Because it will be the 101st PGA Championship overall and the first in the new May time slot, the 2019 event at Bethpage Black is sure to be frozen in time. The one worrisome part is that, given the early date, the course itself might still be a little frozen.
As far as the people in charge are concerned, that is not a worry.
“We hope for a mild, warm winter. That would be great. But if you grew up on Long Island, and I grew up in the Westchester area, playing Bethpage, you know that the condition of the golf course in late May is probably as good as it gets all year,” Peter Bevacqua, chief executive officer of the PGA of America, said on the phone from his office in Florida after having visited Bethpage and Manhattan last week.
“You’re always concerned about the weather because that’s what we’re paid to be concerned about. But there’s a great team out there,” he said, sharing his enthusiasm for the championship’s move from August to May.
The Black Course opened for the season Saturday and looked surprisingly green early this week, despite the kind of brutal March the PGA hopes to avoid in 2019. Golfers were welcomed with billboards identifying Bethpage as “The People’s Country Club” and displaying the PGA Championship logo.
So, while Long Island is preparing for the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills in Southampton two months from now, it also can see the signs of another major to come only 11 months later.
Bevacqua said a rough winter would have the greatest impact on plans to build infrastructure, such as temporary roadways. “We’ll do as much as we can in the fall and early winter months,” he said. “And we’ll play the hand we’re dealt.”
Bethpage superintendent Andrew Wilson plans to be similarly flexible. “You have to be patient. Sometimes you have to let the grass tell you what to do,” he said.
Wilson’s staff has finished several projects, notably a big expansion of the 11th green, which will allow more options for hole locations, such as tucking the pin behind the massive bunkers on the left. The crew has renovated numerous bunkers on both nines and planted eight maple trees near the first green, making a bold tee shot riskier.
Public golfers will notice work being done on the 18th hole. The fairway is being tightened in the shorter landing area so a layup tee shot (like the mid-iron Lucas Glover hit in winning the 2009 U.S. Open) becomes less safe. Bevacqua said the Black probably will play at par 70, as it was for the Opens, and not 71, which it was for the Barclays (Patrick Reed won in 2016 at 9 under).
In several ways, this year marks a new day at Bethpage. Kelley Brooke is beginning her first year as head pro. She has appeared on Golf Channel and has been a teacher in the New York area for 25 years, notably at Randalls Island near the Triborough Bridge. And park officials said there has been positive early feedback on the new online tee-time system (parks.ny.gov/golf).
In other ways, next year already has begun.
Soldier On at Home, which helps combat veterans, will hold its third annual outing June 18 at The Vineyards in Riverhead. Visit soldieronathome.org. . . . Sts. Cyril & Methodius Church will hold its Msgr. Thaddeus Rooney Memorial Golf Outing June 21 at Timber Point Golf Course, Great River. Call (631) 667-4044 ext. 110.
Peter Craig, Willow Creek G&CC, 16th hole, 103 yards, sand wedge
Pat O’Reilly, Forest Park GC, 15th hole, 122 yards, pitching wedge
Jesse Bodo, Harbor Links GC, eighth hole, 202 yards, 3-wood
George Bura, Brentwood CC, fifth hole, 120 yards, 9-iron
Kenny Rindler, Stonebridge GL&CC, seventh hole, 189 yards, 4-hybrid
Errol Salm, Cold Spring CC, 11th hole, 134 yards, 8-iron
Jack Petrash, Glen Cove GC, eighth hole, 111 yards, pitching wedge
Jesse Nason, Rolling Oaks GC, seventh hole, 140 yards, 7-iron
Grace Fichetti, Heatherwood GC, first hole, 134 yards, 9-wood
Mike Coakley, Heatherwood GC, 15th hole, 120 yards, 8-iron
Paul Borzell, Heatherwood GC, sixth hole, 169 yards, 4-hybrid