As a golf fan I hear all the time how the game is in serious danger if Tiger Woods can't return to the Superhero level of play that he maintained for so long before his amazing fall from grace almost two years ago. Well, an event being held this week right here in Wisconsin is giving me plenty of hope that the future of the game is in really good shape.
I'm talking about the US Amateur Championship being contested at Erin Hills Golf Club in Washington County. The 315 best unpaid (for now) golfers in the world are right in our back yard, playing for our oldest national championship--on a course that in six years will host the US Open. The Am is actually a refreshing return to the kind of golf tournament we saw before Tiger came along and turned it into a giant circus. There are few ropes keeping fans a "safe distance" away from the players. There aren't a lot of bleachers--so you can plop down a chair and watch a few groups come through--or walk alongside the fairways to keep an eye on certain players for more than one hole. There aren't giant corporate tents, there are no PUBLIC NOT ALLOWED signs, and there are just a few, downsized sponsorships banners and logos.
And I should mention admission and parking are all free!
Please don't think that just because most of these guys have their college logo on their bags instead of a sponsor that they aren't any good. Defending Champion Peter Uelien was born to be a golfer. His father has been running Titleist for the past few decades--so you know he got top of the line instruction growing up. The number one ranked amateur in the world--Patrick Cantlay, a freshman at UCLA--shot a 60 at a PGA Tour event earlier this year. And Harris English beat an entire field of professionals to win a Nationwide Tour event just last month.
Even if the names don't hold star power for you--the course at Erin Hills can be the star. It looks like someone took a Scottish links course and dropped it in the middle of Wisconsin farmland. And it is unbelievably long--playing at 77-hundred yards this week. That is the longest USGA championship course in history. Of course, these young guys this week are making it look as short at the corner muni with their 320-yard drives and 200-yard 7-irons. (In case you are wondering, the USGA could stretch out Erin Hills to 8200 YARDS for the Open).
And did I mention that admission and parking are free?
So why not take a day or two this week to check out the guys who will be replacing--and maybe making us forget Tiger?--someday. Getting there is easy. Take 41 south to the Holy Hill exit. Head west and just follow the signs to Erin Hills. Take the kids too. We need more new golfers joining the game.