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You the man! We the people

"You Gotta Be Kidding!"
by Mickey Charles CEO, The Sports Network

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -- That's the way it was (with a thankful and appreciative nod to Walter Cronkite) in New York recently at the U.S. Open, held on the Bethpage State Park (Black Course) in Farmingdale. Designed by course architect A.W. Tillinghast (1936) it was redesigned in 1998 by Rees Jones and is a magnificent Par 70 covering 7,214 yards, a perfect venue for the 102nd US Open. Although the USGA lists Tillinghast as the course designer, some historians believe that Joseph Burbeck, the superintendent for more that 30 years at Bethpage, penned the course.

Tiger Woods
With Sergio Garcia and an expansive gallery looking on, Tiger Woods hits a shot during the final round of the 102nd US Open on the Black Course at Bethpage State Park.
One yard longer than the 1997 Open at Congressional Country Club. Bethpage is the largest public golf facility in the world, with five 18-hole golf courses centered at one clubhouse. For the first time, the Open was played on a truly public golf course. While Pebble Beach Golf Links and Pinehurst Resort are open to the public, Bethpage is a daily fee course, with more than 30,000 rounds played per year.

As the longest course in Open history, and miles of rough, it was able to accommodate throngs of people that honestly believed they were off to see a Mets, Yankees or Giants' game. Argue all you want, bellow until you are blue in the face, express your loyalty and history of following sports since they first dressed your butt in pin striped diapers, the Big Apple boasts the most discriminating, animated, discerning and knowledgeable fans on the planet. They are fervent and zealous, hard-headed and heated, ardent and alert. They are expressive and let you know it. To them, golf may require the silence of a Sunday morning church service but it also resounds favorably with a good old gospel hymn.

Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia and friends were probably waiting for the NY Rangers or Knicks to meet them on the next tee. When the marshals raised their hands this New York crowd thought it was a signal to start the wave. If Sergio wanted to do his impression of early cha-cha lessons before he actually brought the head of his club into contact with the ball they thought he should have been hitting from an Arthur Murray Studio. Patience wore thin and nerves became frayed. But, both the crowd and Sergio persisted and, somehow, learned to respect one another.

Martina Hingis and crowd
Tennis star Martina Hingis watches as beau Sergio Garcia of Spain plays during the second round. Rainy weather did little to diminish the fervor of the crowd.
If Phil Mickelson had this sort of support everywhere he went he would no longer carry the title of 'the best player ever to never win a major.' One more day and they would have had him in a run-off election against Michael Bloomberg. Adoption papers have been officially filed by the City of New York as of this writing, and Mickelson has a lifetime pass on the "D" train.

Tiger Woods can make the ball dance on his clubface with the steady beat of sounds that reminds one of Michael Flatley racing onto the stage in Lord of the Dance, almost symphonic with a consonancy and tuneful feel to it, but the concentration he needs before sending that Nike ball 300+ yards down the fairway was nearly broken by the faithful. He may be the man but they are the people. They paid to get in and they want to cheer their hero onto victory. This is what they do.

Martina Hingis and crowd
Spectators wait for Tiger Woods on the 12th tee box during the second round.
They cannot be relegated to a simple "You the man!" after the ball has taken flight. They are not satisfied with "Yes!" when it slips into the edge of the cup after being lightly touched some 60 feet away on a green with more ups and downs than WorldCom stock. New York, Long Island specifically, was eager for this event. It was to be played on the same course that we can all navigate in one fashion or the other. "This is the hole that Tiger birdied and his ball was just about here." Right, but it was his second shot and this is your fourth.

So, this crowd was a bit more passionate than the USGA had been accustomed to. They were spirited in appreciation. They were effusive and gushing over their heroes. They wanted the players to know that they were adored and respected. What better way than applause, acclaim and recognizing brilliance with shouts of joy? Okay, not the entire clamor was joyous and some of the outpourings had Sergio responding in kind. Golfing decorum prevented middle digits from being raised but not from their being thought of by both sides. Garcia is still considered the interloper from abroad and his endless preparation over each shot drives fans and others playing with him into nervous twitching?unless, like Tiger, they turn away waiting to hear the click of the club against the ball.

They raised the roof at Bethpage, made a racket and generally whooped it up. I'm not sure that it adversely affected anyone out there for those few days, not even our young friend from Borriol, Spain. The golfers were not revered any less, there was a human touch to all of this vocal admiration, a total understanding of the deathly silence that many require was absent and the gratitude of those in attendance was a bit more articulated than usual.

Maybe that is what golf has been missing for so many years; allowances for the folks who pay the bills being able to utter some controlled and directed commentary. After all, it is appropriate to encourage Tiger, Phil, Sergio and the others with "You the man!" but these are the people and they make the world, and golf, go 'round and 'round.

Will the USGA be back to Bethpage? Or more courses in New York that attract the same sort of folks?
You gotta be kidding!