U.S. Open returns to Winged Foot

For the sixth time in its history, Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck will play host to the U.S. Open, a premier event of the United States Golf Association (USGA). This year’s event takes place Sept. 14 through Sept. 20 without spectators, having been rescheduled from June 15 through June 21 because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Founded in 1921, Winged Foot has as storied an aesthetic history as it does a sporting one, so much so that on March 25, 2019, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced that the New York State Board for Historic Preservation had recommended adding Winged Foot to the State and National Registers of Historic Places.

The clubhouse was designed by architect Clifford Charles Wendehack and completed in 1925. It commands two 18-hole courses. The West Course, where the Open will take place, is a par 72 and totals 7,264 yards. The East Course, also par 72, is 6,750 yards. First played in 1923, they were designed by Albert Warren Tillinghast, better known as A.W. He had a reputation for creating courses that required precision drives coupled with a variety of skills to reach the greens. Although Tillinghast died in 1942, his legacy, which includes approximately 250 North American courses he designed, has shone to such an extent that in 1998, The Tillinghast Association was founded to share information about him, his golf course designs and writings as a poet, newspaper sports editor and golf magazine columnist. In 2015, Tillinghast was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.

The East and West Courses Tillinghast designed at Winged Foot are considered by many of his followers to be his finest creations. The USGA, for one, was first drawn to his West Course at Winged Foot for the U. S. Open back in 1929 when Bobby Jones won the tournament. The next U.S. Open held at Winged Foot was in 1959, when Billy Casper took top honors. After that, in 1974, Hale Irwin won, followed by Fuzzy Zoeller in 1984 and Geoff Ogilvy in 2006.

The West Course achieved its own sort of notoriety as a result of the 1974 U. S. Open, in which big-name players including Irwin, Tom Watson, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus has such difficulty that sportswriter Dick Schaap was inspired to write a book titled “Massacre at Winged Foot.”

For its part, the East Course has hosted two U.S. Women’s Opens, a U.S. Senior Open and rounds of the second U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship.

Winged Foot is known, among other things, for its members and golf pros who have achieved national prominence as well as people of national prominence who have been honored with memberships. In 1940, Winged Foot member Dick Chapman won the U.S. Amateur Championship. Club pro Craig Wood won the Masters and U.S. Open in 1941. Claude Harmon followed Wood as professional at Winged Foot. Ben Hogan was awarded an honorary membership to the club. In 1963, Winged Foot named former President Dwight D. Eisenhower as an honorary member, after Eisenhower had visited the club.

Some big names in golf are scheduled to participate in this year’s 120th U.S. Open Championship. But don’t expect any new faces:  The USGA canceled local and qualifying competition for slots in the Open and is inviting participants based on their past achievements in winning competitions and other criteria.

Still, 11 U.S. Open champions are expected to participate, including Tiger Woods, who won in 2000, 2002, and 2008. The 2017 and 2018 winner Brooks Koepka, and 2019’s Gary Woodland also are on the roster. The USGA said that the field will total 144 this year and will include spaces for 13 players ranked in the amateur class. The size of the field was reduced from 156 players as the tournament adjusted to the pandemic.

Not all the changes are virus-related. On June 29, the USGA announced that the U.S. media rights for the Open had been shifted from Fox Sports to NBCUniversal. In addition to its TV network, NBC operates the Golf Channel and was scheduled to have its new Peacock streaming service up and running well in advance of the U.S. Open at Winged Foot in September.

For more, visit usopen.com.

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