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Champions exhibition to kick off U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills

The U.S. Open trophy sits in the fescue

The U.S. Open trophy sits in the fescue beside the third fairway at the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club. Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

In officially marking the start of Open season on Long Island, the U.S. Golf Association honored its common heirlooms, Shinnecock Hills and the U.S. Open, and announced what it hopes will become another tradition: a mini-tournament for all of its current champions during Open week on the Open course.

All of the professionals, amateurs, men, women, juniors and seniors who won USGA events in 2017 will be invited to play in the inaugural Celebration of Champions exhibition on Tuesday, June 12, two days before the start of the 118th U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills.

USGA executive director Mike Davis made the announcement Wednesday during a news conference in Manhattan, only several blocks from where Shinnecock and four other clubs met to form the USGA in 1894. Davis pointed out that the club in Southampton is the only one that has hosted the national championship in three centuries, calling every return to Shinnecock “magical.”

“When the U.S. Open comes to New York, it’s just different, and different in a great way. I daresay there is no place like it in the world,” Davis said, adding that the U.S. Open Trophy will tour the metropolitan area and will be at Citi Field throughout Memorial Day weekend as part of a promotion with Lexus.

Jack Nicklaus, who played in the second of Shinnecock’s four Opens 32 years ago, will be the honorary starter for the Celebration of Champions, a four-hole, two-member team competition. It is the second new wrinkle added for this year. The USGA announced recently that instead of its customary 18-hole playoff, it will introduce a two-hole aggregate playoff.

Those are signs that the championship is meant to grow and breathe while embracing its long history. This time, the Open figures to build on the excitement generated by the Masters, which was won Sunday by Patrick Reed. New York sports figures who were at the news conference Wednesday attested to the buzz that Shinnecock always creates on its own.

Clark Gillies, who has played the course a few times, said he was amazed at the different look of it since most of the trees were removed in an effort to restore the course’s original appearance. “It’s still as hard as the devil. There are no bailouts,” he said. “I love playing at that place.”

Boomer Esiason said, “It’s still awesome. I’m lucky, I grew up out here, I’ve played Shinnecock a number of times. The thing that I always look forward to is how difficult the USGA always makes it. The U.S. Open is supposed to be four days of absolute stress. Hopefully Shinnecock will bring that this year.”

John Starks said his best round there was 81 and he looks forward to a chance to play it again before the Open. Butch Goring said, “I’ve only played Shinnecock once. I was fortunate enough to play when there was no wind. That’s a big difference. If you have to battle the wind, that becomes an incredibly difficult golf course.”

The prospect of that is part of the charm. Davis said the true measure of the Open is in the 10,000 people who have signed up to try to qualify.

Outings

The St. Vincent De Paul Society of Long Island will hold an outing in memory of Deacon Pat Logsdon and Anthony House on May 14 at Tam O’Shanter Club, Brookville. Visit svdpli.org . . . Southampton Historical Museum will hold its outing May 22 at Sebonack Golf Club, Southampton. Call (631) 283-2494.

ACES

Robert Marsicovetere, Smithtown Landing GC, seventh hole, 180 yards, 3-hybrid

Gene Heeter, Bellport CC, 10th hole, 109 yards, pitching wedge

Lisa O’Mara (of Smithtown), Forest Oaks GC, Lake Worth, Fla., sixth hole, 131 yards, 5-wood

Stephen Chernik, Woodside Club, third hole, 142 yards, 4-hybrid

Allan Mendelsohn, St. George’s G&CC, seventh hole, 175 yards, 5-hybrid

J.C. Simonetti, Timber Point White, sixth hole, 120 yards, 9-iron

Dominic Patrizi III, Timber Point Blue, second hole, 134 yards, pitching wedge

Kevin Kramer, Town of Oyster Bay GC, sixth hole, 150 yards, 8-iron

Stan Pawlowski, The Woods at Cherry Creek, eighth hole, 136 yards, 8-iron

Brian Pfeifer, Dix Hills GC, fourth hole, 130 yards, 7-iron

Tom Spafford, Stonebridge Golf Links & CC, fourth hole, 178 yards, driver

New York Sports