It's a rotten shame that Westchester Country Club, the host of
this week's Buick Classic, might drop the tournament after next
year. The club's extraordinary West course is one of the Tour's
rare enjoyable tracks, and the Classic, which I won in 1969, is
one of the few events that the guys really look forward to
When Westchester debuted, in 1967, players were attracted to it
because its $250,000 purse was the Tour's largest, but we fell in
love with the course too. A leading requirement of old-time golf
architects was to build fun layouts, and Walter Travis did that
in spades at Westchester. The West, though only 6,722 yards,
didn't beat the hell out of us but was formidable in subtle ways.
On the 7th hole, a 326-yard par-4 that doglegs left, you could
cut the corner by driving over the trees, but that was also a
quick way to a 5 or a 6. I always laid up off the tee. The
314-yard 10th is another classic temptation. Try to drive the
green and you might make eagle, but a wayward tee shot could
easily lead to big trouble.
Players also liked Westchester because it was the first event
that let us explore New York City. My Tour friends and I had
heard horror stories of the city. Supposedly, New Yorkers were
jerks and crime was everywhere. We learned that wasn't the case.
New Yorkers treated us with kindness and respect. After playing,
we'd ride the train into the city to attend the theater, have
dinner at 21 or see a Yankees game. I looked forward to
Westchester, to luxuriating in the wooden-floored locker room and
thinking my way around the course. But I understand why the club
wants out. Tour events used to be about golf. Today they're about
money. Clubs like Westchester weren't built to accommodate
corporate villages, massive parking lots and huge grandstands.
Who needs the hassle?
Frank Beard, 62, led the Tour in earnings in 1969, with $164,707.
COLOR PHOTO: TODD BIGELOW/AURORA