Come the second week of July, a few members of the BuffaloGolfer crew will head to Long Island to play a series of golf courses including Bethpage Black. Readers know Bethpage Black as the site of two U.S. Opens (Tiger Woods and Lucas Glover victories) and a public course where people often sleep in their car to get a tee time. Our crew is preparing for the daunting challenge that is the Black course. We connected with current Bethpage Black caddy John Gozo for some insider tips leading up to our rounds.
How did you end up caddying at Bethpage Black? What did you do before?
I started caddying on the Black after the redo in 1998. I managed restaurants in New York City and would come in to play the Black. Golfers would ask us if we could caddy for them. That’s how I got the bug. After the 2002 Open, I decided to caddy full time.
What’s the toughest aspect of the golf course?
Someone asked me once, “is it the length or the slope?” I told them its all that, but the rough will get you every time. Because if you’re in it all day, it will wear you down.
What are your favorite holes on the course?
My favorite hole is 13. My father took me out to play the Black in 1977. I always remembered that hole so vividly. I also enjoy playing 14 and love No. 4. What’s not to like? I believe it’s a top 10 best hole in the world.
What’s the biggest mistake you see people make who have never played the Black before?
Golfers think they can hit a low iron out of the rough when the ball is deep.
Were you involved with either of the U.S. Opens that took place at the Black?
I was not involved in any of the Opens. I tried in 2009. I worked at Sebonack for the month the Black Course was closed.
If you had 15 seconds to give a player one tip before they tee it up on the Black — what would you say?
The number one tip I give out there is that when your ball lands in the rough, play the shot a little more to the right of your target line. The rough tends to shut the club face down. If you’re a lefty, do the opposite.
Have you played any of the other Bethpage courses – what other one is your favorite?
My other favorite course is Yellow. It’s considered the easiest course at Bethpage. It’s a beautiful golf course to walk and the greens are always in great shape.
What should people practice most to prepare for the Black?
They should work on long irons and fairway woods. The course plays so long.
We’ll play the Black July 12 – what must we do to make it the best day of golf possible?
When you get to Bethpage, take it all in. The best golfers in the world played two U.S. Opens here. Always take a picture next to the sign on the first tee. And,lastly, take a caddie. You will enjoy the walk and score better with an experienced caddie who really knows the course.