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Published: Sunday, 6/30/2002

Fay valuable ally for U.S. Open at Inverness

OWINGS MILLS, Md. - There are those golf insiders who say Inverness Club has not a prayer of getting a future U.S. Open.

The Toledo market isn't big enough.

The local economy isn't healthy enough.

The corporate community isn't supportive enough.

The space for bleacher seating is limited and the course can't accommodate 40,000 fans a day.

Etc., etc., etc.

Frankly, all of the above may be true. The notion that next summer's U.S. Senior Open might automatically translate to the premier Open event toward the end of this decade may be little more than a pipe dream.

But there is another truth to consider. Namely, Inverness has a valuable ally.

David Fay, the executive director of the United States Golf Association, has some meaningful history in Toledo and some warm feelings about Inverness.

Fay honeymooned in Toledo, both literally and figuratively, after he and his wife were married on June 2, 1979.

“Two days later, I was at Inverness staking and roping the golf course,” Fay, who joined the USGA in late 1978 as tournament-relations manager, said yesterday. “The '79 Open at Inverness was my first Open, my first big tournament. I was there for six weeks as the advance person for the USGA.

“So I have a lot of great memories. It's almost like a first love. You never forget and you never lose those feelings.”

Fay is paid, in part, to say the right things and you may wonder whether he is just paying lip service to the course and community that will host his organization's top senior event next summer.

We can only tell you this: Fay is something of a romantic, which explains why he was willing to gamble on Bethpage Black, one of the courses of his youth, as the first truly public course to host a U.S. Open.

Also, of all those who run major golf tours and/or organizations, Fay is the one you would most want to sit with at the 19th hole to tip a couple toddies and swap a few stories.

In other words, moreso than most, he is candid and believable.

His organization is also more committed to tradition and a tad less influenced by money than, say, the PGA of America or the PGA Tour.

He calls Inverness “one of the great clubs and golf courses in the country, a tried and true major championship site,” and says that Toledo's market size would not necessarily prevent the area from hosting a fifth U.S. Open.

“I think there are certain middle markets, for lack of a better term, that can stage big-time events like an Open, a PGA Championship or a Ryder Cup and be very successful,” Fay said. “Toledo would be one. Rochester would be another.

“Sure, local support is important. But I don't think you worry about market size from a ticket-sales perspective. It is, to a large degree, a national and international audience. That sort of takes care of itself.”

Fay said he is looking forward to next year's Senior Open because the USGA “hasn't been back to Toledo since 1979. It will give us an opportunity to become reacquainted with Inverness and its ability to stage the circus.

“That's what it has become, you know. The Open is just huge now. In '79, I was a one-person show and we had, I believe, two corporate tents on the platform tennis courts. A few weeks ago at Bethpage we had 72 corporate tents. So, yeah, circus is a good word.”

It is certainly debatable whether they'll ever again pitch their tents and hoist the big top, the U.S. Open, at Inverness.

But it can't hurt that the most powerful man in the USGA is a big fan.



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