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Jun 18, 2018 5:21 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Shinnecock Members Look Past Controversies To See Success As Host Of 2018 U.S. Open

Members of Shinnecock Hills Golf Club look on as USGA Executive Committee member J. Stuart Francis speaks at the trophy presentation ceremony of the U.S. Open. Ron Esposito
Jun 19, 2018 1:32 PM

As the sun set on Sunday on another U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills—one that will be remembered for years by some golf fans more for the controversy than the final holes of play in the hunt for the national championship—members of the club reflected on a tournament that they say they will remember more for the sweeping logistical successes and the thrill of welcoming the world onto their beloved property.

The traffic snarls, angry professional golfers and bizarre displays of questionable sportsmanship will not be what is remembered by the club’s members, who dedicated months and weeks to preparations and long days to helping marshal the tournament through its gargantuan paces, some members said as the tournament wound down.

“It’s been an incredible success for our members, I think,” Brett Pickett, the club’s president, said on Sunday afternoon, even as Phil Mickelson finished a final round that many said he should not have been allowed to play. “We all have really enjoyed opening the club and letting the world come in and share what we’re lucky to have in this golf course.”

Members on Sunday said that the many topics that got so much attention from those outside the ropes—like Mr. Mickelson’s flagrant deviation from rules and etiquette in striking a rolling ball with the clear intention of preventing it from meandering off the green, and complaints that the course setup was unfair to players on Saturday—would soon be forgotten within the club, and the thrill of having brought the championship back to the course remembered.

“There’s always a little controversy at Shinnecock between the players and the USGA, it seems. But for us, it’s the participation and the buzz, and we’ve very much enjoyed it,” said member Jack Curtin. “And when it all shook out, with the traffic and everything, it really was a great event.”

As is tradition with host clubs, a committee of members was in charge of managing the bulk of the more than 4,500 volunteers that staffed the golf course’s scoreboards and marshaling the fairways, greens and tee boxes. About 140 of the club’s members were also among the volunteers.

“It’s a really fun, enthusiastic group of people who love this game and love this golf course,” said Andy Armstrong, who headed up management of the volunteers from around the country and the world. Some have been volunteering at U.S. Opens every year for 30 years or more.

When traffic tie-ups caused some to miss assignments and even withdraw from participation, those veterans stepped in. “We had people on shifts for 12 hours today because they wanted to stay and help out. They are an amazingly dedicated group,” Mr. Armstrong said.

Thanks to Mr. Mickelson, traffic was not the biggest topic of discussion to come out of the week. But in the early days of the tournament, the tie-ups and long commutes focused a lot of ire on the event from those whose only interest in the U.S. Open was the fact that it was making them late for work and appointments.

“Really, when it comes down to it, the town and the county did a fantastic job dealing with the traffic,” Mr. Pickett said. “It wasn’t the Open causing the traffic. It was the Open making already bad traffic a little worse. But kudos to [Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman] and [Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone]—they were all over it, and it improved each day, and once the trade parade went away on the weekend, so did the delays.”

When it came to the actual golf, Saturday’s high scores, frustrated golfers and USGA admissions of having misjudged course conditions instantly resurrected the specters of the 2004 tournament here, which remains a black eye on U.S. Open history and left the Shinnecock membership disenchanted with the idea of welcoming professional golf in again.

This year’s event, for whatever parallels may be drawn between the two tournaments, will not be seen that way by members, Mr. Pickett assured.

“There were some personality conflicts between people at our club and people at the USGA at that time,” he said of the 2004 tournament. “People on both sides today are very close and very friendly, and I think that makes a good bit of difference. Shinnecock and the USGA have a common history, and it will always be a very special relationship.”

The club and USGA have already agreed to bring the tournament back to Southampton for a sixth time, in 2026.

With long recovery times and the long preparations, there will be nary four seasons between now and then that the exclusively private course will not be caught up in the outer bands of its championship participation.

“It’s an enormous disruption,” Mr. Pickett admitted. “Obviously, this summer will never be normal. They’ll be taking apart infrastructure until late summer or early fall, and [the course] will be recovering for a couple of years, at least. But from a member’s standpoint, we think it’s worth it to share it every once in a while, and we are proud to do so.”

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We are all so blessed to have such generous and civic minded club members like Mr. Pickett who are willing to endure the "enormous disruption" to their private club in order to bestow on us an opportunity to visit their hallowed grounds for a few days without getting arrested.
THANK YOU for your bottomless generosity. Just knowing of the immeasurable sacrifices your members have made makes me feel a little less bitter about having had to wake up well before dawn and endure the endless traffic ...more
By GlassHouses (64), anywhere on Jun 19, 18 12:49 PM
2 members liked this comment
Thank you Mr. Pickett, Jay Schneiderman and Steve Ballone for bringing this world class tournament event to Southampton. Looking forward to 2026.
By pigroast (100), East Quogue on Jun 19, 18 1:14 PM
Those guys are INDIANS!?

Oh, wait.
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Jun 19, 18 1:24 PM
Glasshouses, snark as an art form. Brilliant!
By Fred s (3321), Southampton on Jun 19, 18 6:42 PM
The Town Board should’nt allow another US Open to be staged at Shinnecock. The traffic wasn’t worth it. The disruptions to our work schedules and our business’s.
By Draggerman (955), Southampton on Jun 20, 18 6:14 AM
2+ years of planning, profound level of inconvenience, business lost by locals, thousands stranded on roads for hours for several days in a row, no cell phone reception, roads closed, lanes blocked, cops everywhere, buses all over quiet residential streets, drunk spectators on foot, drunk walkers, drunk drivers, bad food, expensive tickets and non stop complaining from the players.

Can’t wait to do it all again in 8 years!
By even flow (1023), East Hampton on Jun 20, 18 6:37 AM
Did not report incident on res in hampton bays. People shooting guns near boaters? Bay constable was on scene, whats happening...
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Jun 21, 18 2:34 PM
I heard the incident was not on the reservation, but on the land owned by the Shinnecocks west of the canal on Peconic Bay, where the casino was supposed to go. They have been chasing boaters from the area for years, claiming ownership of the waters there....they claim they don't agree with "white man's law" that high water mark defines property edge. Bay constables have been urging boaters to move east to avoid trouble. This is the first time I've heard of gunfire. So it appears accommodation ...more
By Taz (725), East Quogue on Jun 21, 18 3:03 PM
Shinnecock Hills Golf is a not for profit. Where do the millions in income go? They annually pay miniscule school taxes in relation to the value of their property and even less in light of what their brand is worth. Every taxpayer underwrites this private club by paying excess school taxes. Not a little more, a lot more. Shinnecock should be tax shamed. At least they should allow school children to holdn change buckets at the entrance so Tuckahoe can restore budget eliminated programs.
By TheTurtle (143), Southampton on Jun 24, 18 3:01 PM
The Turtle’s intellect is about as evolved as his nickname suggests. I read that the club pays about half a million in school tax per year, and has obviously never sent a single child to the school. They follow NY law on how to pay tax, to the penny. Turtle, stick your head out of the shell and maybe you will absorb some facts.
By BNP (7), Southampton on Jun 24, 18 8:21 PM
Perhaps we've become overpopulated?

Just perhaps...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jun 24, 18 8:42 PM
1 member liked this comment

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Keeping golf courses weed-free is important, especially for professional tournaments with big money at stake, says Virgil Meier, a plant geneticist who worked on the grass at Scotts. “Anything other than 100 percent bentgrass makes any kind of putt on a green unreliable,” he says. But ...more
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