TOLEDO, Ohio – David Fay, enjoying himself on Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island, offered his reflection Wednesday on the Hinkle Tree incident from the 1979 U.S. Open here at the Inverness Club.
After Hinkle discovered a shortcut on the par-5 eighth hole, playing down the adjacent 17th fairway, a tree was transplanted alongside the eighth tee to block such a maneuver.
Fay, who retired as U.S. Golf Association executive director at the end of 2010, was attending his first U.S. Open back in 1979. His title was tournament relations manager. (He became executive director in 1989.)
“I had a minor role in that saga,” Fay said. “At about 5:30 a.m. on Friday of the ’79 Open, Inverness’s then-green chairman, Dr. Bob Yoder, walked into my office with a smile and dropped an invoice for a black spruce in the amount of $120.
“When he told me what it was for, I thought it was some sort of rookie hazing. So, I drove out to the eighth tee area and, sure enough, there it was – a pretty sickly looking fir tree. I had to alter the gallery roping to accommodate the thing.
“Yoder asked me what I thought, I told him, ‘We didn’t get our money’s worth. That scrawny thing is a twig.’ Oh yes, the day before – when Lon first played the shot – it was brought to my attention immediately by the marshal chairman who radioed me asking, ‘What the hell do we do with the gallery? These guys are playing up the 17th!’
“Anyway, I kept the original invoice and submitted a copy to the USGA for payment. I had a feeling it would be a historic purchase.”