By Mike Dougherty
The stage was set. The lights were on.
And instead of making a bold statement, the PGA of America on Tuesday merely confirmed that Bethpage State Park’s famed Black Course would be hosting the PGA Championship in 2019 and the Ryder Cup in 2024
Why stop there?
An opportunity to incite a boisterous gallery slipped away while the assembled politicians and officials politely thanked each other. Imagine the response had PGA of America president Ted Bishop extended Phil Mickelson an invitation to captain the U.S. team in 2024.
“You the man!”
It’s way too obvious. New Yorkers don’t normally get excited about second place, but Mickelson was Mr. Popularity at Bethpage while finishing behind Tiger Woods and Lucas Glover at the U.S. Open in 2002 and 2009. Lefty will be Champions Tour eligible in a decade, and the blonde posse of kids will be in college.
This spectacle-in-waiting also happens to be his idea.
Mickelson first lobbied for Bethpage three years ago when he encountered Bishop during a practice round at the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor.
He nodded in approval last month when reporters brought up the subject during the PGA Championship at Oak Hill.
“I think that will give the U.S. side a distinct advantage,” he said. “I’ve been quietly hoping it would go there for years. It’s a perfect site.”
New Yorkers love taking sides.
“This venue, this course, this city is going to take the Ryder Cup to a place that it’s never been before,” Bishop said.
How about getting Ian Poulter to captain the Euros?
“To combine the energy of the Ryder Cup with the energy of Bethpage State Park and the state of New York and New York sports fans is really exciting to think about,” said Pete Bevacqua, a Bedford native who’s the PGA of America’s chief executive.
A little scary, too.
Fans in the metropolitan area who prefer to watch from behind the ropes need to start putting aside discretionary cash for tickets and tolls.
Winged Foot Golf Club is back in the business of playing to a national audience, hosting the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship in 2016, and the U.S. Open in 2020.
And there’s plenty more golf worthy of a short commute.
The Barclays remains anchored in the New York market with a rotation that includes Ridgewood C.C. (2014) and Plainfield C.C. (2015) in New Jersey before revisiting the Black Course (2016).
Baltusrol will host the PGA Championship in 2016 and Shinnecock Hills will host the U.S. Open in 2018.
There’s just one course on the list where the proverbial 99 percent can get a tee time.
Bethpage is a state-owned facility that hosts upward of 250,000 rounds on its five courses. A.W. Tillinghast left his mark on the place. Experts rank the Black among the best in the world, and the Red is also noteworthy.
We’ve seen what happens to the place when the spotlight fades. Conditions at the public facility worsened in a hurry after the USGA left in 2002 and 2009 because politicians are reluctant to fund anything more than basic maintenance unless there’s a pot of gold in the picture.
“A course like Bethpage Black can go down the ladder as fast as it climbed the ladder,” Met PGA executive Charlie Robson said. “This ensures there will be money invested. There’s going to be a lot of eyes on Bethpage, starting with the Barclays in 2016 and beyond.”