U.S. Open to be held at Merion in 2013
PHILADELPHIA -- Hogan, Jones, Nicklaus and Trevino are part of Merion Golf Club history. Now, a new generation of golfers will get a chance to leave their mark at the venerable club in the 2013 U.S. Open.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Golf Association officially selected the historic club as the site of the 2013 national championship. It is the fifth Open for the course in suburban Philadelphia that has held 17 USGA events, the most of any club.
"The membership of Merion Golf Club is very excited and proud to have been chosen by the USGA as the host site of the 2013 U.S. Open Championship," Merion's championship committee chairman Bill Iredale said in a statement.
The 120-acre layout was, for years, believed to be too small -- in length and size -- to accommodate the trappings of the U.S. Open. But the USGA is confident the 6,800-yard Hugh Wilson-designed East Course can hold its own against golf's best. Winged Foot's West Course, site of this year's Open, will play more than 7,200 yards to a par of 70.
"We feel that our East Course is a very special venue, a classic golf course which, while lengthened some 400 yards to accommodate modern players and equipment, still retains the same shot angles, bunkering and greens that challenged Bob Jones in 1930, Ben Hogan in 1950, Lee Trevino and Jack Nicklaus in 1971 and David Graham in 1981," Iredale said.
Merion's tiny greens, thick rough and lengthened layout proved to be a formidable test for some of the best long-hitting nonprofessionals at the 2005 U.S. Amateur.
"They've always had great holes, a number of great layup holes where you weren't using driver off the tee," said David Fay, executive director of the USGA. "But they've been able to make their long, stout holes -- the ones that have been known throughout history -- they've made them really long. So I think they have adapted so well to the changing nature of the game."
The club instituted a 10-year plan to prepare for the Amateur, and always had an eye on a possible Open. Leading up to the Amateur, hundreds of trees were removed, the East course was closed for a year to re-grass the greens, all bunkers were restored, 14 holes were lengthened and fairways were realigned to bring hazards into play.
The result: Only six players scored in the 60s on the par-70 layout during the stroke-play portion of the Amateur.
The USGA is also confident Merion can handle the logistics of an Open. While it might mean limiting daily crowds, officials will find space for a corporate village, merchandise tent, trophy room and media.
The USGA said the exact number of spectator tickets has not been determined for the 2013 event, but the total should exceed the 18,000 daily tickets sold for the 1981 Open.
"While Merion is not a huge physical facility, we are confident that we'll be able to conduct a complete U.S. Open operation outside the ropes," said Jim Hyler, chairman of the USGA championship committee. "The cooperation, enthusiasm and resources of the surrounding community remain the major reasons why we are able to do so."
Merion hosted its last Open in 1981, which was won by David Graham. The Amateur has been played at the club six times, and the Women's Amateur has been held there four times. The club is also scheduled to host the Walker Cup in 2009.
The course renowned for red wicker baskets atop its flagsticks and sand hazards known as the "white faces of Merion" has been the site of some of golf's most memorable moments.
Bobby Jones played his first U.S. Amateur at Merion as a 14-year-old and returned 10 years later to claim his first Amateur title. Seventy-six years ago at Merion, he completed the "Grand Slam" by winning the 1930 Amateur to go along with the U.S. Open, British Open and British Amateur.
There's a plaque commemorating Jones' final competitive hole at Merion's 11th tee. It was on that hole he closed out Eugene Homans 8 and 7 in the 36-hole final.
Ben Hogan also left his mark at Merion.
A little more than a year after surviving a horrible car crash, Hogan came to the 72nd hole of the 1950 U.S. Open needing a par to force a playoff. In one of golf's most enduring photos, Hogan is pictured, from behind, hitting a 1-iron from the 18th fairway to a green ringed by spectators. He went on to two-putt for par and won a three-way playoff the next day.
Before the start of a playoff for the 1971 Open, Lee Trevino pulled a prank on Jack Nicklaus, tossing a rubber snake at his feet while on the first tee.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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