I’ve always been a fan of John Feinstein’s writing. In fact, A Good Walk Spoiled was one of my first introductions to true sports writing—the personal profiles and portraits of professional athletes, the “other” side of the sports we love, not just the AP-style canned articles that appear in newspapers across the country every day.

I picked up The Open (published 2003) over the summer, with expectations to read the entire book over an extended weekend vacation around July 4th. Well, I just finished. Truth is, The Open is another wonderful book by Feinstein, but it wasn’t exactly what I expected—and that’s my fault.

In A Good Walk Spoiled and Tales From Q School—another of Feinstein’s notable golf works—he focuses on the players themselves, the intricacies of their lives, how they interact with the sport they love, tying in personal stories of successes and failures throughout.

With The Open, Feinstein’s focus is squared on the USGA (United States Golf Association), and the enormous task of planning, implementing, and conducting a major championship. The story centers on the 2002 Open–the first U.S. Open ever conducted on a municipal course, Bethpage Black.

Beginning with USGA head David Fay’s impromptu, late evening visit to the poorly maintained, unkempt Black course in 1994 (a visit in which Fay first dreamed of massively renovating the Black course to U.S. Open standards) Feinstein details the incredibly involved process of the 2002 Open, from the planning phase to Tiger Woods‘ trophy presentation.

You don’t really understand the magnitude of planning an event like the Open until you read about it–and I’m sure Feinstein really can only hit the high points in just a few hundred pages.

The Open does ocassionally dive into the player’s stories, and their unique perspective on the event. But, no doubt, this book is about the men behind the scenes, those who make the US Open tick–the greenskeepers, the tournament directors, the volunteers, and the hundreds of USGA employees who make this event happen every June.

One story that stands out to me is Tiger Woods secretive visit to Bethpage Black in the weeks before the Open began. Short of the President visiting the course (which he almost did during the 2002 Open), nothing sets off security alerts like a notification that Tiger will be visiting a public course.

Bethpage was closed to the public in the weeks before the tournament started, but Woods, along with his buddy Mark O’ Meara, were escorted off a side road to the third tee, so as not to cause a stir among staff members and USGA employees on-site. Two men, however, were quite fortunate. Two of the Black’s greenskeepers were given the privilege of caddying for Woods and O’Meara during the round.

Both men were told the day before that they would be “looping” for some high-profile guests, they were required to wear “nice clothes,” but neither knew who would be visiting until Woods and his entourage pulled up to the tee. Quite a pleasant shock, I’m sure.

In all, The Open is another great read offered by John Feinstein. But, as a golfer and sports enthusiast, I’m still drawn to the stories of the players themselves, not the tournament organizers. Great read. But, in this man’s opinion, not quite up to the level of A Good Walk Spoiled, Tales from Q School, and The Majors.

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