By Doug Ferguson
The Associated Press
PITTSFORD, N.Y. — PGA of America president Ted Bishop recalls a Ryder Cup practice round with Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler three years ago when the conversation turned to the best courses for the matches in America.
It wasn’t long before Bethpage Black was mentioned.
“Phil said, ‘Would that not be the best to have the Ryder Cup at Bethpage Black?’” Bishop said last week at the PGA Championship.
Turns out the PGA was way ahead of him.
“Bethpage Black is very much on our radar screen,” Bishop said. “The PGA is highly interested in having a Ryder Cup and a PGA Championship there. We feel it’s a golf course that’s worthy of both. We’ve been interested in Bethpage going back to 2009.”
Two of Mickelson’s record six runner-up finishes in the U.S. Open were at the public course on Long Island, but it wasn’t just about him. The 2002 U.S. Open, in which Tiger Woods outlasted Mickelson on the back nine, was among the most raucous. The rain at the 2009 U.S. Open only slightly dampened the volume.
New York is the biggest market in the U.S. and has plenty of connections with Europe. From an operations standpoint, there is ample space in the state park for hospitality and other structures that have turned the Ryder Cup into the biggest show in golf.
The PGA of America was founded in New York in 1916 and has an office there. It last year hired Pete Bevacqua as its chief executive. Bevacqua not only has strong New York ties, he was the USGA’s chief business officer when the U.S. Open was last held at Bethpage Black.
“We’ve had a great relationship with the state of New York, and it’s escalated this week,” Bishop said at Oak Hill. “New York is the greatest sports city in America, and the Ryder Cup is the greatest event in golf.”
Bethpage Black most recently hosted The Barclays last year, and it is scheduled to return in 2016.
The Ryder Cup is going to Scotland in 2014, Hazeltine in 2016, France in 2018 and Whistling Straits in 2020. The next available date for Bethpage Black would be 2024. The next open venue for the PGA Championship is 2019.
Asked if the PGA of America was close to a deal with Bethpage Black, Bishop smiled and said, “Very close.”