Golf at Bethpage Black

I met Bob on the practice range at 7:30 in the morning. Halfway through a bucket of balls, he was excited and talkative. Bob had been my client for a couple of months. I met him in the spring at a clinic I taught, and he had asked me to start working with him that week. Over the months, we did a couple of video analysis sessions and spent a lot of time out on the range. We even played a few holes together, so I could see his game out on the course.
Somewhere in all that time, Bob confessed an ambition. He had been captivated by watching the U.S. Open on television in 2002 and 2009, when it was held at Bethpage State Park in Long Island, New York. Tiger Woods had won the 2002 event and Lucas
Glover the 2009. Often, major tournaments are held at private clubs and off limits to the general public. But 2002 was the first time that the Open was held on a public golf course. It was a marvelous course and the average golfer could now play the same
course that the pros did on television.
In the course of our lessons, Bob shared his dream of playing the Bethpage Black course. When Bob had found out that I used to live on Long Island and had played the course many times—including two New York State Opens—he offered me an opportunity.
Bob was in his late fifties (I guessed). He was a partner in some sort of securities trading firm (I wasn’t sure exactly what they did) with about seventy-five employees. Apparently, he did quite well financially. He offered to fly me with him to Long Island so that he could play the course with me along to coach him through it. He would even pay for my time and expenses.
I was intrigued. Bob seemed like a nice guy, and it would be fun to see the Black Course at Bethpage again. But I pointed out how tough it was to get a tee time. Bethpage is a state park, and players camp out over night to get one of the limited tee time slots. You can’t just walk in and play.
“You let me worry about that,” Bob said. “If I can get us in, can you go?” I told him that with enough notice I should be able to clear my schedule. About a week and a half later, Bob called.
“Can you go next Tuesday?”
“Sure. Can you get a tee time?”
“Done.”
“How?”
“I know a guy. That’s all you need to know.”
Well, Bethpage is in New York, where “knowing a guy” is an art form. What the heck.
Bob wasn’t a great player, or terrible. He had a 20 handicap, which means that on average, he played 25 strokes over par. For a guy his age and experience, he was about average. He confessed his goal was to play “bogey golf ”—to average one stroke over par for the course.
“You won’t do that on the Bethpage Black course, Bob. I’m telling you, it’s tough. I don’t want you to set your expectations too high. Your first time on it, you should be aspiring to break 100.”
“That’s why I have you along, Scott. Talk me through it.”
We flew in the morning before, and Bob checked us into an executive hotel. He took the rental car out to look at the course and clubhouse from the parking lot, and he bought some souvenir shirts and hats. Over dinner, he was almost giddy, wanting me to preview every hole for him with a scorecard he had picked up.
Dinner in New York can be as long as a round of golf. It is an event. There is the pre-appetizer, the appetizer, the main course, desert, and it’s all followed by an after desert drink–or three.
The next thing you know, it’s four hours later. This gave me plenty of time to preview the holes. But rather than give Bob the entire hole by hole analysis, I used the time to share a few stories about how I qualified to play in the New York State Open at Bethpage Black. We talked about what it was like to play in a State Open, the excitement of playing 2 under par on the front nine to leap into fifth place before falling back to 38th for the tournament. The ups and downs that occur over a five hour round and many more fun golf stories that could only be told over a four hour New York style dinner.
Excerpted from the book The Game of Golf and The Art of Business. To read more find the book at www.GrandRapidsGolfLesson.com/books
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