SCARSDALE, N.Y. — Winged Foot Golf Club won’t allow any spectators at this year’s U.S. Open, so the United States Golf Association decided to bring a piece of the esteemed tournament to the fans.
The U.S. Open championship trophy was on display nearby at Saxon Woods Golf Course on Monday afternoon. Local golfers had a chance to pose for pictures and trade stories about memorable winners of years past.
“It’s beautiful, the intricacy you just can’t get it on TV — the little carvings and stuff,” White Plains resident Sam Suen said. “It’s actually smaller than I thought it would be. It looks bigger on TV, but it’s just beautiful. I can’t say enough about it. It’s just beautiful.”
Like many golf aficionados, Suen will watch the tournament from home. The U.S. Open, which was postponed from June due to the coronavirus pandemic, is slated to begin on Thursday and conclude on Sunday.
“We’re going to try to be around there to catch a glimpse of Tiger Woods,” he joked. “Maybe we’ll bicycle in and they won’t notice.”
Sean Houlihan, left, who works at Winged Foot Golf Club, and Saxon Woods’ head pro Charles Meola get a closer look at the official U.S. Open trophy during its visit to Saxon Woods Golf Course Sept. 14, 2020 in Scarsdale. The 120th U.S. Open will be contested this week at Winged Foot Golf Club in nearby Mamaroneck. (Tanya Savayan/USA Today Network)
Saxon Woods Golf Course manager Mike Belmont felt fortunate for the opportunity to hold the display. According to Belmont, he’s noticed a spike in interest for golf during the pandemic, so the tournament’s no fan policy is a disappointing one.
“A lot of people feel bad that they can’t watch it in person, so I kind of opened the door to let people come over and visit,” he said. “It’s unbelievable (displaying the trophy). In 2006, I was here, and this didn’t happen, maybe because it was open to everybody over at Winged Foot.”
For golfers like Pelham resident John Manganiello, seeing the trophy up close is a consolation prize for not being able to watch the Open in person. He has attended other events in the past at New Rochelle’s Wykagyl Country Club and Shinnecock Hills in Long Island, and had looked forward to seeing some of the world’s best golfers at the U.S. Open.
“I was going to take my sons, so we had four tickets and we were going to go,” Manganiello said. “My sons took care of getting the tickets, and unfortunately, they gave him a refund because of the virus, so we’ll be missing it.
“It’s disappointing. What am I gonna say? Of course it is. You go to any sporting event, whether it’s a Yankee game or Giants football game, it’s not the same as watching it on TV. Obviously, I’m gonna watch it on TV and tape it to make sure I don’t miss a thing.”
Joanmarie O’Connor of New Rochelle fell in love with golf a few years ago and has been following it closely ever since. With no tickets for sale, she signed up to be a tournament volunteer, but she knows the odds of earning one of those exclusive spots aren’t in her favor.
“It’s disappointing, but it’s understandable,” she said. “There will be other years.”
It’s the first time Winged Foot will host the U.S. Open since 2006, when Australian Geoff Ogilvy emerged as champion in a closely-contested finish.
Longtime Winged Foot caddy Sean Houlihan remembers that year fondly, but more because of runner-up Phil Mickelson.
“Seeing him on the grounds, seeing the way he was displaying himself, it was very cool,” Houlihan said. “I think everybody was pulling for him, just because of the fact he was such a nice guy.”
Houlihan has caddied at Winged Foot since 1985, but he will sit this year’s tournament out. Despite that, he has a few ideas for how U.S. Open participants can succeed and which golfers may win.
“It’s either gonna be Rory McIlroy or Xander Schauffele, but we’ll see how that works out,” he said. “It’s gotta be somebody who can hit it an awfully long way. If you hit it in the rough over there, and you have to hit a 5-6-7-iron out there, it’s not going to go well for you, but if you can hit a pitching wedge, 9-iron, or maybe even 8-iron and reach the greens, it’ll go a lot better for you. You’re gonna shoot a decent number there.
“If you don’t know that place like the back of your hand, the short game is just not going to be all that effective out there.”
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