God bless the muni golfer. God bless the hack, the chop, the scrape. God bless Joey Threejerk over there, trying to hit a seven-iron with one foot on a sprinkler that won't shut off and the other on his bag of Cheetos that he's keeping from the pigeons. God bless the guy who regrips the ball retriever, has a scorekeeper on his belt and gets the 39-cent pickle out of the jar in the pro shop.
Mostly, God bless the USGA, for finally bringing the U.S. Open to the people, to a real muni, golf's chophalla—Bethpage Black on Long Island, N.Y.
Pebble Beach? That ain't no muni! What muni that you know costs $350 to play? And let's face it, you'll probably never play Open courses like Winged Foot, Olympic or the Country Club, unless you suddenly grow a numeral after your name like, say, Gloucester Pennington IV.
But if you're willing to sleep with the other members in your foursome, you can play Bethpage Black. For $31. Tomorrow.
All you have to do is get in the "car line" at Bethpage. It's been going on for decades, and it's rougher than a sandpaper facial, but it's worth it. Here's what you do:
Show up in the parking lot no sooner than 24 hours before tee-time tickets are handed out at 5 a.m. At least one of your group must be in the car at all times, and everybody has to be there when the tickets are distributed. No covering for buddies who couldn't get off work in time. People have tried standing a bag of clubs in the backseat, putting a windbreaker and a hat on it. Never flies.
Once when Mickey Walsh, an operations supervisor of the course, was giving out the tickets to a carload, he noticed one guy was either dead or a mannequin. So Mickey said, "Sir, if you'd like to play the Black, please raise your hand." No hand, no ticket. The next week the same carload came back, dummy in tow. But this time, when Mickey asked, the dummy raised its hand! Turns out the guys had rigged a string to the dummy's arm.
"You guys are too good," Mickey said with a laugh. Still didn't give them the fourth ticket.
It's golf. It's camping. It's tail-waiting! People come in every kind of vehicle, even Winnebagos, and park in a designated area. One guy just stood in his parking place all night. He didn't own a car. Just him and his clubs, no lawn chair, no TV, no sleeping bag. Just stayed in his parking space all night. God bless him, too.
Some guys try to park their car, go home for a decent night's sleep and then sneak back before five. That doesn't work either. They've come back to find their car wrapped in toilet paper. Except for mulligans, chops hate a cheat.