I’m writing this from the Philadelphia airport on my way to Indianapolis for a day at home before heading to Bend, Oregon for the PGA Professional National Championship. The month of June 2013 will be the most brutal stretch of travel that I have as President of the PGA of America.
The month started with the PGA Championship Media Day at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, NY. After a Monday round with defending PGA champion Rory McIlroy, it was a Tuesday morning groundbreaking ceremony at a Habitat for Humanity house that the PGA is doing in conjunction with our Championship and the Rochester community.
From there it was onto New York City for a Yankee game. The next day was a round of golf with former New York City mayor, Rudy Giuliani, at Liberty National which is located across the Hudson River looking right into the face of the Statue of Liberty and the financial district of Manhattan. The following day it was a round of golf at Bethpage Black from 7,400 yards and the U.S. Open tees. That was the hardest day I have ever spent on a golf course.
The week was capped off by being part of the 125th anniversary for Saint Andrews Golf Club at Hastings on Hudson about 25 minutes from NYC. My youngest daughter Ambry is a PGA member at this club, which is the oldest in the United States. I returned to Franklin for two days and the IHSAA Boys State Finals at The Legends before heading to Philadelphia for the U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club.
It was my privilege to serve on the USGA Rules Committee at the Open. I was a forward observer with Charl Scwartzel, Tim Clark and Louis Oosthuizen on Thursday and Friday of last week. Saturday afternoon I was privileged to be the observer with the final group of the day which included Phil Mickelson, Luke Donald and Billy Horschel.
Ironically, Justin Rose the 2013 champion played in the group ahead of me all three days. It was no surprise to me that Rose won the second major championship of the year. His entire game was solid all week. Rose was actually four over par after 13 holes in the first round. The Englishman rebounded to play the final 59 holes in three under par earning a two shot victory.
On the final Sunday of the Open, I joined Tim Finchem, PGA Tour Commissioner, and the USGA’s Glen Nager and Mike Davis for an 11 a.m. meeting on a variety of important issues. I decided to take the rest of the day off from rules duties and watch the Open finale in my hotel room. In my opinion, this day was going to probably be historical and I wanted to see how it would unfold.
Walking the course at Merion was extremely tough because of the length of the rough. The drag and friction on your shoes along with the elevation change was rugged. On top of that, the rounds were long and the days started at 5 a.m. and usually ended at dark.
On Monday of this week, I joined Derek Sprague, PGA Vice President at the International Celebration for Pine Valley’s 100th anniversary. This New Jersey course is annually rated as the #1 golf course in the world. Many also consider it to be the toughest course on the globe.
The PGA of America was honored to be invited along with 37 other entities including the PGA Tour, USGA plus the Royal and Ancient. More impressive were the 33 national and international clubs and their top two officials who rounded out the field. Representatives from all over the world were summoned to help Pine Valley commemorate 100 years of golfing history.
At Monday’s practice round, Sprague and I played with Jim Davis who is only the sixth club president in the club’s illustrious century of history. We were joined by PV member Tom “Total” Loss who serves as Rules expert for CBS television. On Tuesday we played with a twosome from Royal Liverpool in England, the site of next year’s Open Championship. Our final round was with officials from Baltusrol who will play host to the 2016 PGA Championship.
Three days at Pine Valley are a mixture of Heaven and Hell. The camaraderie and stories were boundless and it was one of my highest honors to be included in this group. I never take for granted the things that I get exposed to through the PGA and this event was an example of that. The golf course lived up to its billing. Every shot is a grind.
It was the fifth time I have been to Pine Valley. An errant shot can easily result in an ‘X’ on your scorecard. The greens are severe and there is nothing easy about the course who has hosted to Walker Cups. Pine Valley has a simple motto. “We are not a course of championships, but a course for champions.”
Today, I am in Franklin for a day before I head to Bend, OR and the PGA PNC. I serve as tournament chairman. The 312 player field is comprised of PGA professionals. It’s the national championship for club pros. The total purse is $550,000 and the top twenty finishers earn a spot in the PGA Championship at Oak Hill in August.
I’ll be in Oregon for eight days before returning home on June 27 for two days. After that it’s an important PGA Tour Policy Board meeting at the Greenbriar on July 1. Following that I will be in Washington D.C. that night throwing out the first pitch at a Nationals game.
THEN it’s home sweet home to Franklin before the Open Championship at Muirfield in Scotland.