This year’s U.S. Open will be different, but no less meaningful than it’s ever been
My first U.S. Open Championship was in 1980.
Many of you will remember that week at Baltusrol Golf Club, for good reason. Jack Nicklaus set a scoring record en route to his fourth U.S. Open victory. For me, it was an unforgettable experience with my dad that sticks with me to this day.
My love for the game was already clear to me, but seeing golf played by the greatest competitors under the most challenging conditions was unlike anything I had seen before. It didn’t feel like a normal tournament — and it wasn’t supposed to.
The mental, physical and emotional toughness and human triumph that I witnessed that week fueled a lifelong passion for the game that is as strong now as it has ever been. I knew then that I wanted to be part of it, and it was powerful when I realized that I actually could be part of it.
That is the pure beauty of this championship. It’s open. It’s the ultimate meritocracy and why “From Many, One” is so powerful in describing this unique and unparalleled major championship. Any golfer is worthy of competing based solely on their ability to play the game. There are no judgments based on who you are or where you come from. Successfully navigate the U.S. Open qualifying process and you’re in — that’s it.
It is difficult to imagine a more important time in our country’s recent history to remember this simple ideal of equality. Those who came before me, the USGA leaders who had the courage to insist that the 1896 U.S. Open be conducted with John Shippen and Oscar Bunn in the field despite great opposition, understood that. It reminds me that the game is at its best when it’s open to everyone.
Despite my best efforts as a competitor, I never did make it into the field, but the ideal of having the opportunity to try is what makes the U.S. Open unique in golf.
That’s why eliminating qualifying this year has felt like a gut punch. The USGA has the good fortune of providing a platform for athletes to chase their dreams. When we had to take away that platform, those dreams, we took it very hard. We join the 10,000 hopefuls in feeling a sense of loss, and we hope we will never have to do this again.
We will forge ahead, however, because we believe that conducting this U.S. Open is important to the players, to the game and to our country. We will fill the field with as many worthy glory-seekers as we can. Amateurs. Club pros. Touring pros. The best the game has produced. Each will have earned his place in the field by meeting rigorous criteria. We know it will be different, but we will conduct a U.S. Open in 2020 that we can be proud of and one that produces a champion worthy of joining the elites who have come before.
It is also important to everyone we serve. It might seem like the U.S. Open story ends on Father’s Day, but the meaning and spirit of the championship run much deeper throughout the game, and its impact is felt long after the final putt drops.
Thanks to the U.S. Open, the players who compete in it, the partners who sponsor it, the fans who watch from home or on-site, and our broadcast partners, the USGA is able to have a meaningful impact on the game of golf. The U.S. Open inspires the next generation of golfers by fueling programs that provide a pathway into playing the game. Junior programs like LPGA-USGA Girls Golf, The First Tee and Drive, Chip & Putt. Career pathways like the P.J. Boatwright Jr. Internship Program.
The U.S. Open helps keep the amateur and recreational game strong and growing, and plays a vital role in elevating the women’s game by providing opportunities to compete at the highest level.
It means that the on-course experiences of every recreational golfer can continue to improve, thanks to research, tools and education that promote sustainable golf course practices.
And it provides an opportunity to add to the rich storybook of golf, one that starts with the players who compete, and celebrates the culture that has shaped the game through time. Art, architecture, science, breaking barriers, overcoming the odds — they are stories worth celebrating and preserving.
Those efforts, together with our dedicated volunteers, USGA Members, Foundation donors, and host communities, are what make U.S. Open week so memorable. And why we feel a responsibility to deliver it.
As I sit in my family room for the first time in 30 years on Father’s Day with my son, I will remember that first one I attended with my dad. I will remember that the glory each champion receives is worthy of the grit and determination it takes to win a U.S. Open. And I will remember that the U.S. Open, and the impact it delivers, will help ensure a healthier game long after the trophy is hoisted.
It is how we champion and advance the game. And it is why the U.S. Open is our championship — not the USGA’s, but everyone who loves this great game.
A great U.S. Open means a great game. And I can’t wait for the 120th installment in September at Winged Foot.
Mike Davis is the CEO of the United States Golf Association.