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By definition, there will be no 2020 U.S. Open. Here’s why the USGA should reconsider

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In 1942, the USGA decided to cancel the U.S. Open because it was scheduled so soon after U.S. entry into WWII.  They did this out of respect for the nation and those called to war. There was a Championship however called The Hale America National Open Golf Tournament, which was contested at Chicago’s  Ridgemoor Country Club. It was a great distraction from the horror of war and raised money for the great cause.

All the top players of the era (except Sam Snead) played, and the organizers (USGA, Chicago Golf Association, and the PGA of America) did hold qualifying at some 70 sites around the country. So effectively, it was the 1942 U.S. Open—but the USGA never recognized it as such. They labeled it a “wartime effort to raise money” for the cause.  Their objection to it being the official U.S. Open was never clear, although the sub-standard Ridgemoor course (a veritable birdie fest) was certainly part of it.

The USGA co-sponsored the event but did not host it at one of their premier venues, where they typically set the golf course up unusually difficult to test the best players. Anyway, Ben Hogan won the event and many thought this should have counted as his fifth U.S. Open win. The USGA disagreed. That debate may never be settled in golfer’s minds.

Ahead to the 1964 U.S. Open…Ken Venturi, the eventual winner, qualified to play in the tournament. His game at the time was a shell of what it was just a few years earlier, but Kenny caught lighting in a bottle, got through both stages of qualifying, and realized his lifelong dream of winning the U.S. Open at Congressional.

Ahead to the 1969 U.S. Open…Orville Moody, a former army sergeant had been playing the PGA Tour for two years with moderate success-at best. But the golfing gods shone brightly upon “sarge” through both stages of qualifying, and the tournament, as he too realized the dream of a lifetime in Houston.

Ahead to 2009 U.S. Open…Lucas Glover was the 71st ranked player in the world and had never made the cut in his three previous U.S. Opens. But he did get through the final stage of qualifying and went on to win the title at Bethpage in New York.

Ahead to 2020…The USGA has decided to postpone the event this year to September because of the Covid-19 virus. This was for the fear of the global pandemic. But this year there is a fundamental difference—the USGA has announced there will be no qualifying for the event. It will be an exempt-only event. By doing so, the event loses it status as an “open event,” by definition.

This is more than a slight difference in semantics.

The U.S. Open, our national championship, is the crown jewel of all USGA events for many reasons, not the least of which is that it is just that: open. Granted, the likelihood of a club professional or a highly-ranked amateur winning the event—or even making the cut—is slim, but that misses the point: they have been stripped of their chance to do so, and have thereby lost a perhaps once in a lifetime opportunity to realize something they have worked for their whole lives. Although I respect the decision from a  health perspective, golf is being played now across the country, (The Match and Driving Relief—apparently safely)

So, what to do? I believe it would be possible to have one-day 36-hole qualifiers (complete with social distancing regulations) all over the country to open the field. Perhaps, the current health crisis limits the opportunity to hold the qualifiers at the normally premier qualifying sites around the country but, as always, everyone is playing the same course and is at least given the chance to play in tournament.

In light of the recent “opening” of the country, I am asking that the USGA reconsider the decision.

 

featured image modified from USGA image

 

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Dennis Clark is a PGA Master Professional. Clark has taught the game of golf for more than 30 years to golfers all across the country, and is recognized as one of the leading teachers in the country by all the major golf publications. He is also is a seven-time PGA award winner who has earned the following distinctions: -- Teacher of the Year, Philadelphia Section PGA -- Teacher of the Year, Golfers Journal -- Top Teacher in Pennsylvania, Golf Magazine -- Top Teacher in Mid Atlantic Region, Golf Digest -- Earned PGA Advanced Specialty certification in Teaching/Coaching Golf -- Achieved Master Professional Status (held by less than 2 percent of PGA members) -- PGA Merchandiser of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Golf Professional of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Presidents Plaque Award for Promotion and Growth of the Game of Golf -- Junior Golf Leader, Tri State section PGA -- Served on Tri State PGA Board of Directors. Clark is also former Director of Golf and Instruction at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. Dennis now teaches at Bobby Clampett's Impact Zone Golf Indoor Performance Center in Naples, FL. .

28 Comments

28 Comments

  1. chip75

    Jun 1, 2020 at 8:24 am

    Unless the Open is open it’s an invitational and should be labelled as such.

  2. Mike

    May 30, 2020 at 12:16 pm

    But, we are talking about the ‘USGA’ right? That org lost credibility w/ me years ago, so I’m not surprised at anything they’d do.

