From the Golf Journal Archives - It Appears So Easy

Dec 30, 2011

By Joseph C. Dey, Jr., USGA Executive Director

(Note: This article originally appeared in the September 1962 issue of Golf Journal.)

A golf championship must appear to be a wonderfully simple affair to the casual onlooker: the players drive from the first tee like clockwork – they progress around the course at a comfortable walk – spectators casually arrive, park their automobiles, follow play decorously behind ropes which keep them off tees, fairways and greens – food and beverages are available for thousands of persons – scores of the leaders are posted at several vantage points around the course.

But the degree of simplicity in the facade of a golf championship is in almost direct proportion to the amount of effort which the entertaining club expends in preparations. An incredible number of details go into the making of a tournament such as the National Amateur at Pinehurst.

Part of the story is told in a USGA booklet “Golf Championship Manual,” which guides clubs in readying for USGA competitions. The Manual comprises some 30,000 words. The main sectional titles give an inkling of what is involved: Grounds, House, Admissions, Gallery, Caddies, Scoring, Public Information, Program, Transportation, Parking, Accommodations, Finance.

Any sporting event involving paid admissions and food provisions for the public has complexities of management. But golf has a problem peculiar to itself in the fact that play and watching occur over a vast outdoor stage of some 140 acres – a moving stage whose many focal points must be kept in apple-pie order, the while being subject to the changing moods of nature. In most other sports no flexible controls are needed for either players or spectators – their range of movement is closely confined in a baseball park or a football stadium. In contrast, for gallery control at Pinehurst the USGA installs some 2,000 metal posts and ten miles of rope.

A club has to be an accordion to hold a national golf championship. The average club is designed to accommodate some 350 members and their families and guests – and all are never there at once. But when the club takes on a national championship, it must suddenly expand its facilities to care for not only a large field of the best players but thousands of birdie-watchers – all for just a few days.

And what is the club’s reward? There is really only one compensation – the same one which comes from any labor of love.

For holding a golf championship is a true labor of love. Thousands upon thousands of man-hours are expended by club committee members with no material compensation whatever. The cold fact is that if those same members had to be paid in money for their efforts at anything approaching the rate they receive from their occupations and professions, any championship would be a financial failure.

Thus, all golf tournaments without exception exist on the bounty of amateurs, including those on the professional circuit with large money prizes. They are made possible by labors of love. This is an incongruous thing in today’s world of commercialized sport. But at its heart is the same spirit of amateurism which animates all golf.

The clubhouse at the Pinehurst (N.C.) Resort and Country Club as seen in 1962, the year it hosted its first USGA championship, the U.S. Amateur. (USGA Museum)