On Thursday afternoon, Reg Murphy emerged from the huge U.S.
Open merchandise tent, which was teeming with customers. Outside
in the bright sun, Murphy, a slight man of 61, stood amid a sea
of people. Two blimps flew overhead. A food-delivery truck
lurched past. A crew of TV technicians whizzed by in a cart. A
few hundred yards away, some 25,000 spectators were watching the
first round of the 95th U.S. Open. Millions more were watching
Murphy, the president of the United States Golf Association,
which conducts the Open, was suddenly overwhelmed by the
immensity of it all. "Wow," he said. "This sure has gotten to be
a lot different than just a golf tournament. It's an
extravaganza. A celebration of every element of the game."
Corey Pavin's career four-wood on the last hole is what most
fans will remember about this centennial Open. But that final
flourish was the culmination of an enormous effort. Here's a
glimpse of what went on behind the scenes at Shinnecock Hills
last week. Play away, please.
TUESDAY, JUNE 13 Forgive Jon Barker, the director of
volunteers, if he is a wee bit cranky. He can't decide how to
handle the female volunteer who went AWOL yesterday. "She's
threatening to sue the USGA," says Barker, 25, "because the
white shirt she was given to wear while working at her post in
the merchandise tent, she claims, is see-through."
This is the third USGA event with which Barker has been
involved. At most Opens the club's membership steps in to
organize the volunteer corps for the championship, but
Shinnecock's members wanted nothing to do with volunteering, so
the USGA hired Barker to recruit some 3,200 volunteer from the
surrounding communities. He was looking to fill 30 committees to
perform tasks such as sorting Maxflis from Titleists at the
practice range and carrying scoring standards. Most, but not
all, of Barker's charges happily gave their 20 hours of service
in exchange for free admission and parking. "One man called up
and said he couldn't make it because he had sudden tax
problems," said Barker. "Another woman said she couldn't come
because she had conflicting golf dates. But I'm used to it."
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 14 Tim Moraghan has a big-picture kind of job,
but the sight of an unraked bunker near the 4th green was too
much for the USGA's chief agronomist to bear. Moraghan, 38, the
man responsible for the course conditions at the USGA's 13
national championships, hopped into the trap and gave an
impromptu lesson in sand grooming to six members of the grounds
crew who were with him on his early-evening inspection to make
sure the course was ready for the first round.
Moraghan was with David Eger, the USGA's senior director of
rules and competitions, who was making decisions on pin
placements. Moraghan and Shinnecock course superintendent Peter
Smith unsheathed a metal bar called a Stimpmeter, which looks
like a piece of siding that came loose from the corner of the
clubhouse but is used to check the speed of the greens.
Moraghan made his first visit to Shinnecock in April 1992 to
start conditioning the course, and today it was exactly the way
he wanted it, with 25- to 30-yard-wide fairways, five-inch-high
primary rough (compared with the two-inch-tall grass the members
usually play) and, for only the third time at an Open, groomed
chipping areas behind greens instead of spinachlike rough.
The greens demand the most work. "A standard rule of agronomy is
that you can't cut away more than 30 percent of the plant at a
time, or you'll get what we call crop failure," said Moraghan.
In general, the shorter the grass, the faster the green. "This
week we will cut to about .123 of an inch. We can't go lower."
The Stimpmeter gauges the speed of the green by measuring how
far a ball rolls off the metal bar when it's held at roughly a
20-degree angle. The farther it rolls, the faster the green.
Shinnecock's greens normally measure about 9.5. For the Open,
Moraghan wanted to see it reach 11. After three straight days of
rain, the skies are finally clearing and the greens measure
almost 10.5. "I love the wind," Moraghan said. "This weather is
blowing out of here, and we're going to have some fun."
THURSDAY, JUNE 15 At 7:13 a.m. the sun was shining for the
start of the first round. Reg Murphy was walking along the 3rd
fairway with a cloth briefcase over his right shoulder and a
walkie-talkie in his left hand. As Murphy has learned during his
18-month tenure as USGA president, managing one of the world's
two major golf associations (the other is the Royal & Ancient
Golf Club of St. Andrews, Scotland) is not, as most of his
friends think, simply a free ticket to golf anywhere, anytime.
"It's unbelievable how dull so much of my work is," said Murphy
as he replaced a gallery rope that had been left untended.
"Everybody thinks my job is glamorous. Sometimes it is. But all
I'm concerned with this week is making sure the event goes
Because a nearby marshal was daydreaming, Murphy asked a few
spectators to be quiet while Fulton Allem lined up a putt.
Murphy then ambled over to Michael Bonallack, the R&A's
secretary, who was in a cart behind the green.
"They've been 32 minutes to here," said Murphy, looking at his
"Right on the mark," said Bonallack.
Just how Murphy likes his operations. "In 1988 I was asked to be
chairman for the U.S. Women's Open at my home course, Baltimore
Country Club," said Murphy, who was publisher of The Baltimore
Sun at the time. "I didn't know a damn thing about the USGA or
running a golf tournament. But it sounded like fun." Murphy did
a superb job and was drafted onto the USGA executive committee.
Six years later he was elected president, a near full-time
volunteer duty he juggles with his full-time paying job as COO
at the National Geographic Society.