  3. YB

    May 29, 2020 at 2:02 pm

    Dennis you are 100% correct. If they can host a major tournament, they can have local and regional qualifiers. Local is 100% people driving to their courses – regional, some people fly but not the majority.

    The fact is if people aren’t allowed to qualify, it’s not an OPEN tournament and it’s just another members’ club invitational . Needs to change now!

  4. Pelling

    May 29, 2020 at 11:59 am

    Give Andy Pope an exemption!

  5. davidar4iron

    May 29, 2020 at 7:20 am

    Possibly change the name to the USGA championship for a one off – still use the trophy, its still a major, but its an acknowledegment of the times –

    Interntaional qualifying is central to both open champioships so just because you can get in your car and drive to AZ or wherever, international travel will still be hugely problematic.

    COVID19 is not a hoax – maybe poeple feel isolated and frustrated in their bubble but 37000 people have died here in the UK ‘officially’ never mind the 30,000 ‘additional deaths’ over average. Yes its reducing but only thanks to social distancing.

  6. Gusty

    May 29, 2020 at 6:44 am

    Good thing there was qualifying in 1913 when Francis Ouimet qualified as an amateur and then won US Open….changing the game forever!

  7. Moses

    May 28, 2020 at 11:55 pm

    As far as I’m concerned Hogan has 5 US Opens.

  8. Alrx

    May 28, 2020 at 11:00 pm

    By definition Stfu. The show must go on!

  9. VictrC

    May 28, 2020 at 3:15 pm

    With all due respect, the country, the people, the American people NEED the US Open. They need this despite there being no qualifying. I am bummed, along with the other 1,000’s that were going to try knowing they had little to no chance. But the good of the nation is more important right now than being pedantic about the word “Open.”. It is our national championship and the public wants to see if Tiger can win. If Phil can make one more charge against Father Time. Is this Speith’s redemption.

    The people have had to deal with a crippling shutdown. Kids are going hungry, 40M people have lost their jobs. Businesses that were open for generations will never open again because of the shutdown. It could take years before we are back to Normal. I think we could at least give this nation a distraction, a refuge from the reality of the world that is upside down right now. We’ve taken away, the American people have lost so much, why take this away too just because of the word “open.” Is that where we are now? We’re so pure that if it can’t be “open” to all qualifiers, NONE OF WHOM WILL WIN, then no one gets to play?

    • Dennis Clark

      May 29, 2020 at 12:50 pm

      I see your point but a “the country” may be too broad of a description. 90% of this country does not play or care much about golf. 3 million watched the Open last year, 100 million the super bowl. So whether we hold the Open or not, is not necessarily a national spirit-lifter. For us in the golf community, absolutely. On average if you meet 10 people in the street, 9 of them don’t play golf. We are Jonesin…som I can’t wait. With a qualifier hopefully…

  10. Dennis Clark

    May 28, 2020 at 2:31 pm

    I am not discounting or minimizing the gravity of this pandemic. This was not my intention. And the fact that non exempt qualifiers have little to no chance had already been mentioned in the article. What I AM saying is if it is safe to play the event itself why is it unsafe to have qualifiers? And if it is unsafe, either cancel the event or rename it. Golf pales in comparison To this surreal crisis, but’s let’s not have one and not the other. Personally I think the Open should be canceled if there is no change in the crisis but the powers that be are unlikely to consider that option. So..

  11. J Mc

    May 28, 2020 at 1:37 pm

    Steve Jones was last winner to go through both stages of Q school. Plus there’s a lot more on the line for qualifiers than just winning the event. You can gain exemptions into other tournaments based on your finish, you can gain exemptions into other majors, gain an exemption into next year’s U.S. Open based on your finish, and you can also skip certain stages of qualifying school based on your finish. I’m not saying I agree that they should open qualifiers back up but at least don’t advertise it as a US open if it’s not open

  12. Joe Taylor

    May 28, 2020 at 12:39 pm

    Difference right now is the danger of traveling, the three winners cited were not at risk by entering the event. AOC, 100k dead is a hoax?

    • J Mc

      May 28, 2020 at 1:34 pm

      Doesn’t change the fact that it’s not an “Open”. I think the point of the article is either halve qualifying call it an “open” or don’t have qualifying and don’t call it an open just call it a USGA championship. Can’t call it an open when it’s not open, Can’t have it both ways

    • Dennis Clark

      May 28, 2020 at 2:22 pm

      Local qualifying is a drive in ones car. No flight.

