The U.S. Open of golf is right around the corner at the famed Winged Foot Country Club in Westchester, N.Y. As someone who loves golf and New York, it’s the perfect opportunity for me to catch a flight and head out to play in my first major championship.
I know what you’re thinking; you can’t just sign up and play in the U.S. Open.
Well, let me ask you, reader, why the hell not? I mean, I pay my $29.99 a year to keep a handicap (currently 4.6) so as far as I’m concerned, those people at the USGA all work for me and this is my championship as much as it is anyone else’s.
Yes, I’m fully aware the USGA hosts a series of qualifiers, but I don’t have time for that, OK? I have a child, a new puppy, a job and customers that count on me to deliver. Basically, I can’t be bothered to qualify. I’m busy. Time being of the essence, I sent a letter directly to the CEO of the United States Golf Association, Mike Davis, the man responsible for all aspects of our national championship.
You can read it here.
As I waited for a reply from the USGA I wondered who I might be paired with. I didn’t expect to be paired with the mega-stars like Tiger, Brooks Koepka or Justin Thomas, but maybe I’d get matched alongside long bombers like Tony Finau and Cameron Champ? Might I be tasked to keep an eye on less-than-scrupulous Patrick Reed or Bryson DeChambeau? Or would I get a shot at someone I might actually have a chance to beat, like Eddie Pepperell or Jordan Spieth? Whomever it was going to be, when the email from Mike Davis came I was beside myself with anticipation…
Peculiar reply to say the least. First of all, Hyland Greens was the best 18-hole par 3 course in America. Secondly, this wasn’t exactly the response I was expecting from Mike Davis and, frankly, I didn’t love his tone.
Undeterred (and admittedly a little offended) by what was likely a glitch in the USGA system, I drafted a reply. I didn’t think it would be appropriate to ask to be paired with a few of my under-the-radar favorites like Jim Herman, Joanquinn Neimann or Max Homa, but I certainly let all of my other demands be known.
No replies from the good people at the USGA (as of yet) but this (fictitious) exchange illuminates a real opportunity to make the U.S. Open the best event in all of golf, maybe all of sports. My proposal: Let’s get six everyday working stiffs in the championship every single year. Here are my proposed criteria:
The Player Shall Maintain a USGA GHIN Handicap no higher than 8.0 and can demonstrate an ability to compete following the Rules of Golf
Let’s say you’re competing in this week’s Leo Spooner Invitational at Northland CC and you’re lower than an 8.0 handicap index. You, my good man, are a tournament-proven player and automatically qualify for consideration.
The Player shall be gainfully employed, retired, or be a parent or caregiver
Enough with the elite amateurs who don’t really work and are essentially professionals. Besides, they’re good enough to qualify on their playing merits. We want relatable people who have real-world responsibilities and a little bit of game.
The Player shall put pace-of-play ahead of performance
It’s almost impossible to imagine anyone could play slower than DeChambeau, J.B. Holmes, Spieth or any of the other glacial headcases on Tour, but just to make it crystal clear — keep it moving if you get the call-up.
That’s it — and all I am asking of my associate Mike Davis is four spots. In fact, I’ll even set up a hypothetical for the 2020 field.
OUT: Sami Valimaki, Finland
IN: Marty Williamson, El Segundo, CA. Par 3 Thursday Nite League. Handicap 4.2.
Nobody whose last name isn’t Valimaki cares about our man, Sami. He’s a fine player and probably a nice guy, but he’s also 22 and he’ll get plenty of other chances. Instead, let’s throw in 47-year-old Marty who has a wife, three kids, drives a minivan, and neglects his front yard because he has three businesses to run. He plays at the par 3 course because it’s all he has time for.
OUT: Phil Mickelson, United States
IN: Eduardo da Silva, Pompano Beach, FL. Pompano Beach GC Men’s League. Handicap 7.3
You will not find a bigger Phil Mickelson fan anywhere in the world than yours truly. That said, after the shenanigans Phil pulled off at the 2018 U.S. Open he should be barred from no fewer than 3 U.S. Opens. If anyone is going to butcher the Rules of Golf, let it be Eduardo, an actual butcher from Pompano Beach, who carries a 7.3 handicap and is an absolute menace in the Tuesday and Friday night men’s meet-ups. If you could buy a house with golf shop credit, Eduardo would own the Vanderbilt estate. Time to see if plucky Eduardo’s game travels to the big stage.
OUT: Ryo Ishikawa, Japan.
IN: DeShaun Smallwood, New Orleans, LA. Audubon Park GC. 8.0 Handicap.
Back in 2011 I took a $100 flyer on Ishikawa to win the Masters and he was never really in contention, so he’s out. Enter DeShaun Smallwood, a 27-year-old pediatric resident at New Orleans Children’s Hospital who spends every free minute he has at nearby Audubon Park where he is the reigning A Flight Champion. DeShaun played college baseball at Johns Hopkins and has only played golf a few years, but he loves the game, he’s good (not great) and he’s about to play in the U.S. Open.
OUT: Zach Johnson, United States
IN: Derek Maroslavski, Marshalltown, Iowa. Wandering Creek GC. 1.5 handicap.
Look, Zach Johnson seems like a sincere and lovely person, but nobody gets excited to watch him play. On the other hand, people would be thrilled to watch 59-year-old lefty Derek Maroslavski hit it around Winged Foot with his 30-year-old Tommy Armour 845 irons and original Big Bertha driver that has guided him to a record 25 consecutive club championships at Wandering Creek Golf Club. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if the charitable Johnson offered to caddy (not that the salt-of-the-earth Maroslavski would accept such pompous service.)
Yes, all of this is fantasy. Marty, Eduardo, DeShaun and Derek are all fake characters. I’ve never sent a letter to the USGA or Mike Davis. Sami Valimaki’s spot in the U.S. Open remains safe, as do the other professionals in our little hypothetical. But know this; all of the amateurs would provide tremendous entertainment and not a single one (maybe the gritty old-timer Derek) would break 100.
But you can’t tell me the proposal to open the U.S. Open to a handful of everyday amateurs isn’t the best idea in golf since the formation of the Premier Golf League (which is happening.) The USGA could treat it like an essay contest. Players could submit their own cases for inclusion or friends could submit on their behalf. If anyone is concerned about the integrity of the championship, you could easily pair the selected amateurs as twosomes so as not to affect any of the contenders’ chances. This is a highly doable concept and an opportunity unique to golf. Could you imagine if a “lucky” fan got to run back a punt for their favorite NFL team? It could end in death. What if a random NBA fan got called out of the stands for the last possession of the half? Imagine Shea Serrano going straight man-to-man on Ja Morant on the last possession. Ja would harvest Shea’s soul for the world to see. It would get extremely ugly.
Golf, on the other hand, has a real opportunity here. To USGA CEO Mike Davis: know that you have a capable and willing participant (me) to be your pilot for this new and exciting program surely to be embraced by the entire nation. I bring suspense, intrigue, a world-class wardrobe, and boatloads of unintended comedy to our national championship. My DMs are always open on Twitter and my wing-tips remain polished.
Holler back, Mike. America is ready.