On Thursday afternoon, Reg Murphy emerged from the huge U.S. Open merchandise tent, which was teeming with customers. Outside in the bright sun, Murphy, a slight man of 61, stood amid a sea of people. Two blimps flew overhead. A food-delivery truck lurched past. A crew of TV technicians whizzed by in a cart. A few hundred yards away, some 25,000 spectators were watching the first round of the 95th U.S. Open. Millions more were watching on ESPN.
Murphy, the president of the United States Golf Association, which conducts the Open, was suddenly overwhelmed by the immensity of it all. "Wow," he said. "This sure has gotten to be a lot different than just a golf tournament. It's an extravaganza. A celebration of every element of the game."
Corey Pavin's career four-wood on the last hole is what most fans will remember about this centennial Open. But that final flourish was the culmination of an enormous effort. Here's a glimpse of what went on behind the scenes at Shinnecock Hills last week. Play away, please.
Tuesday, June 13
Forgive Jon Barker, the director of volunteers, if he is a wee bit cranky. He can't decide how to handle the female volunteer who went AWOL yesterday. "She's threatening to sue the USGA," says Barker, 25, "because the white shirt she was given to wear while working at her post in the merchandise tent, she claims, is see-through."
This is the third USGA event with which Barker has been involved. At most Opens the club's membership steps in to organize the volunteer corps for the championship, but Shinnecock's members wanted nothing to do with volunteering, so the USGA hired Barker to recruit some 3,200 volunteer from the surrounding communities. He was looking to fill 30 committees to perform tasks such as sorting Maxflis from Titleists at the practice range and carrying scoring standards. Most, but not all, of Barker's charges happily gave their 20 hours of service in exchange for free admission and parking. "One man called up and said he couldn't make it because he had sudden tax problems," said Barker. "Another woman said she couldn't come because she had conflicting golf dates. But I'm used to it."
Wednesday, June 14
Tim Moraghan has a big-picture kind of job, but the sight of an unraked bunker near the 4th green was too much for the USGA's chief agronomist to bear. Moraghan, 38, the man responsible for the course conditions at the USGA's 13 national championships, hopped into the trap and gave an impromptu lesson in sand grooming to six members of the grounds crew who were with him on his early-evening inspection to make sure the course was ready for the first round.
Moraghan was with David Eger, the USGA's senior director of rules and competitions, who was making decisions on pin placements. Moraghan and Shinnecock course superintendent Peter Smith unsheathed a metal bar called a Stimpmeter, a which looks like a piece of siding that came loose from the corner of the clubhouse but is used to check the speed of the greens.
Moraghan made his first visit to Shinnecock in April 1992 to start conditioning the course, and today it was exactly the way he wanted it, with 25- to 30-yard-wide fairways, five-inch-high primary rough (compared with the two-inch-tall grass the members usually play) and, for only the third time at an Open, groomed chipping areas behind greens instead of spinachlike rough.