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U.S. Open Blog
Thursday, June 12, 2008

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Play Ball

by David Shefter   USGA

One of my favorite U.S. Open traditions is going to the first tee bright and early for the first ball. There's nothing like getting up at the crack of dawn to see the first contestant whack a 300-yard drive before a few hundred spectators. By 6:45 a.m., the grandstand at the first tee was completely full -- most probably awaiting the marquee 8:06 starting time of Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and Adam Scott -- and there were people lined along the ropes.

Ron Read, the USGA's director for the West Region and a Monterey, Calif., resident, has had the honor of announcing the players since 1986. But since 2002 when the USGA instituted a two-tee start, a second public-address announcer was needed at the 10th tee. Jim Farrell, another regional director from Massachusetts, has that honor.

I first met Ron Read at sectional qualifying in 1993 at Valencia (Calif.) Country Club. That day a teenager by the name of Eldrick Woods was trying to make the field at Baltusrol. Woods did not play that day and failed to qualify but another California 16-year-old, Ted Oh, shot even-par 144 and qualified. Read was instrumental in helping me find out if Oh was the youngest to ever qualify for the Open. It turns out there was a Texas kid named Tyrell Garth who qualified at 15 back in 1941.

Anyway, I consider Read the Voice of the U.S. Open. And at 7 a.m., he began his traditional dialogue of telling the spectators that this was the 108th U.S. Open conducted by the United States Golf Association. He informed the public that 8,390 entries were accepted for this year's championship, with 156 players advancing to Torrey Pines, where the competition will be 72 holes of stroke play and the contestant with the lowest score "will be our national champion."

Before play began, Read was approached by USGA vice president Jay Rains, who played a key role in getting the Open to Torrey Pines. "I've waited nine years for you to stand here and announce this," said a proud Rains to Read.

Then it was time to announce the players for the 7 a.m. starting time. First to hit was D.A. Points of Pekin, Ill. Back in 1996, Points was Tiger Woods' quarterfinal victim at Pumpkin Ridge en route to his unprecedented third consecutive U.S. Amateur title (3 and 2). Points hit a beautiful power fade past the bunkers and into the fairway. After Points, Patrick Sheehan and David Hearn followed and the group, which included walking Rules official Lon Haskew from northern California, headed down the first fairway. Points, in fact, made the first birdie of the championship.

Over on No. 10, Robert Garrigus of Gilbert, Ariz., hit the first ball, followed by Peter Tomasulo and Craig Barlow.

And the U.S. Open was now officially underway.


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