BETHESDA, Md. - Unfortunate though it might be that the 2004 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills GC is remembered for the errors the USGA made in setting up the course for the final round, Mike Davis, the USGA executive director, is not afraid to call that week a valuable learning experience.
Davis wasn't yet the setup man for the U.S. Open. He took over that job from Tom Meeks in 2006. But he still found himself in the eye of the storm on that bloody Sunday when the 7th hole, the Redan par-3, became so dry and hard that putts were rolling off the green.
"I got a call from our official in the lead group, and he said, 'Hey Mike the first group went through here and it didn't go well.' I knew it wasn't going to be good Saturday morning, but I didn't have control of the hoses that week," Davis recalled Wednesday after it was announced that Shinnecock was awarded the 2018 Open. "I went out to 7 and watched the second group go through, and I immediately suspended play. I didn't even have the authority to suspend play, but I suspended play."
Tom Meeks was in charge of setting up the golf course that year. Walter Driver was chairman of the championship committee. But Davis couldn't reach either of them on the radio. "Time was working against us," Davis said. "You should have heard the conversations about that later."
Worse, however, was the, uh, conversation on the scene at the 189-yard hole. It was more of a one-way communication.
"When I took the flagstick out and kind of walked back off the green, people started throwing things at me," Davis recalled, laughing. "I literally got hit by cups and paper and all sorts of things. It was dreadful. I still feel awful about it."
But, as he said, it was a learning experience. And the first lesson: wear a helmet.
-- *Dave Shedloski