More public courses may make U.S. Open rotation

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Hundreds of courses want to play host to the U.S. Open. All are required to send letters of invitation to the U.S. Golf Association.

“Dear USGA,” the letter might say, “we at Heavenly Hole Golf Links want you to bring the U.S. Open to our course as soon as possible. Please come and visit us. We know you will be impressed by our 823-yard, par-5 finishing hole with a green that sits in a quarry 200 feet deep.”

Because the 2002 U.S. Open is being played at Bethpage State Park, a public facility owned by the state of New York, many courses will be inspired to seek the Open in future years. For most, the chances of landing the national championship are slim to nil. A few, however, are justifiably optimistic.

The leading new candidates, most of them allowing public access:

Torrey Pines: This public facility, owned by the city of San Diego, is a shoo-in to be awarded the 2008 U.S. Open (the 2003 championship is set for Olympic Fields outside Chicago, the 2004 event is scheduled for Shinnecock Hills on Long Island, the 2005 U.S. Open will go back to Pinehurst (N.C.) Resort, the 2006 championship will be at Winged Foot in Westchester County, N.Y., and the 2007 event will return to Oakmont outside Pittsburgh).

Pumpkin Ridge: The Ghost Creek public course at Pumpkin Ridge played host to the first two Nike Tour Championships (the inaugural won by David Duval in 1993) and eventually will land a U.S. Open. Pumpkin Ridge is located near Portland, Ore., and the Open is overdue to be played in the Pacific Northwest, a region that never has played host to the championship. The 2003 U.S. Women’s Open will be held at Witch Hollow, the private course at Pumpkin Ridge, and the 2006 U.S. Senior Open will visit Ghost Creek. Several holes are about to be lengthened at Ghost Creek, which probably would play to par 70 for the Open.

“I have never wavered in my support of Pumpkin Ridge,” said USGA executive director David Fay.

Harding Park: This legendary public course, owned by the city of San Francisco, is a neighbor of the Olympic Club, already in the U.S. Open rotation. Harding Park, thanks largely to the efforts of former USGA president Sandy Tatum, is being renovated for future use in the PGA Tour’s season-ending Tour Championship.

Whistling Straits: Located in Mosel, Wis., this course has gained U.S. Open firepower because of the U.S. Open success of Pinehurst, another resort facility.

In the century since the U.S. Open was first played in 1895, the so-called rotation of Open courses has changed and expanded. Once considered to contain 10 to 12 courses, the rotation may have as many as 20 courses in the future. Realistically, this may mean that a facility is awarded a U.S. Open once every 20 years or so. In 2006, for example, Winged Foot will be the site of the Open for the first time in 22 years. There are exceptions. Now, Pebble Beach and Shinnecock Hills are widely considered to be the two favored U.S. Open sites and are visited with greater frequency. There are indications that Pinehurst No. 2 will join them. Pinehurst, which hosted its first Open in 1999, will again hold the national championship in 2005.

Bethpage is the only host course in the history of the U.S. Open not to submit an invitation. The USGA initiated this popular selection. Even before the 2002 U.S. Open is played, New York state officials have made it clear they want another U.S. Open.

“I don’t want to wait,” said Bernadette Castro, commissioner of parks and recreation. “I want another Open as quickly as possible.”

Said Fay: “I have never looked at any golf course with the idea that it would be a one-and-done or a one-hit wonder. If that’s the attitude you have going in, you shouldn’t be there in the first place.”

Regardless, Atlanta Athletic Club, Champions (Houston) and Bellerive (St. Louis) have been one-hit wonders in the last 40 years.

Looking ahead into the 21st century, do not be suprised to see four consecutive Opens on the west coast, starting with Torrey Pines in 2008.

Look for Riviera to be awarded the 2010 U.S. Open. Persistence will pay off, as Riviera, a private course in Pacific Palisades, Calif., is ready to serve as host for its first U.S. Open since 1948, when Ben Hogan won.

Likewise, do not be surprised to see Medinah tumble out of the U.S. Open rotation, at least temporarily, because of its affiliation with the PGA of America (2006 PGA Championship, 2012 Ryder Cup).

Mile-high Cherry Hills in Denver is a victim of altitude, joining Merion on the “too short” list.


















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