By John Dundon
Many of the world’s best professional golfers are descending on Long Island when The Barclays, a tournament on the PGA Tour, returns to the famed Bethpage Black Course next week.
Excitement for the upcoming fourth PGA Tour appearance at Bethpage State Park has been building among local golf purists who relish in the chance to see the best in their sport play up close. And the professionals themselves agree—playing Bethpage Black is an awesome experience.
“It’s a great venue with great fans, and a great environment to compete in,” Tiger Woods, recalling his ‘02 US Open win at Bethpage Black, said while competing in the previous Bethpage Barclays contest in ‘12. “[Fans] came out with amazing passion and energy.”
In ’02, Bethpage Black became the first public golf course in the country to host a US Open—its first major. The US Open previously made its way to LI—a national golf destination that’s home to nearly 150 courses. It made four stops at Southampton’s Shinnecock Hills Golf Course, but only was played at Bethpage Black twice: in ’02 and ‘09.
Now after over a decade of tour play, the reviews are in. Bethpage Black plays like one of the country’s best.
Joe Rehor has been the course’s resident PGA professional for nearly 40 years. Rehor’s had a front row seat to the course’s journey to the national spotlight.
“To be here since 1978, and to watch it grow from a course that wasn’t well run, was poorly maintained, to what it’s become today—that’s so satisfying,” Rehor reminisced. “The PGA, the US Golf Association, the Long Island Golf Association…everyone wants to play at Bethpage Black. I haven’t heard anything bad about the black from anyone who’s played it.”
Bethpage Black became a household name after the ‘02 US Open. Woods (-3) was the only golfer to finish that tournament below par. During that event, the crowd was labeled as boisterous—even distracting—by some golfers. Long Islanders were clearly pumped to have PGA golf in their backyards.
After a successful first trip, the US Open returned to Bethpage Black in ’09.
“The people here are incredible,” five-time major champion Phil Mickelson told reporters after his final round that year. The crowd at Bethpage had been cheering for him after he made it public that his wife, Amy, was diagnosed with breast cancer just weeks before his stop at the Black.
And then in ‘12, when The Barclays first came to Bethpage Black, the impression was so good it had to come back for more. Besides the upcoming tournament, The Barclays will also be played at the Black course in 2021 and ‘27—much to the delight of local golf purists. In addition to The Barclays, Bethpage Black will host the ‘19 PGA Championship and the Ryder Cup in ‘24.
Lindenhurst native Jake Outsen will be volunteering as a hole marshal on the 11th tee for the duration of The Barclays, Thursday through Sunday. To say he’s excited would be an understatement.
“It’s going to be amazing, just watching these guys swing… maybe I’ll pick up a thing or two,” Outsen said. “The experience is something you don’t get to be a part of every day, right in Farmingdale, 10 minutes from my house. It’s going to be a lot of fun and I hope [the PGA] comes here more often.”