U.S. Open. Referring to Haigh and his associates, two-time PGA champion (and former U.S. Open champion) Rory McIlroy said, “I don’t think they really care whether the winning score is 5 under par or 20 under par. They just let the conditions dictate what happens, and I think all the players appreciate that.”

Haigh grew up in Doncaster, England and went to work for the Professional Golfers Association of Great Britain after he graduated from the University of Leeds. He went to the LPGA in 1984 and was hired four years later by Kemper Sports to be tournament director for the 1989 PGA Championship at Kemper Lakes. After that event, he was hired by the PGA of America and has been with the association ever since.

He said on Wednesday that Bethpage will play at par 70, as it did for the 2002 and 2009 U.S. Opens (it is par 71 for daily golf). The yardage will be about the same as it was for the Opens as well. Whether the scoring will be as high is another matterIt will be a difficult balance between ensuring an entertaining tournament and preserving the Black’s rugged reputation. If someone shoots 20 under, won’t that harm the Bethpage brand?

“I don’t think it’s our job to try and manipulate something,” Haigh said. “We’ll set up a good, strong, fair test of golf and see how the best players do. So much depends on the wind and the weather. If we have soft greens and no wind, I would expect and hope that everyone will score well. If we have a 25 mile-an-hour wind and very firm greens, scoring won’t be so good. It is what it is.

“Bethpage is a beautiful venue. It’s a great architectural design. It’s big, it’s a heck of a long walk. I love the golf course. I hope and expect the players will.”

They will like it better if late spring is mild on Long Island. The risky switch from August to May will be intrinsic to the legacy of CEO Pete Bevacqua, who is leaving the PGA of America after this week for an executive job with NBC Sports.

“You can never be 100 percent confident in a decision, but I think we’re as close to 100 percent confident in that decision as possible,” Bevacqua said Wednesday, citing numerous reasons, including the fact that the public's golf year essentially starts in the spring. “I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to Bethpage next year to see the 101st PGA Championship in May on the Black Course. I think it will be a special moment for golf.”

Outings

Former Met Endy Chavez will be part of the Suffolk Sports Hall of Fame Golf Outing Aug. 24 at Mill Pond Golf Club, Medford. Visit suffolksportshof.com/golf.

ACES

Jerry Wood, Huntington CC, 12th hole, 118 yards, 8-iron

Collin Thomas McHale, Middle Island CC Oak, fourth hole, 215 yards, 3-wood

Vincent LoPrinzi, Inwood CC, seventh hole, 207 yards, 3-hybrid

Carl Pagillo (of North Lynbrook), Playa Mujeres GC, Cancun, Mexico, 11th hole 189 yards, 5-wood

Natalie Einstein, Woodmere Club, third hole, 89 yards, 5-hybrid

Ken Munson, Timber Point Blue, second hole, 134 yards, 7-iron

Stuart Lerner, Timber Point Blue, second hole, 145 yards, 8-iron

Vern Lambert, Heatherwood GC, 10th hole, 190 yards, 2-iron

Ray Andreasen, Heatherwood GC, 17th hole, 145 yards, 7-iron

New York Sports