Long Islanders will get another taste of a professional golf when the top 125 players from around the world descend on Bethpage State Park later this month when The Barclays kicks off the four-event FedExCup Playoffs.
For the most part, tournaments such as this are about the tour’s top golfers, like Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson—a Long Island favorite—and Rory McIlroy. But golfers seem to love playing at Bethpage, making the venue just as much a part of the story as the competition itself.
“I love playing in the New York area,” Phil Mickelson told Golf Digest prior to the 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage’s popular Black course, which is a public course.
“People from around there are incredible sports fans,” he said in the interview. “The experience in 2002 at Bethpage was unbelievable, and I didn’t even win. And those New York fans were a big part of how well it went.”
“I found them funny and entertaining,” added Mickelson, who has been adopted by Long Islanders as one of their own.
But can the boisterous and gregarious fans live up to their past performances?
“I think there’s potential,” Elizabeth Witenberger, director of Bethpage State Park, told the Press. She summed it up with this: “They are New Yorkers.”
The black course, with its narrow fairways and small greens, also has a way of attracting the eye of the world’s best golfers.
“They love it,” Peter Mele, The Barclays executive director, said of the competitors. “Everybody that is going to be coming here, they’ve all talked about it, they’re excited about coming back to Bethpage.”
“They think it’s a very challenging golf course,” he added. But “they think it’s very fair.”
This will be the third PGA tour event making the stop at Bethpage in the last 10 years.
“It’s obviously a great venue,” Mele said, listing reasons why the PGA Tour selected Bethpage for another event. “It’s one of the best venues in the country.”
Preparations for the tournament, running from Aug. 21 to Aug. 26, are already underway.
“It’s exciting, [and] it’s challenging,” Witenberger said. “Fortunately we’ve been through tournaments of this nature in the past, so the blueprint is already established.”
The event should also provide a boost to the local economy, with visitors staying at local hotels and dining at nearby restaurants. An estimated 100,000 people are expected to take in the event.
“The tournament will be a much welcomed shot in the arm for our business community and residents as economists project over $34 million in economic benefit for the region,” Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano said in a statement.
Golfers will start trickling in to Bethpage on Monday, Aug. 20. The first day spectators are allowed in is Tuesday, Aug. 22.