“Given the sorry state of so many of our local teams, we’ve had a real dearth of top-of-the-mountain sports events in this town for quite a while. So people are ready for this,” Congressional co-Chairman Ben Brundred said Monday. “There are financial incentives for [Congressional] to do this. But there’s also a sense that the nation’s capital deserves to have, at least occasionally, big-time golf. If we don’t do it, who will?”
Maybe, in part, my appreciation of this Open is an acknowledgement of what this town has never had: an Olympics, a Super Bowl, a World Cup or, since 1933, a World Series. Those are big voids. The biggest events in tennis, boxing and auto racing seldom, if ever, landed here. We’ve hosted the Final Four, but not with any local team involved.
Perhaps it’s an admission that, when the Bullets won the ’78 NBA title at the Capital Centre, pro basketball wasn’t as important a sport as it’s become and that, when the Caps lost the Stanley Cup in ’98, far fewer people cared whether or not you “Rocked the Red.”
Strictly for thrills with a local bias, of course, I’ll admit that my family yelled loudest for those NFC championship wins at RFK Stadium in ’72, ’83, ’84, ’88 and ’92. But those were discrete one-day explosions of insanity. And, except for Redskins season ticket holders, those were TV events, not in-the-crowd experiences for most people I knew.
However, there’s something about the phrase “total experience” rather than just the notion of attending one cathartic game that appeals to me. And golf, especially at the level of a weeklong U.S. Open, is a total-immersion experience. It’s like a seven-day golf tailgate party that will end with 40,000 people erupting in roars around the 523-yard par-4 18th hole on Sunday evening.
I love it because it’s the ultimate competition in one of the world’s premiere games; and it’s held outdoors in summer on the most beautiful venue, by far, on which sports is contested in this area. I love it because it’s supremely tense, except for all the hours when it’s utterly relaxed. For a mega-event it’s even relatively affordable; kids 12-and-under get in free, two per adult ticket holder. Let mom and dad show up at the Super Bowl or World Series and say, “Hey, can we bring four kids in for nothing?”
I love it because you don’t just have one seat for a game that lasts a few hours. There’s beer, but nobody seems to scream in your ear or cuss at a ref. Instead, everybody has room and time. You can go anywhere you want on all 7,545 yards of rolling wooded Congressional. If you want a 10-hour day that’s part golf cheering, part scenic hilly hike, part picnic under a huge old tree and mostly a blissful sense that “it just doesn’t get much better than this,” then the Open is the perfect place.