This weekend, Merion Golf Club is hosting the United States Open.
Merion is full of history. Located in Ardmore, Pa., the East Course opened in 1912. In 1916, Chick Evans (who started the Evans Scholars program) won the U.S. Amateur there becoming the first player to win a U.S. Amateur and U.S. Open in the same year. That same year, a 14-year-old Bobby Jones reached the quarter-finals. Most significantly, Merion was the place where Bobby Jones completed his “Grand Slam” in 1930 by winning the U.S. Amateur. Prior to that, Jones also won the U.S. Amateur there in 1924.
Merion hosted its first U.S Open in 1934 where Olin Dutra, recovering from food poisoning days before the tournament, considered withdrawing. His brother Mortie, also playing in the event, convinced him to play. Playing 15 pounds lighter, he ate sugar cubes to keep up his energy and drank plenty of water to avoid dehydration. Dutra made up a three-stroke deficit over the last nine holes to defeat Gene Sarazen.
Merion is where only a year after a near-fatal car crash, Ben Hogan returned and hit his famous 1-iron to the green on the 18th hole to force a playoff that he would win. It is also where in 1971, the likable Lee Trevino tossed a rubber snake to Jack Nicklaus in jest on the first tee and beat Nicklaus in an 18-hole playoff for the title. Then in 1981, David Graham became the first Australian to win a U.S. Open, turning in a flawless final round. Graham missedonly the first fairway and had no approach shot off the green or fringe. He didn’t have to chip all day.
The historic course has not hosted a U.S. Open since 1981. Why so long? Many might have feared that the course’s shorter length wouldn’t stand up to today’s equipment, resulting in record scoring. With the heavy rains this week, those fears grew even more.
Could it happen? Sure. But I don’t expect scoring like Rory McIlroy’s 16-under at Congressional. At 6,996 yards, the course appears much shorter than it will play. Some of the holes are a hundred yards shorter than comparable holes at other “long” courses. But the remainder of the holes are at least as long, maybe longer. So, leave out the shortest holes, the rest of the course will play like a 7,700-yard monster.
Evidence are par 3s of 236, 246 and 256 yards. Then we have par 4s of 464, 487, 504 and 521 yards. And finally par 5s of 556 and 628 yards. This doesn’t sound so short to me! Yes, there are some birdie holes, but they will be balanced out by enough bogey opportunities. The United States Golf Association will do its typically fine job of making the course demanding with narrow fairways, thick rough, fast greens and tough pin placements.
It will be interesting to see how Merion holds up. I think a lot of golfers are rooting for Merion. As Trevino said, “I fell in love with Merion and I don’t even know her last name.”
With the recent heavy rains, this rules quiz might be timely. John is playing golf the morning after moderate rainfall. On the second hole, he has a 1-foot putt for a par five. He notices that the hole is partially filled with water. In order to keep his ball and hands dry, John taps in, but catches the ball before it can drop to the bottom of the hole. What is John’s score?
This past weekend, the Indiana Lefties played their state championship at the Players Club in Yorktown just outside of Muncie. Your author didn’t fare too well, but Dave Jongleux walked away with his second title with some great play. Jongleux fired rounds of 75 and 73 to best defending champion Rick Roark by three shots. The senior division was won by Indianapolis’ Milt Yakey with a total of 156. The Masters Division was captured by tournament director Jack Hammond.
If you are a left-handed golfer, come out and join us for a great time next year.
RULES QUIZ ANSWER
John is penalized since the ball was never at rest below the surface of the green which is the requirement for a ball to be considered as holed. John gets a two-stroke penalty and must also place the ball on the lip of the cup. Assuming he properly holes that tap in, his score would be a triple-bogey eight. Next time he should opt for the free ball wash.
Until next time, have more fun playing more golf!
Jon Kelley is an active golfer and golf historian who contributes columns to the Tribune. He may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.