It’s silly to commemorate the 1st US Open I attended as credentialed media with the dawn of the Keurig era. And yet, there it was, at Shinnecock Hills in 2004. The Travelin’ Duff and I had journeyed east for five days at the US Open. We attended 2 practice rounds and 3 competition days. We were fortunate, back then. Duff had parlayed a business relationship into an inexpensive stay in the SUNY-Stony Brook (Southampton campus) dorms. We drove in on day one, then left the car there, avoiding the traffic that frustrated so many others. On my way in today, to my 2nd Open at Shinny and 4th overall, I got stuck in that traffic. Not even Google Maps could help; in fact, it got us deeper into trouble!
Knowing Duff as I do, he would have laughed at the mess and said See, that’s what technology does for you … NOTHIN! in that Brooklyn manner and tone. Duff was never wrong (in his mind) and it was only the love that so many felt for him, that kept them from setting the record straight. For those 5 days, the Duff and I owned the grounds at Shinnecock. We went up and down fairways and bunkers, followed the world’s best golfers, marveled at their shots, and set the golf world ablaze-it had yet to embrace the internet, so our little website was a huge thing. If you’ve never been a huge thing in your life, trust me, it’s kinda cool, brief as it is.
Today I’ve returned with The Scrambler, another founder of this august site and an oversized personality if ever there was one. Things are a little crazy, as I’m credentialed and he is not. However, things have changed since 2004. In the first place, cell phones are welcome now. In the second, they actually get things done! Third, the fan experience and the restaurants are so far beyond anything that existed here in 2004: Ruth’s Chris, Starbucks, et al. The bones of a US Open, however, never change. Fans speak about the common as thought they were sharing a kept secret. Patrons flock to the merchandise tent, to purchase this, that, and the other, to commemorate a time spent among giants, and to bring home to kin and friends alike.
To you, John Daken, the Travelin’ Duff, your spirit surrounds us all at this greatest of golf venues. Your affection for the game and its people, your love for great athletic achievement, does not fade. I’ll raise a glass to you today, my great friend. iQue’ viva el Duff!