Named for the comic strip that I draw—not for British Columbia, as I'm forced to explain with lamentable frequency—the B.C. Open has been a mainstay on the PGA Tour since 1972. As I fully expected, this year's tournament, which was won by Gabriel Hjertstedt, was a smashing success. The event, however, had the misfortune of falling on the same weekend as a certain international competition, and I, for one, am still scratching my head trying to understand why Tiger Woods and his pals skipped the B.C. Open in favor of the Ryder Cup.
After all, why travel to Spain and have to deal with jet lag, a legion of hostile fans, overrated Iberian cuisine and locals who wear brown socks with sandals, when you could come to idyllic Endicott, N.Y.? True, we don't offer rolling Andalusian hillsides, but Endicott does boast the world-famous spiedie—a local delicacy of skewered lamb served on Italian bread—that is celebrated at an annual festival. We also offer a haven for touring pros looking to compete in a placid environment. (A former mayor once described this burg of 13,500 as "rather dull.")
That doesn't mean, however, that we can't accommodate those who enjoy celebrity gazing. To wit: Jeff MacNelly, Paul Szep, Bruce Beattie and Mike Peters, four of the top editorial cartoonists of our day, all turned out for this year's tournament.
I certainly don't buy the popular theory that the Ryder Cup is steeped in more history than the B.C. Open. How quickly people forget the storied "clubhouse-less" Open of '74, when a mysterious fire several weeks before the event charred the clubhouse at En-Joie Golf Course. We'll always remember the '76 Open, when torrential rains flooded the course. Fearing that the tournament might be canceled, the townsfolk brought sump pumps and generators to En-Joie to help move the water into the nearby Susquehanna River.
I believe that the Ryder Cup participants really had the wool pulled over their eyes when they were told of the Cup's prestige. I know as well as anyone that prestige is really a code word for no money. (The purse at this year's B.C. Open was $1.3 million.) While it's true that our tournament has never been on network television, it has long been immortalized in both of my comic strips, B.C. and The Wizard of Id.
Like the figures I draw, the B.C. Open is a throwback to an earlier time. Lacking a major corporate sponsor, our event survives—barely—because of widespread community backing and a light-heartedness that one would be hard-pressed to find at any other Tour stop. At a time when pro golf could stand to take itself less seriously, why would any self-respecting player skip an event named for a comic strip in favor of a hoity-toity event most people assume is sponsored by a rental truck company?