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Mike BarryEye on the Island

By Mike Barry
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Countdown to Bethpage

Middle-aged men are rarely willing to wait in line. You won’t see them camping out overnight for concert tickets, standing on anything other than the supermarket’s express lane, or leading the charge at a break-of-dawn, post Thanksgiving Day retail store stampede.

This same demographic group, however, may make an exception when it comes to securing the limited number of tickets remaining for the 2009 U.S. Open, to be held June 15-21 at Bethpage State Park’s Black Course, Farmingdale. The practice rounds will be held on June 15-17, and then the four championship rounds will be played between Thursday, June 18 and Sunday, June 21.

Even if you’re not a fan of the sport, it’ll be hard to avoid the media coverage next month surrounding the Long Island arrival of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and the world’s other top golfers. The U.S. Open was last held at Bethpage State Park in 2002 and Woods won the tournament that year and in 2008.

Starting on Thursday, June 11, and continuing through Sunday, June 14, Bethpage State Park’s U.S. Open Will Call facility will offer on a first-come, first-served basis daily practice round tickets ($40), daily championship round tickets ($100), and a weekly grounds ticket package ($400). Juniors aged 13-17 are eligible for lower-priced tickets, although there is a limit of two junior tickets per one adult ticket holder. Youngsters aged 12 and under are admitted free of charge, on any day, when accompanied by a paid adult ticket holder.

The Will Call facility will open between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. on those four aforementioned days, coinciding with a pre-championship merchandise sale taking place in the Merchandise Pavilion during the same hours. The reason the U.S. Golf Association (USGA) was able to expand the number of tickets available to the general public was because the demand for corporate tickets fell short of the USGA’s original expectations, the organization acknowledged.

Bethpage State Park’s Black Course is a notoriously difficult challenge, even for elite players, something the USGA’s senior director of rules and competition, Mike Davis, elaborated upon in last week’s Media Day conference call. There are five new teeing grounds in 2009 at Bethpage State Park, a public facility, and the course’s length is increasing to 7,426 yards this year from 7,214 yards in 2002, Davis noted.

Another thing unique to Bethpage’s Black Course is that a player cannot see the putting greens from the drive zone on almost half of the 18 holes, Davis continued. “So you are hitting into something where you can’t see the putting surface, or in some cases, you only see the top half of the flagstick, and that certainly offers up some additional challenge because the player just can’t see quite what he’s doing,” Davis stated.

The U.S. Open is held annually but won’t return to the New York area for at least another seven years because the USGA has already announced the host courses through 2015, and all of them are situated in other states. The nearest U.S. Open sites over that time span are Bethesda, Maryland (2011) and Ardmore, Pennsylvania (2013).

Mike Barry, a corporate communications consultant, has worked in government and journalism. Email: MFBARRY@optonline.net