BROOKLINE, Mass. – The Country Club, the site of this year’s US Open, had not come close to staging the major tournament at all, until the club realized there was something to be said about the adage being the smallest house in the nicest neighborhood.
The Country Club is on the short list of the United States Golf Association’s most cherished institutions, one of the five clubs that banded together in the 1890s to form the association. This was arguably the most important moment of the site in American golf history – the 1913 US Open won by amateur Francis Ouimet in a playoff celebrated by British professionals Ted Ray and Harry Vardon.
But the club is tucked away in an exclusive neighborhood in a Boston suburb with little room to accommodate the growing demands of modern major tournaments. The PGA of America awarded the club its 2005 championship, but it decided it would be too much and pulled out.
Explaining the decision in 2002, John Cornish, chairman of the 1999 Ryder Cup matches at the club, said, “We were faced with the need to downsize the scope of services, local corporations and the media. The club presented this to the PGA and concluded with the PGA that the changes would not be in the best interest of the PGA Championship. “
The USGA was not convinced that the Country Club could host a modern US Open. John Bodenhamer, the association’s chief championships officer, said Wednesday “This open almost didn’t happen.” The 1988 Open was held in Brookline, for the third time over a 75-year period, but Bodenhamer was skeptical there would be a fourth at the course.
“The footprint was small,” Bodenhamer said. “It was in a residential community. There were just too many hurdles to overcome in what we do and what you see out there now. “
Bodenhamer said the USGA’s position changed in 2013. That year, the US Open was held at Merion Golf Club, outside Philadelphia. It, too, has a small footprint and is in a residential suburban neighborhood. But the tournament proved to be a success and soon Bodenhamer was in touch with officials at the Country Club to see if there was any interest in hosting a US Open. There was.
In July 2015, the USGA made it official: The Country Club will hold its fourth US Open, in 2022, and put on a USGA event for the 17th time. Only Merion, with 19, has been browsing the site more, and is scheduled to return there in 2030.
“This is a throwback to the US Open,” Bodenhamer said. “I think when you go around this place and you just see, they didn’t move with much dirt. They had a little bit of dynamite, but that was it. “
There are rock outcroppings, blind shots, small greens and the punitive US Open roughGeneral Chat Chat Lounge There is a short, downhill par-3 that has not been used in a US Open since 1913. There is a famed dogleg left in the 17th hole, the scene of Vardon’s bogey in the playoffs in 1913 and Justin Leonard’s long birdie putt in the 1999 Ryder. Cup as part of the US team’s comeback.
“I promise you something magical will happen. 17, “Bodenhamer said. “It just has to.”
The Australian player Cameron Smith called the Country Club “my favorite US Open venue I think I’ve been to. I love it, mate. ” He is competing in his seventh Open, which includes stops at Pebble Beach in California, Pittsburgh near Oakmont and Shinnecock Hills and Winged Foot in New York.
That is the message Bodenhamer said he has been receiving all week.
“The players love this place,” Bodenhamer said. “The ghosts of the past matter. You can’t buy history. You can only earn it. And the Country Club has it. “