What a week it’s been for golf in the Valley. I’m sure by now you’re aware that Dennis Miller, director of golf for Mill Creek Metroparks, qualified Monday to play in this week’s U.S. Open Championship. The actual U.S. Open!
TheOpen is one of golf’s four major championships. Conducted by the USGA at a different course each year, its set up, rock-hard greens and brutally long rough produces what is commonly known as golf’s most difficult tournament.
When asked in the past why the USGA wanted to “punish” the world’s best golfers, their reply was simple but clear: “We’re not punishing them, we’re identifying them.”
For golfers who dream big, getting to play in the U.S. Open would be our ultimate experience.
So I understand how Dennis Miller’s story sounds like something out of a fictional novel: A club pro who oversees 36 holes in a small Midwestern town, married with a young son, comes out of nowhere to qualify for the biggest golf tournament in the world held at one of the country’s most beautiful and demanding courses, The Olympic Club in San Francisco. Too good to be true right?
Well in the words of Lee Corso, “Not so fast my friends …”
Weird things can happen in golf; even weirder when it’s the U.S. Open at Olympic.
The year was 1955. As the story goes, Ben Hogan was playing in what he determined would be his final U.S. Open. At the time, he was tied for the all-time record with four U.S. Open titles. After a final round 70, the crowds erupted as it appeared he was going to become the first man to win five championships.
Gene Sarazen interviewed him after the round and they held up five fingers. He gave his ball to the USGA for their museum. Then he went inside and waited.
It quickly became clear the only man left on the course that could beat or tie him was Jack Fleck.
You see, he was a club pro. Oversaw 36 holes in a small Midwestern town. Married with a young son.
And all that club pro did was birdie two of the last four holes to tie the great Ben Hogan. When he shot 69 the next day in an 18-hole playoff, Jack Fleck, the club pro from Iowa, won the U.S. Open at The Olympic Club.
Fifty seven years later, we’re ready to root for our club pro.
Dennis Miller, one of the best ball strikers I’ve ever played with, is going to The Olympic Club to play in the U.S. Open.
Dennis, I hope you birdie 18 to beat Tiger and become this generation’s Jack Fleck.
But to be honest, it doesn’t matter. You’re going to play in the U.S. Open.
Enjoy every minute of it. We’ll be here rooting for you.
And just remember, crazy things happen in the Open at Olympic.
As always, thanks for reading, and until next week, “Hit ’em Straight!”
Jonah Karzmer is a former player at YSU and a member at The Lake Club. He works in insurance when not writing a golf column every Sunday in The Vindicator. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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