Bethpage Black: We Hardly Knew Ye

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Here’s one for the 19th hole. Except, in this case, we never got out.

First-round tickets to the U.S Open. At the bear known as Bethpage Black. The people’s course. Where Tiger triumphed in 2002.


Save for the rain, skies more grey than black, and a forecast for more of the wet stuff. Undeterred, our threesome was playing through anyway, anyhow, anywhere.

My brother in law Art made the trek down from north of Hartford to Mamaroneck, also home to Winged Foot, where we took in the third round of the 2006 U.S. Open. We picked up my buddy Ken and the journey ensued. Following recommendations to use mass transit (actually, the rail schlep seemed more attractive than driving to Jones Beach and then being bused back to Bethpage), we drove to Citi Field, and parked under the L for $4 (yes, there’s no missing zero at the end of that price). Took the 7 back to Woodside. Downstairs to the LIRR (the only downer in an otherwise smooth mass transit movement was the 45-minute gap in the 8 p.m. hour between trains heading to Farmingdale, next to Bethpage, home of Cablevision).

The rain was intermittent, but certainly playable. If the golfers can endure, we can too. There’ll be a window, no doubt. So we convinced ourselves.

Off the train onto a shuttle that navigated a couple of hills and a few turns into Bethpage State Park. Wending our way past concession stands, port-o-sans and a large merchandise pavilion, we finally made it to the first tee around 10 a.m.

Instantly, the bull horn sounded our arrival — and suspended play. Something about timing’s everything.

Our umbrellas held high, we hung fast, and reasonably dry.  In our best accents, we joked about how the Scots invented golf to have something to do when it rained. The Curb Your Enthusiasm episode in which Larry doesn’t trust the golfing meteorologist came to mind. So did the impact the weather will have on ESPN and NBC’s ratings. As we gabbed, a few notables — Rory Sabbatini, Luke Donald, Geoff Ogilvy and Paul Casey, among them — sloshed by en route to clubhouse.

Then, photographers and camera men dragged their equipment back up the hill. On the 18th green, three squeeges were in full push. That was to be expected. But with USGA officials raking water off the fairway below, we began to realize that no matter the size of one’s golf umbrella (there were plenty of those above and at eye level for those slopping through the muck and mire), this round was unlikely to be saved.

With cell phones prohibited (no snapshots of Tiger, or perish the thought, a ringtone roughing a drive), there wasn’t any easy way to call and update Mother Nature’s plan. And at least where the hoi polloi dodged the growing puddles and slid through the matted grass, TVs and computers with weather updates were hidden.

Meanwhile, a Jumbotron replayed Woods’s physical pain and Rocco’s emotional rollercoaster during an encore of their 18-hole Open playoff duel at Torrey Pines last June.

Then a blank screen. As the satellite searched for its signal, we hoped for The Weather Channel, Cablevision’s local News 12 channel, or its sister traffic-and-weather service. Alas, Tiger-Rocco returned.

And so will Art and I. But just check the forecast for the next few days. There’s hope for Friday and Sunday. Not so much for Saturday, which could duplicate today’s deluge. Guess which day we have tickets for.