This Year's U.S. Open Was A True Celebration Of Golf - MASSGOLF

Massachusetts Golf Community Stepped up To Carry Out a Successful U.S. Open

BROOKLINE, Massachusetts – As the U.S. Open trophy presentation was getting underway Sunday, NBC Sports anchor Mike Tirico addressed the crowd and the audience watching from home. “Boston, congratulations on another great U.S. Open at The Country Club…what a weekend here in Brookline.”

The 122nd U.S. Open will be remembered for Matthew Fitzpatrick‘s thrilling fairway bunker shot on the 18th that helped him clinch the title and join Jack Nicklaus as the only golfer to win a U.S. Open and U.S. Amateur at the same site. Or perhaps we’ll recall how well the composite course with tight, windswept fairways, brutal lies and speedy greens, caused the best players in the world to struggle. The course held up so well, that the USGA® presented the inaugural E.J. Marshall platter to Bay State native Dave Johnson, The Country Club’s Director of Grounds, to recognize excellence in USGA partnership regarding agronomy and course preparation.

But this championship also gave the Massachusetts golf community — which was a large part of the roughly 175,000 total spectators throughout the week — a chance to shine and make lifelong memories. There’s nothing that brings golfers together en masse quite like watching the best players in the world playing so close to home. And understandably, there’s already a rallying cry to “bring this back again” and do so sooner than 34 years it took following the 1988 U.S. Open in Brookline.

“Once you get to that moment, and you see the campus, the scene, and how everybody was working so seamlessly and in such great spirits, you could tell this was a celebration of golf,” said Jesse Menachem, Executive Director/CEO of Mass Golf, “And it was a long time coming.”

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A full crowd watches Rory McIlroy hit a shot during the final round of the U.S. Open. On Sunday, McIlroy said he’d love to see the U.S. Open come back to The Country Club. (Jeff Haynes/USGA)

In his remarks to the crowd at Brookline, USGA CEO Mike Wahn mentioned that this year’s U.S. Open featured 3,700 volunteers (plus another thousand on the waitlist), many of whom came from local clubs in the Boston area. Neighboring Robert T. Lynch Municipal Golf Course and Boston’s William J. Devine Golf Course were among the public clubs to have full teams of volunteers on-site assisting as hole marshals. You may have seen them waving orange paddles, marking errant shots, and managing the ropes and hole crossings. There was also no shortage of volunteers from Mass Golf Member Clubs, including the many sporting their club’s apparel.

“To do this in our backyard was really special,” said Elaine Gebhardt, who along with Darnell Williams organized the team 70 volunteers from William J. Devine and were assigned to Hole 5. “All of our volunteers had a tremendous experience and now they want to they want to go on tour and do it again.”

Beyond that, Mass Golf volunteers of all ages were scattered about, serving as practice range attendants, disabilities services, groundskeeping, hospitality, and more.

There’s also the numerous host families, including general championship chairman Will Fulton, who housed the Fitzpatrick family once again after doing so in 2013.

“What stood out to me is the spirits and the enjoyment that everybody had on their faces, whether it be USGA or our staff, board membership, leadership at the club, and any volunteer that I interacted with,” Menachem said. “I think we knew we had an incredible venue to showcase, and I think everyone was just so proud to be able to show that off.”

A handful of volunteers from William J. Devine Golf Course in Boston pose for a photo near their assigned area on Hole 5. (Contributed)

Wahn also recorded a message to praise Amateur Golf Associations, such as Mass Golf, for their work to produce a field for the U.S. Open and all 15 USGA Championship. A total of 44 states hosted U.S. Open Local Qualifying with 9,265 total entries.

“Nobody knows how much of a village it takes to Unify, Showcase, Govern and Advance this great game, and man do we need you when it comes to these championships. We literally couldn’t lead this game without you,” Wahn said.

The praise for the course and community wasn’t lost on the players either. In addition to the enthusiasm for local players Michael Thorbjornsen (Wellesley) and Fran Quinn (Holden), there was equal hoopla directed toward Keegan Bradley, a Vermont native who played his senior year of high school at Hopkinton High School.

“I think it’s one of the best golf courses in the world, and alongside probably the best sports fans in the world,” said Bradley, who finished T7, his second-best finish at a U.S. Open (T4 in 2014). “The Country Club is spectacular. I absolutely loved it. It’s my favorite U.S. Open venue I’ve ever played. Any time you get to play a tournament in Boston, it’s electric. The fans are the best.”

The praise also came in from Rory McIlroy: “I thought it’s a really good track, and I’d love to see it come back here.”

And from world’s No. 1 Scottie Scheffler: “The crowds were crazy this week. They were really, really going nuts, and it was a ton of fun. Definitely to have their support was really enjoyable.”

Perhaps most importantly was the impact this championship had on youth in Massachusetts, who hadn’t seen a U.S. Open come to New England in their lifetime. From Monday-Sunday there was no shortage of kids holding out sharpies with flags to be signed by some of the world’s best players.

Many of the youth on hand were inside the ropes, representing First Tee – Massachusetts, the state’ chapter of the international youth development program that teaches life skills and golf simultaneously. Some even earned the opportunity to walk with the groups as a standard bearer (score sign holder) during the championship, and many took selfies and received signed golf balls afterward. Ashland’s Kyzar Joshi, who is in the final level (ace) of the First Tee program, held the standard bearer for the final group Sunday, which included Fitzpatrick.

“That’s what gets them hooked at a young age, and we’re going to keep those youth as as lifelong golfers, future Mass Golf members, and that’s what the ecosystem is all about,” Menachem said.

It’s unclear the next time we’ll see the best players in the world all together in the Bay State. But one thing is certain, the golf community will be ready to step up again.

“It’s been recognized for how passionate this golf community is about about the game and wanting to show off what we have to offer,” Menachem said. “I think we met and fulfilled all expectations.”