  13. BG

    May 28, 2020 at 11:39 am

    I dont see why they cant do qualifiers. Here in Arizona courses last week were doing 200-400 rounds a day. Not to mention a albeit slower season than normal but still busy season of golf in Arizona. Golf hasnt slowed down much here and everything is ok.

    • BAV

      May 28, 2020 at 5:48 pm

      I’m hoping you’re just referring to the golf community being okay, and not in general terms in AZ??

      People can still play golf here but there are a lot of people who rely on the golf industry for their livelihoods that were laid off or let go with no return to normalcy in sight. I would imagine they wouldn’t agree with your “everything is ok” comment

  14. Mike

    May 28, 2020 at 11:32 am

    This is a once in a century virus. These are very unusual times and Dennis should just get off his high horse and relax. The odds are 99.8% that whoever wins in an exempt event would be the same winner if it was a true open event. Everyone has to make concessions this year and every aspect of life. Whether or not the U.S. Open is a true “Open” Should be very very low on the list of priorities.

  15. AOC

    May 28, 2020 at 11:23 am

    if they can play the us open , they can play the qualifiers. covid is the biggest hoax the world has seen

    • Emily Kayton

      May 28, 2020 at 1:57 pm

      My 57 healthy aunt died a painful from covid. You ignorant a hole.

      • Rory

        May 28, 2020 at 2:29 pm

        And my cousin died in a car crash, but I don’t see people wanting to make speed limits 5MPH despite the lives that would save. Worldwide COVID is responsible for about 1.5% of the deaths YTD. NOt sure that justifies the reaction it has received….

        • Pancho Villas cousin

          May 28, 2020 at 11:43 pm

          Preach Rory, PREACH!!! Kinda convenient this has become a giant political vomit fest right before an election?? (Thats about as far as this needs to go into politics too…)

      • Dennis Clark

        May 28, 2020 at 2:59 pm

        Very sorry for your loss, my deepest sympathies.

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I hope you all had an enjoyable Memorial Day weekend and took time to give solemn thanks to those true American heroes who gave all for our freedom over the many years past. We are all so very blessed to live in this great country, and the protectors of those freedoms are the most honored and blessed that have walked among us. We all owe them an unfathomable debt of gratitude.

I finished the weekend with my umpteenth watching of the classic golf movie, “Tin Cup.” I’m sure you all know it well.
So, just for fun, I thought I would extricate from that dramatic human tragedy/comedy some real lessons that we all might learn from this tale of Roy McAvoy, Texas driving range pro who achieves immortality of sorts by contending in his first U.S. Open and making the most mystical 12 on the final hole, which cost him the victory but secured his place in U.S. Open history. Or did it?

So here are my favorite takeaways from “Tin Cup”

  1. The value of true friendships. Throughout the movie, Roy’s friends are behind him, beside him and with him, not the least of which is his best friend and caddy, Romeo. When all the world seems against you, it is your true friends who support you and hold you up, giving you strength and resolve to fight through your “demons”, whether that be a case of the shanks, like Roy faced, or any other challenging times in your life. We should all frequently stop and thank our truest friends and supporters for being there for us.
  2. There’s always a way to succeed. When Roy loses it at the regional qualifier and breaks all his clubs – except for his trusty 7-iron – he finds a way to get it home with only that one club. Of course, I would never recommend that drastic a measure, but the point is that when the chips are down – whether on the golf course or in life – it is wise to fall back on that old adage, “dance with who brung you”. When faced with difficulty, find an “old reliable” to fall back on. On the golf course it might mean going to your 3-wood on a bad driving day, or hitting bump and runs when your wedge play is sketchy. But in life, that might mean your spouse, a best friend, parent or sibling. There’s always a way.
  3. It’s all about the challenge…and having fun. A particularly funny scene is when Roy chooses to hit a bank shot off the portable toilet, rather than take a safe shot chipping out to the fairway. None of us are playing for the U.S. Open, so why not let go once in a while and try something crazy — just for FUN!
  4. Go for it! Roy came to the final hole with a chance to win the U.S. Open, but he chose to pursue his own even higher challenge – reaching the final green in two shots to set a U.S. Open scoring record. You all remember that final scene, where he dunks ball after ball into the pond fronting the green, before coming to the last ball in his bag. And with that one, he holes out for the most spectacular 12 in U.S. Open history.

Of course, this movie is all complete fiction, and we who know this game realize that the odds against something like that ever happening are astronomically high. But the movie is great fun, not serious at all, and completely entertaining.
And isn’t that what golf is supposed to be? FUN! And entertaining. And challenging. Aand rewarding, by the flashes of brilliance we all get to experience — BUT ONLY IF WE “GO FOR IT!”

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