Murphy, a Southern independent, has helped the staid USGA move
toward something of a cutting-edge operation. His most enduring
legacy at the USGA will be the financial stability he has
created. For years the USGA scraped by. No more. Murphy has led
a fund-raising campaign to establish a $10 million endowment;
under his guidance membership has increased some 35% to more
than 600,000; and he has ushered the USGA into the rich world of
sports merchandising. The pinnacle of that effort was the
20,000-square-foot merchandise tent at Shinnecock, which for the
first time was operated by the USGA and not the host club. Giddy
customers scooped up more than $5 million worth of shirts, ball
markers, umbrellas and other logoed paraphernalia.
FRIDAY, JUNE 16 "Contrary to popular opinion," said Eger,
"there are no sadistic motives behind how we set up a golf
course for the U.S. Open. We want it to play fair. And we want
it to play more or less the same all four days."
Eger tours the course the evening before each round, setting
hole and tee locations for the next day. He sprays white paint
to mark where the grounds crew will, later that night, cut the
holes and place the tee markers.
Pin placements are made using a numerical system. Each green has
several hole locations, usually in different parts of the green,
which are ranked from one to four, with one being the most
difficult. The sum of the 18 hole-ratings for one round is,
ideally, 45. Last week the ratings were 47, 46, 43 and 44,
respectively, on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Eger, who won the USGA's Mid-Amateur championship in 1988,
always takes a putter and three balls so he can make a few putts
to be sure, as he says, "that the ball doesn't roll in any
drastic manners near the hole. If it does, I need to move the
hole a few feet to a flatter spot, but always in the same
The 7th green, the par-3 Redan, has no flat locations. "This
green will wreak havoc no matter where I put the hole," said
Eger while surveying its wily slopes. "Today the pin was back
left, the easiest spot, and [Hale] Irwin still putted it off the
green. The only green in the country I've seen that's harder to
find a fair pin position on is the par-4 13th at Pebble Beach."
SATURDAY, JUNE 17 "There are two types of officials," according
to the old adage, "those who've made mistakes and those who
will." Trey Holland is definitely in the former category. At
last year's Open at Oakmont, Holland made the most famous
rulings mistake anyone can remember when he allowed the eventual
winner, Ernie Els, to drop from behind a TV crane on the 1st
hole on Sunday instead of having the crane moved.
Holland, a 45-year-old urologist from Indiana who is the
chairman of the USGA's rules committee, was blasted in the
media, and he doesn't deny his blunder. "I picked a really bad
time to make the mistake," he said as he set out to referee
Saturday's final pair, Greg Norman and Jumbo Ozaki. "It made me
sick to my stomach. It was a mistake, and I take responsibility."
Today Holland had two delicate situations. The first was on the
12th hole, when Ozaki's drive landed next to an anthill in the
rough. Ozaki wanted to take a drop. But according to rule 23 in
The Rules of Golf, an anthill is a loose impediment. Holland
made the right call: He allowed Ozaki to remove the anthill but
not to take a drop. "Jumbo was hoping it was a burrowing animal
hole," said Holland after explaining the ruling to a Japanese
reporter, who was following Ozaki during the round. "Then he
would have gotten a drop."
The other situation occurred on the 13th tee when the pair was
lagging eight minutes behind the two hours and 26 minutes
allotted to that point. "Please pick it up, Greg," Holland said
to Norman as they walked up the 13th fairway. "We're behind." He
repeated his message, through the reporter, to Ozaki. Both
players nodded at Holland's warning. By the 16th fairway they
had made up the time. At 18, Norman holed the final putt of the
day at 6:20 p.m., exactly on schedule.
SUNDAY, JUNE 18 It was a lovely party, the USGA's champagne
toast to Corey Pavin. The toasting tradition began in 1978 when
the USGA decided it wanted to privately honor its new champion.
This evening, several hundred men and women gathered in the
dining room of Shinnecock's historic clubhouse. All were sipping
bubbly and nibbling pigs-in-blankets, clams and stuffed mushrooms.
When Pavin arrived at 7:45 p.m., Judy Bell, a USGA vice
president, raised her glass and shouted, "Corey, welcome to your
party. To the golfer who strives for it, winning the Open gives
the most satisfaction. And to know for one week you were the
best player in the world."
Pavin, moist-eyed, held the Havemeyer trophy as he said, "This
is the first time I got tears in my eyes at a golf tournament.
It's starting to hit me, what this means."
After signing autographs and with the sun almost setting, the
champion excused himself and headed up to the clubhouse roof.
There he joined his wife, Shannon, and a few friends, including
Lee and Beverly Janzen, for a very private toast. Pavin grabbed
a glass from his wife. "I haven't even had a sip yet," he said
as he tasted the fruits of his victory.
COLOR PHOTO:JIM GUND Murphy, who's seldom out of touch, has tried to turn the USGA into a cutting-edge operation. [Reg Murphy listening to walkie-talkie]COLOR PHOTO:JACQUELINE DUVOISIN Moraghan (left, with Smith) relied on the Stimpmeter to make sure the greens were up to speed. [Tim Moraghan and Peter Smith]
COLOR PHOTO:JIM GUND A paint can served a dual purpose for Eger as he set pins for the following day. [David Eger putting toward paint can]
COLOR PHOTO:JACQUELINE DUVOISIN Jobs for volunteers, whose entry to the Open was 20 hours of labor, included sorting range balls.
COLOR PHOTO:JIM GUND The concluding order of business for the USGA was giving a champagne toast to Pavin. [Corey Pavin holding U.S. Open trophy while standing at podium]