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Posted June 8, 2017 in From The Tours by Tom Brassell
This year’s U.S. Open at Erin Hills marks only the 3rd time in modern history that the men’s Open championship has been hosted by a relatively new course.
Very much like Super Bowls in football that have been granted to new stadiums, the Open has not returned, or scheduled to return, to those courses.
The club was founded in 1898, but was then located at what is now East Lake Country Club, the now site of the Tour Championship. The club property was sold in 1967 and moved to what was then a large, vacant site in unincorporated Fulton County with a Duluth mailing address.
In November of 1971, Bob Jones wrote a letter to the USGA saying, “My home club, the Atlanta Athletic Club, has recently built a new country club. Our membership is most eager to be awarded the privilege of entertaining the USGA Open Championship…and I should be most happy if my old club should become the host for my favorite golf tournament.” He died one month later.
The USGA couldn’t say “no” to Jones or his memory bringing a National Open Championship the farthest south since the U.S. Women’s Open was held at Scenic Hills Country Club in 1969. Scenic Hills is in Pensacola, Florida. 22 year-old Jerry Pate, the winner in 1976 U.S. Open at Atlanta Athletic Club is from Pensacola.
Cue the “Twilight Zone” theme music.
2 PGA Championships, a Women’s Open and many other championships have been hosted since at AAC, but never another US Open.
We had to fast forward almost 40 years to find another first time course, this being in University Place, Washington. Unlike the private Athletic Club, Chambers Bay is a public course southwest of Tacoma, WA.
It too has some “Jones history,” but that of Robert Trent Jones, Jr. who designed the course that was built on a sand and gravel quarry. During construction, 1.4 million cubic yards of dirt and sand (over 100,000 truckloads) were removed, cleaned off site, and returned to sculpt the course. At the time, it was still permitted as a working mine, which meant fewer restrictions for the course architects.
There were a number of firsts. It was the first Open in which a hole was played as a par-4 one day and a par-5 the next, where the range in tee placements on a single hole could extend its length by 100 yards or greater. The first Open televised by FOX Sports, revolutionizing the way the game is viewed. And it was the last U.S. Open where the anchored putting stroke was within the Rules of Golf.
21 year-old Jordan Spieth, bested Pate (by one year in age) and Dustin Johnson (by one shot to win).
In summary, both previous first time US Opens were (or appear to be) one and done. Atlanta is simply too far south to host our national championship in June, and despite having a popular winner in Spieth, Chambers Bay suffered it’s share of criticism.
Which brings us to Erin Hills, and fate.
So, fate will tell us, our winner will be around 22 years old, winning score will be between 3 and 5 under and went to college where the school or city begins with an “A.”
How about a young man 22 years old, who is playing outstanding on his first year on tour who attended Arizona State.
Can you say Jon Rahm?