Editor's Note: On occasion, our own “On the Water” columnist Jo Murray goes “On the Green”. Last week she attended the 2019 United States Open Championship, played June 13–16 at Pebble Beach Golf Links and shared her observations.
Gary Woodland won the U.S. Open last Sunday, with a total purse of $12.5 million — his share was $2,250,000.
But he won our hearts last January — via a video that went viral. It was filmed at a tournament in Scottsdale during a demonstration round with golfer Amy Bockerstette, who has Down Syndrome. Her internal pep talk of “I got this,” and her positive attitude got her out of a bunker and inspired Woodland.
On the tour, Woodland is known as one of the “good guys” who cares about people, and spectators watch him shake hands with not only tournament officials, his fellow competitor, but the volunteers who follow him — the walking scorer and standard bearer. Accordingly, his time with the 20-year-old female golfer showed a genuine connection of two athletes.
On Saturday before his Sunday win, Bockersteete tweeted to Woodland, “You’ve got this.”
Pebble Beach has hosted U.S. Opens in 2000 and 2010, won by Tiger Woods and Graeme McDowell, respectively. Woods and his connections to Long Beach are well documented.
Heartwell Park Golf Course on Carson Street was the course where Tiger Woods played his first round of golf and his original scorecard is preserved in the Long Beach Junior Golf Building.
Both Woods and Long Beach native Patrick Cantlay finished the tournament at 2-under in a seven-way tie for 21st — taking home just over $110K a piece.
Cantlay started playing at age 3 on the putting green in his grandfather Pat Neylan’s backyard, his dad Steve Cantlay was the Virginia Country Club club champion in the early 2000s. Cantlay, a Servite High School graduate, attended University of California, Los Angeles, and turned professional in 2012.
Jamie Mulligan, the PGA Pro and Chief Executive Officer at Virginia Country Club, has been coaching Cantlay since he was 7. He said, “Patrick had a solid tournament finishing 21st. He loves Pebble Beach and all the subtle little intricacies of the great course. He probably didn’t have his best stuff the first couple of days — but he did have a solid weekend and was close to having a really good tournament.”
“He is looking forward to going on to Hartford and competing there next week. After a three-week break, he is playing in the last major in Northern Ireland at the Open Championship.”
Mulligan ended with, “Patrick Cantlay is number 8 in the world now and wants to keep doing all the things he is doing and continue to climb in the world rankings and get better and better.”
Another Long Beach golf professional, Dana Dahlquist, was named one of the top 100 teaching pros in the United States by Golf Magazine. He spent this U.S. Open focused on Charles Howell III, who finished in a tie for 52nd. There were 80 players who made the cut out of the 156 in the original field.
Dahlquist started playing at age 3 at VCC and combines his natural gifts with his computer modeling knowledge to help clients improve their game. He talked some about the course.
“I’m fortunate enough to remember the previous U.S. Open at Pebble Beach because I had two players in the field and remember how firm the conditions were then. So much so, they washed a few of the greens. The ironic thing about the course is that it plays a lot longer when the weather gets unfavorable for scoring.”
He continued, “One of the wonderful things about this golf course is that it doesn’t just fit one type of golfer like a bomber of the driver or just a good putter. It definitely favors somebody who understands how to plot themselves around the golf course, manage risk and have a balanced game.”
He summarized with, “The USGA has definitely turned around and delivered on this venue.”
Players from 30 countries all agreed. Pebble Beach never looked better. The greens were greener. The grandstands, hospitably areas, and staging areas were a reinvented elegance.
Long Beach knows how to host big parties. So naturally the United States Golf Association and the Pebble Beach Company looked to one of our home boys to advise them on event planning.
Long Beach’s Ryan Choura’s motto is “Don’t be boring.” Attendees noted the non-boring setup was innovative and functional. Choura, a member at VCC, understands the game from both a spectator and a golfer’s viewpoint and creates pleasing viewing areas.
The Choura Events CEO credited his work with the Long Beach Grand Prix Association for serving as “a launching point in providing large tented hospitality” that he took to the next level for the Open. Choura Events had a crew of between 40 and 50 working full time since March building the 150 impressive tents and structures and 350,000 square feet of flooring laid during a 77-day installation.
Long Beach, “You’ve got this.”