Sunday morning, around 1am, I arrived home after 8 total hours of driving and a little over 5 hours of golf. My arms were sore, my legs felt like jello molds that were slowly being squeezed by a vice clamp, and I was exhausted. It was totally worth it though.
Accompanied by my brother-in-law and his friend, I made the pilgrimage to Long Island, NY for a Saturday afternoon tee time at Bethpage Black, one of the top 5 public golf courses in the country. This course hosted the US Open in 2002 and again in 2009 and is considered one of the most difficult courses in America. In fact, the above sign is posted just outside of the first tee box essentially saying, “You’re probably not good enough to play here so don’t waste both of our times by cluttering up the course with your crappy shots”. You have to respect a course that knows it’s better at being a golf course than you are at being a golfer.
After 5 and a half hours and over 7,000 yards of walking, we finished the 18th hole in the dark and surveyed the damage. I shot an 82. Some professionals would be satisfied to walk away from The Black with an 82. I was freaking ecstatic! Having played the toughest course I will probably ever play and leave there with my dignity in tact was an accomplishment in itself. Add to that, the fact that I crossed off a much-anticipated item from my 30 Before 30 list, and I couldn’t be happier.
It was an honor to play such a famous and challenging course. In honor of The Black course, I decided to conclude this post with a letter. If Bethpage Black could talk to the golfers who dare to tee it up, this letter is what I believe it would say. So here is my “Ode to Bethpage Black”.
I know your type. I see your kind everyday.
The weekend warrior, the shag-bagger, the casual golfer looking for a change from your “home course”. You come from all over the state, the country, hell…the world. People just like you arrive from Indiana, Ireland, and India to walk my grounds with your fancy clubs and your liquid courage. You want to play the best. Beat the best. You think you can beat me? Step right up.
I’ve been humbling players like you since before you could tie your own shoes. You think because you beat the other three guys in your weekly foursome, you’re good enough to take me on? That’s fine; I’ve got no problem humbling you too. Professionals have walked my hills and valleys in an attempt to win this country’s National Championship. They’ve left here dejected; egos bruised and beaten.
I like your spunk though; it’s both uplifting and motivating. You and your buddies spent the night in your cars, just to get a chance to step up on my tee box and stare down the beast. You think I didn’t see you swallow that lump in your throat? I did. I hoped you packed a lunch kid, because I’m about to take you to school.
You’ve never played a course like me. My fairways are lush and immaculate, but you’ll probably never see them. My rough is dense and punishing and will make you pay dearly for your errant tee shots. I hope you’re in shape because I’m going to test every muscle in your body, every breath in your lungs with my 7,400 yards of undulating earth. You want a cart? Too bad, I don’t allow it. You’re gonna have to walk every last step.
Don’t blame me when you collapse after the 18th, humiliated and fatigued. I warned you before you put that first tee in the ground. Did you think I put that sign there for show? This is New York son; we don’t mess around up here. I’ve hosted two US Opens and more state tournaments than I can remember so you better check up on your history. I’m as tough as they say I am and tougher than you can even imagine so bring your “A” game.
I appreciate your respect for me though, I really do. You chose me as the Goliath to your David, the Everest of golf courses that you were determined to conquer. You came prepared with an extra box of balls and a bottle of Advil. You’re going to need both. I’m relentless. I’m exhausting. I’m not the Red, Yellow, Green or Blue courses…I’m Bethpage Black. Now tee it up!