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Named for the comic strip that I draw--not for British Columbia,
as I'm forced to explain with lamentable frequency--the B.C.
Open has been a mainstay on the PGA Tour since 1972. As I fully
expected, this year's tournament, which was won by Gabriel
Hjertstedt, was a smashing success. The event, however, had the
misfortune of falling on the same weekend as a certain
international competition, and I, for one, am still scratching
my head trying to understand why Tiger Woods and his pals
skipped the B.C. Open in favor of the Ryder Cup.

After all, why travel to Spain and have to deal with jet lag, a
legion of hostile fans, overrated Iberian cuisine and locals who
wear brown socks with sandals, when you could come to idyllic
Endicott, N.Y.? True, we don't offer rolling Andalusian
hillsides, but Endicott does boast the world-famous spiedie--a
local delicacy of skewered lamb served on Italian bread--that is
celebrated at an annual festival. We also offer a haven for
touring pros looking to compete in a placid environment. (A
former mayor once described this burg of 13,500 as "rather
dull.") That doesn't mean, however, that we can't accommodate
those who enjoy celebrity gazing. To wit: Jeff MacNelly, Paul
Szep, Bruce Beattie and Mike Peters, four of the top editorial
cartoonists of our day, all turned out for this year's tournament.

I certainly don't buy the popular theory that the Ryder Cup is
steeped in more history than the B.C. Open. How quickly people
forget the storied "clubhouse-less" Open of '74, when a
mysterious fire several weeks before the event charred the
clubhouse at En-Joie Golf Course. We'll always remember the '76
Open, when torrential rains flooded the course. Fearing that the
tournament might be canceled, the townsfolk brought sump pumps
and generators to En-Joie to help move the water into the nearby
Susquehanna River.

I believe that the Ryder Cup participants really had the wool
pulled over their eyes when they were told of the Cup's
prestige. I know as well as anyone that prestige is really a
code word for no money. (The purse at this year's B.C. Open was
$1.3 million.) While it's true that our tournament has never
been on network television, it has long been immortalized in
both of my comic strips, B.C. and The Wizard of Id.

Like the figures I draw, the B.C. Open is a throwback to an
earlier time. Lacking a major corporate sponsor, our event
survives--barely--because of widespread community backing and a
lightheartedness that one would be hard-pressed to find at any
other Tour stop. At a time when pro golf could stand to take
itself less seriously, why would any self-respecting player skip
an event named for a comic strip in favor of a hoity-toity event
most people assume is sponsored by a rental truck company?

Hart made a hole in one at Binghamton Country Club in 1970.

COLOR ILLUSTRATION: ILLUSTRATION BY JOHNNY HART [Drawing of character from 'B.C.' comic strip]