The official beginning for Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton always will be listed as 2006, which, officials say, is a little misleading. "The golf course gives the appearance of being here a long time because it really was," said Michael Pascucci, the club's founder and owner. "It just didn't have a green and a tee box and a couple of bunkers cut out."
His point is that nature essentially created the scenic layout on Peconic Bay, and that the heralded architects Tom Doak and Jack Nicklaus came along and refined it. Pascucci's hope is that, while Sebonack always has been present in the contours and colors of the land, the U.S. Women's Open will formally put it on the map.
"We wanted to get a feel for what a championship type of golf experience is for us," he said at media day, promoting the tournament to be held June 24-30.
The U.S. Golf Association awarded the event to Sebonack soon after it opened, affirming the layout's natural appeal. It is believed that the fact that it will be in the Hamptons and in such a naturally beautiful spot will add cachet to the women's Open. Dan Martin, who is handling corporate hospitality sales for the club, said Monday, "The USGA gave us their highest [target] number, and we've exceeded that already. We see this as a great event for the course."
Na Yeon Choi, the 25-year-old star from South Korea who won the women's Open last year in Wisconsin, practiced all weekend at Sebonack and attested to its appeal. She said that, although a round of tournament golf lasts five hours, "I think golf game is only 10-minute, 15-minute focus. The rest of the time I get to see different things, a tree, a cloud. I think this course is great for that."
Choi said Sebonack, with sloped greens and intricate chipping areas, will require 72 holes of patience. People familiar with the course's background said the toughest challenge ever was coordinating a dual-designer situation. "After some arm twisting with Jack, I got him to agree to a collaboration and I had to get Tom to agree to a collaboration because neither one of them really want to collaborate," said Pascucci, who has a winter home in Florida near Nicklaus' and is an admirer of Doak.
Nicklaus' emphasis on shot values and Doak's broad-concept terrain management resulted in a course that is distinct from neighboring icons Shinnecock Hills and National Golf Links of America, but worthy to be on the same block.
Now it is a matter of getting the public to see and appreciate it. Choi believes that will be a natural fit, too. She has become known by her initials, NYC, the same as New York City, where many Korean people live. She said, "I think it might be a good connection with the people, hopefully."