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Where To Play The U.S. Open

June 18, 1988

BROOKLINE, Mass. (AP) _ The United States Golf Association, caretaker of the game, operates with an appreciation of history and a sense of tradition not always evident in other sports.

The USGA, for example, would never think of legislating an extra club in the players’ bag the way baseball added another hitter in the lineup. It would never change the value of a birdie depending on its distance, the way basketball did with the three-point field goal.

So, it was no accident that on the 75th anniversary of local caddy Francis Ouimet’s stunning playoff victory in the U.S. Open, and the 25th anniversary of Julius Boros’ dramatic playoff win, that the Open returned to The Country Club in Brookline, Mass.

Expecting a fancy condominium course like the ones the pros play almost every week on the PGA Tour? No way. The USGA does not operate that way.

Playing this tournament in this setting was no simple matter from a logistical standpoint. Galleries were limited to 20,000 fans each day and even then, the place was crowded. Traffic and parking were perpetual headaches because Brookline’s boulevards aren’t designed for Open-sized audiences.

That is a continuing problem for the USGA, which must balance the rapid growth of its marquee event with its desire to keep the tournament anchored in golf’s intimate, traditional settings.

″We go to courses that are not otherwise available to the pros,″ said Bill Battle, newly installed president of the USGA. ″I don’t see the rotation changing.″

So, the world’s best golfers will be at Oak Hill in Rochester, N.Y., next June, at Medinah, Ill., in 1990 and at Hazeltine outside Minneapolis in 1991.

Four years ago, the Open was played at Winged Foot in tiny Mamaroneck, N.Y., and still vivid are the images of players like Larry Nelson and Tom Watson, abandoning their cars in traffic jams and running off to make their tee times.

Two years ago, the Open went to Shinnecock Hills on Long Island, where it took major road reconstruction in a two-lane area to accommodate the crowds.

And, this year it came to The Country Club, a logistical nightmare in the affluent Boston suburb of Brookline.

″You know what the problem is?″ asked retired player Dave Marr, now broadcasting for ABC. ″The country clubs aren’t in the country anymore. The cities have come to the old clubs, like Merion, Winged Foot and maybe here.

″You have to give the USGA credit, though. It finds ways to make it work.″

It is not easily accomplished. The USGA’s Battle talks about the army of volunteer marshalls, parking, concession and gallery arrangements necessary. Augusta National hosts the Masters every year; it knows what to expect. The Country Club had the Open twice before - in 1913 and 1963. ″I would hate to see them change and leave courses like this,″ Marr said. ″Playing at the old places, you can make comparisons. Maybe they’ve got to limit the galleries even more. You know a stadium seats 60,000 and they don’t sell more tickets than that. But I’d hate to make it an elitist or corporate event where an ordinary citizen can’t buy a ticket.″

That is the delicate balance that troubles the USGA. Limited galleries reduce the tournament’s exposure to fans as well as the income this type of event can generate. That’s why there are 34 corporate hospitality tents, each peddled at $100,000 apiece, dotting the landscape at The Country Club.

″The tents are a bit of a departure for us,″ Battle said. ″A great deal of thought went into that. From our point of view, that review was important. It’s a need to balance between realism and what we’d like.

″They’re a necessary evil. I’d prefer to see wide open space out there, grass, trees, flowers. But the tents have been done tastefully. They’re not offensive. It’s not like a carnival.″

Image is always a major concern in this sport. That is why, unlike some major college football bowl games and unlike the Olympics, Battle promises there will never be an official U.S. Open car or drink. He also promises the USGA will not abandon the old, traditional layouts, their size limitations notwithstanding.

″It’s a concern, but not an immediate problem,″ he said. ″The benefits so far outweigh the inconveniences and additional work.″

When the USGA picked Shinnecock Hills for the 1986 Open, Southampton residents warned of disaster. The USGA went ahead anyway, constructing overhead bridges for pedestrians to cross a nearby highway, and watched it flourish.

″I don’t think any tournament in my memory received the applause of the players as much as this one and Shinnecock,″ Battle said.

″The players don’t get to the old courses very often. That makes it a pure test. Nobody has an advantage. They appreciate the old courses because they’re so steeped in history. They stand the test of time.

″I like the history. Our last three Opens - Shinnecock, Olympic (San Francisco) and here - they are super courses. Granted, we can’t have 50,000 or 60,000 fans. But 25,000 or 30,000 get to see and enjoy it and millions more watch on TV.″

And don’t worry about the size limitation causing too much impact on the ample coffers of the USGA.

″Money isn’t everything,″ Battle said.

″Preserving the integrity of the game is very important. That’s the attitude of the USGA. There are no commercial temptations. And there won’t be any in my term.″

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