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The Open Island

A MAJOR PAST

This summer's U.S. Open at Bethpage will be the twelfth major championship on Long Island, not counting a host of U.S. Amateurs and U.S. Women's Opens. The first U.S. Open on Long Island—the second overall—took place in 1896 at Shinnecock Hills, at that time measuring 4,423 yards from the tips. The Open that year was little more than a one-day, thirty-six-hole add-on to the then more prestigious U.S. Amateur, also held at Shinnecock. The main controversy of the day was the USGA's insistence, under the threat of a player boycott, that two club caddies of Shinnecock Indian heritage be allowed to play; one of them, John Shippen, who was also half-black, finished fifth, and later became head pro at nearby Maidstone.

The Open returned to Long Island three more times by 1932. In the 1902 event at Garden City, an up-and-coming course designer named Donald Ross finished ninth and the USGA was criticized—does this sound familiar?—for making the pin locations too tough. At the 1923 Open at Inwood, Bobby Jones won the first of his thirteen majors in an eighteen-hole play-off with a clutch one-iron shot, over water, to the final green. At the 1932 Open at Fresh Meadow (a course since converted into a cineplex and mall), Gene Sarazen staged possibly the greatest Open rally ever, playing the final three nines in 32-32-34 to come from seven strokes back.

The PGA Championship took place on Long Island five times before 1939, starting with the second-ever PGA at the Engineers Club in 1919. Walter Hagen won the next two—in 1921 at Inwood and in 1926 at Salisbury—and Henry Picard trumped Byron Nelson in the finals of the 1939 PGA at Pomonock. (Pomonock, too, has since been paved over.)

Not for forty-seven years did Long Island see another major. Both the 1986 and 1995 Opens took place at Shinnecock, but by then the course bore little relation to the 1896 layout. At 6,912 yards with a par of seventy, it proved such a beast that, in 1986, the only player to finish under par was Raymond Floyd, who at forty-three became the oldest U.S. Open champion ever. Corey Pavin won the 1995 edition with a stirring four-wood into the final hole that cinched his victory. In 2004, the Open will return to Shinnecock.

For more such history, see America's Linksland: A Century of Long Island Golf (Sleeping Bear Press, $55), by William Quirin.

PRIVATE GEMS

Long Island also has perhaps the greatest concentration of first-rate private courses in the world; if you know a member at one, now's the time to give him or her a call. Here are the best.

Atlantic Golf Club, Bridgehampton. Rees Jones's first New York design opened in 1992. Noted for its knobs, mounds and moguls, Atlantic hosted the 1997 U.S. Senior Amateur.
The Bridge Golf Club, Bridgehampton. Jones's newest L.I. gem opens this spring and boasts superb long-distance vistas.
The Creek Club, Locust Valley. Opened in 1923 by a group including J. P. Morgan and C. B. Macdonald—who also built it.
Deepdale Golf Club, Manhasset. Only two original holes remain from Macdonald's 1926 layout for William Vanderbilt, but Dick Wilson's 1956 design is still one of the best in the area.
East Hampton Golf Club, East Hampton. Opened in 2001, this Ben Crenshaw­Bill Coore track sports a front nine that has enjoyed comparisons to Pine Valley and a links-style back side.
Engineers Country Club, Roslyn Harbor. Its heyday predated the Depression, but the history and many original holes remain.
Fishers Island Club, Fishers Island. Perched in the middle of Long Island Sound (and accessible only from Connecticut), this Seth Raynor design takes honors as the most exotic course on L.I.
Fresh Meadow Country Club, Great Neck. The 1923 Tillinghast design hosted the 1932 U.S. Open, won by its former club pro, Gene Sarazen. A Charles Alison layout now graces the grounds.
Garden City Golf Club, Garden City. Referred to in golfing circles as the "Men's Club," this prestigious host to the 1902 U.S. Open was Long Island­legend Walter Travis's home course.
Inwood Country Club, Inwood. Opened in 1902, it hosted the 1923 U.S. Open, at which Bobby Jones won his first major.
Laurel Links Country Club, Jamesport. Designed by Kelly Blake Moran, who redid Tiger's home course in Florida. Opens this fall.
Maidstone Club, East Hampton. Another Long Island staple now in its third century, this Willie Park Jr. design (1899) maintains the heritage and feel of its Celtic creator.
The Meadow Brook Club, Jericho. Billy Casper, who won the L.I. Classic here, called it one of the best courses he ever played.
Nassau Country Club, Glen Cove. Four-time U.S. Amateur champion Jerry Travers made Nassau his turn-of-the-century home. Revised several times, today's course features fourteen par fours.
National Golf Links of America, Southampton. This Macdonald links-style masterpiece opened in 1911 and has since reigned as one of the most majestic in the nation.
Noyac Golf & Country Club, Sag Harbor. Laid out in 1964 by William Mitchell, Noyac is a hidden gem.
Piping Rock Club, Locust Valley. Originally fashioned by Macdonald, Piping Rock was renovated in 1987 by Pete Dye. The new course remains faithful to its Scottish heritage.
Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, Southampton. America's first formally organized golf club (1891) and, by most accounts, the grandest on L.I. Host to three Opens, with a fourth scheduled for 2004.
Southward Ho Country Club, Bay Shore. Another Tillinghast showpiece, opened in 1923, features pear-shaped greens.

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