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Why has Oak Hill not hosted the U.S. Open for 23 years?

By RICK WOODSON
On Sports
Rochester Business Journal
June 15, 2012

"Money. Why does anybody do anything?"
  -Anybody who knows anything
 
The 2012 Wegmans LPGA Championship at Locust Hill Country Club has come and gone, but the two humongous, scary questions about the tournament won't go away: Will Wegmans Food Markets Inc. remain the tournament sponsor, and if so, will the LPGA keep it as a major?

No doubt there are those who know the future of this tournament-if it has one-but you can find out what goes on behind closed doors at the White House more easily than getting the two answers we're all waiting to hear. And we all have our fingers crossed that the answers are "yes" and "yes."
 
As my mind wandered from tee to green at beautiful and brutal Locust Hill, another issue kept creeping into my golf brain, and the question wouldn't go away: Why in the name of Curtis Strange hasn't the U.S. Open been held at Oak Hill Country Club's East Course since 1989?
 
That's right, it was 23 long years ago when Tom Kite blew a two-shot lead, shot a final-round 78 and finished tied for ninth. Strange started the final round with 15 straight pars, finished 2 under par and beat Chip Beck, Mark McCumber and Ian Woosnam by one shot. As I wrote back then, Strange didn't win the Open, Kite lost it.
 
Oak Hill has hosted every major golf championship except the Masters and the British Open-the only course in the United States to do so. Those include the Open (1956, 1968, 1989), PGA Championship (1980, 2003), Senior Open (1984), U.S. Amateur (1949, 1998), Ryder Cup (1995) and Senior PGA (2008). Next year, the PGA Championship will be played at Oak Hill for the third time.
 
I have tried to get an answer to why it has been two decades and three years since the Open was played in Rochester. I might as well have been asking those who run the USGA for their bank account numbers. The most common response I got was "We can't talk about it."
 
It has been said-make that whispered-that Wegmans no longer will be the LPGA tournament sponsor, and there are some members at Locust Hill who don't want the tournament there anymore. Nothing, though, has been said about Oak Hill getting the Open again anytime soon, if ever.
 
Jerry Stahl, co-chairman of the Wegmans LPGA Championship and a member of Oak Hill for many years, says he remains optimistic about both issues.
 
"We're still negotiating with the LPGA," he said. "Nothing has been finalized with Wegmans or the LPGA. We expect to have it resolved in a month."
 
As for the Open coming back to Rochester and Oak Hill, he said, "I hope so, and Oak Hill hopes so."
 
Of course, the issue is ... you guessed it: money. Stahl mentioned the revenue stream in cities like San Francisco (site of this week's U.S. Open), San Diego and New York. And as he said, the corporate structure in New York City is much larger than here in Rochester.
 
Perfect example: Bethpage Park on Long Island, where the Open was played in 2002 and 2009. Twice there in seven years, and Oak Hill not even once since 1989? Why? Oh, yeah, I've already answered that.
 
Then I thought I'd run the dollar sign by Joe Goode, USGA managing director of communications. I asked him if money is the bottom line. "No, it's not," he said from San Francisco, where the legendary Olympic Club is hosting the Open. "There's a whole host of factors (in deciding the Open site)-community support, a challenging and competitive example of golf."
 
Excuse me, but do golf courses get any more challenging than Oak Hill's East Course? Bethpage Black is brutal, all right, but Tiger Woods shot 3 under par to win there in 2002, and Lucas Glover won there in 2009 at 4 under. Three other players also finished 2 under par in 2009.
 
Goode did say that if Oak Hill were to approach the USGA about hosting another Open, it would be considered. And as we say in journalism, "If your mother tells you she loves you, check with another source."
 
When it comes to golf, an Open course couldn't be any better than Oak Hill East. And when it comes to golf communities, there are none better than right here. As I've said for years, Oak Hill is our Louvre. And the Open not coming back to Oak Hill would be like artists telling the Louvre they don't want their paintings displayed there anymore.
 
I have no proof, but there is no doubt in my mind that Oak Hill would love to host its fourth U.S. Open.
 
"I hope so, and Oak Hill hopes so," as Stahl said, and that about sums it up. Just hope I'm alive if and when it happens!
 
Rick Woodson's column appears each Thursday on the Rochester Business Journal website at www.rbjdaily.com. His book, "Words of Woodson," is available at www.authorhouse.com/bookstore. Listen to his weekly program, "The Golf Tee," at 9 a.m. Sunday on WHTK-AM 1280 and FM 107.3.6/15/12 (c) 2012 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email service@rbj.net.


What You're Saying 

Jim Webster at 5:15:38 PM on 6/16/2012
Interesting article, Rick. I do agree with most of your points, and I'd love to see a US Open at Oak Hill in my lifetime. But like you, I'm not holding my breath. The loss of Kodak as a major player in any form is significant. And who's left? Burns says Xerox isn't into g...  Read More >
T Drahl at 8:10:51 AM on 6/18/2012
Chase Pitkin was gone before Mr. Wegman passed. It was his decicion. Just couldn't compete with the big boxes, Lowe's and Home Depot.

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