Columns 9.6.2018 08:15 am

A piece of historic US land with an SA connection

Shinnecock Hills golf course, Long Island, New York, US. Picture: Facebook

Shinnecock Hills golf course, Long Island, New York, US. Picture: Facebook

Should a South African follow Goosen’s example at Shinnecock Hills, who can say the auguries were not there in the first place.

The growing clamour for land distribution for the disenfranchised is probably the most discussed aspect of the South African political landscape.

It is in this respect that next week’s US Open has an unlikely parallel at Shinnecock Hills, the venerable links-style golf club east of New York city in the town of Southampton on Long Island.

The venue claims to be the oldest formal organised golf club in the United States – it opened as a 12-hole layout in 1891 – to have the oldest golf clubhouse in the US dating to 1892, and, untypically of the time, to have been the first to admit women, which it did from the outset.

It is scheduled to host its fifth US Open this year, and its scheduled for a sixth in 2026, and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2000.

Members of Shinnecock Indian Nation, who helped build the course in the first place, say the layout which the fabulous riches of the legendary Vanderbilt family helped establish, is on land they have laid claim to and which remains in litigation.

And given the vagaries of American litigation, the Shinnecock Indian Nation could just find themselves owners of a classic golf course.

There is a more relevant connection with South Africa though. Retief Goosen won his first US Open by two shots from American Mark Brooks in an 18-hole Monday play-off at Tulsa’s Southern Hills in 2001.

But it was in 2004, when sun and wind had made the greens at Shinnecock all but unplayable, that Goose truly reached for greatness, shooting four-under to beat Phil Mickelson – the only other player to better par for four rounds – by two shots.

It was an epic victory over one of the greats of the game and a golf course as unforgiving as the gods of golf could possibly conspire to produce.

Should a South African – and Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel or Branden Grace spring immediately to mind – follow Goosen’s example at Shinnecock Hills, who can say the auguries were not there in the first place.

Jon Swift.

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