My first memoryof Winged Foot? Poison ivy, dense underbrush and, suddenly, sunlight andthousands of people. It was June 16, 1974, a week after my college graduation,and I was living on Long Island. A buddy and I wanted to attend the final roundof the U.S. Open, but we didn't have tickets. Our solution? Sneak in.
Ignoring the NOPARKING signs, we left my 1971 Mustang by the side of Mamaroneck Road andducked into the woods. We emerged on the left side of the 15th hole and blendedin with the crowd. At first we jumped from hole to hole. Then we spent a longtime perched behind the 6th green, rapt as the pros tried to negotiate thetricky pitch to that diabolical back-right pin position.
Like many in thecrowd, we began to follow Hale Irwin on the back nine. And when he launchedthat picture-perfect two-iron onto the 18th green, we were standing as close tohim as the marshals would allow. From the fairway, we watched Irwin two-putt tosecure the first of his three U.S. Open titles.
It was a goldenafternoon and a grand introduction to major championship golf. A bargain, too,or so we thought until we returned to Mamaroneck Road to discover that theMustang was nowhere to be found. So we hoofed it to the impound yard and pooledour resources to get the car out of hock, the luster of the day dimmed onlyslightly.
May 21, 2006
My next exposureto Winged Foot came two or three years later. I had a friend who was anassistant pro on Long Island. In those days Winged Foot allowed assistant prosfrom neighboring courses to play on certain Mondays, when the club was closed.My pal asked if he could bring someone along. Sure, he was told, as long ashe's a pro. If my modest bag and unpolished swing weren't proof enough that Iwas an impostor, my own personal Massacre at Winged Foot--a front-nine 50--madethe truth abundantly clear. But our caddie never said a word, and I like tothink that the 39 I shot on the back nine restored a small measure ofcredibility.
In June the U.S.Open will be back at Winged Foot, and so will I, but this time as a member, notas a kid hacking through the bushes or a 14-handicapper masquerading as a pro.(I didn't mention these visits when I was applying.) Armed with my $375member's ticket package, I can roam the now familiar grounds for three practicerounds and all four rounds of the tournament. And I can repair to the memberhospitality area in the clubhouse to enjoy a beverage with my fellow WingedFooters.
Yes, times havechanged, although one thing has not. I plan to drive that very same '71 Mustangto Mamaroneck. This time, I'll park legally.
TRUST ME by JIM GORANT
The last two weeks should silence the critics who saidTrevor Immelman didn't belong on Tour.