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Attending the 2020 U.S. Open in spirit; how I got through the COVID-19 lockdown September 22, 2020

Posted by Mike C. in Comedy, Dogs, Golf, Health, Internet, Media, Music, New Age, News, Personal, Photography, Sports, Tennis, Travel, TV, Video, Video Games.
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2020 would have been the third year in a row I attended a PGA Tour major championship held in the New York metropolitan area and fourth year in the last five. In 2016, I traveled to Baltusrol Golf Club for the second round of the PGA Championship. In 2018, I was briefly at Shinnecock Hills for the third round of the U.S. Open. And last year, I witnessed the final round of the PGA at Bethpage Black Golf Course, the third time a major had been held there.

This year, the U.S. Open was to return to New York in June, as usual, to be held at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck. As my dad and I had done in 2002 and 2018, we opted to attend the third round so that he could watch at home on Father’s Day. We attended the final round the last time the championship was at Winged Foot in 2006. We were on the periphery of Phil Mickelson‘s collapse on the final hole. So many people stood by the 18th green that we could only hear the undoing. It was a depressing walk to the bus terminal and ride back to general parking at Orchard Beach in the Bronx.

Shortly after Dad bought the 2020 third round tickets in December, I bought a polo shirt that I would proudly don as I walked Winged Foot’s West Course. I had visions of aerial shots of the course along and ground level views of flags flying in the breeze while Brian Tyler‘s epic theme for Fox SportsUSGA coverage – “Triumph of the Spirit” – danced through my head.

Meanwhile, an insidious disease was spreading its way around the world. By March, Coronavirus Disease 2019 – also known as COVID-19 and the coronavirus – had reached the United States. State and local governments put residents on lockdown. Events were canceled or postponed left and right. Sports were put on hold indefinitely.

It was a sudden, sharp, and scary change that was very hard for me to bear. I was so scared and paranoid that I avoided watching or reading the news. It was torture passing by the den as my parents watched New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s daily briefings. His voice was the last thing I wanted to hear as it served as a harsh reality check. Social media wasn’t any better. Every day, another public figure became a casualty. Some of my friends lost their friends. My dad lost two of his friends.

From March to June, I kept busy at home. I retouched photo scans, removing dust and scratches, and adjusting contrast and color. While I worked, I listened to music or to interview podcasts that didn’t reference the news. Once I landed a weekly radio show at WCWP, recording and producing the shows became another preoccupation. In my downtime, I watched videos on the various YouTube channels I subscribe to, learning about technology and video games. I also watched traditional TV programming: sitcoms like Last Man Standing and Man with a Plan, and the documentary miniseries The Last Dance, about the Chicago Bulls championship dynasty in the 1990s. I worked out religiously and watched what I ate. I bought groceries and other necessities online.

On social media, I limited my Facebook posts to treadmill running milestones, post-radio show blog posts, and photos from the past on Throwback Thursday (#TBT), Flashback Friday (#FBF) or #MemoryMonday. Instagram had some of those photos from the past, but I also began the Cocoa Photo Series, with new entries posted every two to three days. It’s photos of my late Chocolate Labrador from his puppy days in 1998 through Christmas 2006. Here’s an example:

As states and localities were phased back to somewhat normal, I left my house more often, disposable mask in hand when walking through the neighborhood and covering my face when necessary, especially when shopping. I still buy some things online, though.

For a few months now, I’ve begun to follow various dog accounts on Instagram, mostly for Labrador Retrievers. Watching dogs grow up is just what I need in these difficult times.

This concludes the COVID-19 portion of the post.

In April, I learned that three of the four PGA Tour majors were rescheduled for later in the year, with the [British] Open Championship being canceled outright. The U.S. Open was rescheduled for September 17 to 20, the first time the event was in September since 1913. (This meant it would occur a week after the conclusion of the tennis US Open, sans periods, held south of Winged Foot within the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. For the record, Naomi Osaka won the women’s singles title for the second time in three years while Dominic Thiem won for the men, his first grand slam title.)

Assuming spectators would be allowed, I would be attending the third round of the U.S. Open on September 19. I put the date in my iPhone calendar and hoped that fans got the okay to attend. On July 29, access was denied. I felt like I had wasted my money on a shirt for an event I couldn’t even see in person. At least Dad got refunded for the tickets.

Indeed, to date, I’ve only worn it once after the above Instagram post. That one time was on September 10, a week before the first round. It was for a photo project that would put myself at Winged Foot in spirit.

I connected my Nikon D5500 to a tripod, attached a remote, and photographed myself in front of a blank spot on my bedroom wall, clad in what I would have worn to the third round:

The hat is from 2006 and the ticket holder is from 2018.

Then, I applied an effect to make it seem like I was outside in the sun:

The third step was to combine the image with a shot of Winged Foot I found on Google:

I used the magic wand tool to highlight the wall so I could delete it, leaving only myself. Then, I copied and pasted what was left over the Winged Foot image. After initially placing myself in the center of the image, I cropped it down and re-centered myself. This is the end result:

For publicity’s sake, I made sure to note it was a “fake photo.” I posted to Facebook upon completion on the 10th and to Instagram on the morning of the 19th:

Fall conditions were in effect in the area, which meant I’d have a jacket on if I was truly in person, as I did last year at the PGA:

I watched all four rounds of the U.S. Open on TV like everyone else, but not on FS1 and Fox. The rescheduling put Fox in a bind as they were committed to college football on Saturday and the NFL on Sunday. The only solution was to relinquish their USGA rights back to NBC Sports, which they did on June 29. Starting this year, Thursdays and Fridays would be seen on Golf Channel with weekend coverage on NBC. This also meant the previous U.S. Open theme, “In Celebration of Man” by Yanni (pardon the audio quality), made its return. (A bagpipe-infused version was made for Open Championship coverage, as heard in 2016.)

At the end of 72 holes, Bryson DeChambeau was the 120th United States Open champion. He was the only player to shoot under par in the final round and the only player under par for the championship. Bryson joined Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods among players to win an NCAA individual title, the U.S. Amateur, and the U.S. Open. It was his first career major victory and I was very glad for him.

The end result motivated me to include the polo shirt in my regular rotation, just as I do with shirts for most of the other tournaments I’ve attended.

The next major to be held in the New York metropolitan area comes in May 2022 when the PGA Championship is held at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in New Jersey. I hope the world is post-pandemic by then so I can be there in person. (Other future sites can be found here.)

I’ll leave you with video and additional articles related to the final round of the 120th U.S. Open.

VIDEO:
John Pak finishes as low amateur
Final round top shots
Final round extended highlights
Bryson DeChambeau, every televised shot
2020 U.S. Open top shots
Every televised shot from DeChambeau’s victory (all rounds)
Trophy presentation
Press conference
Bryson with Todd Lewis on Live from the U.S. Open
Bryson with Todd Lewis on Morning Drive

ARTICLES:
Will Gray, Golf Channel: Bryson DeChambeau cruises to U.S. Open win for first major title
Michael Bamberger, Golf.com: Victory & Validation: Bryson DeChambeau won the U.S. Open on his own terms
Mike Dougherty, Rockland/Westchester Journal News: Bryson DeChambeau vindicated after dominant finish at Winged Foot
Bill Pennington, The New York Times: Bryson DeChambeau wins U.S. Open his way: in commanding fashion
Mark Cannizaro, New York Post: Bryson DeChambeau runs away with U.S. Open for first major title
Greg Logan, Newsday: Bryson DeChambeau powers his way to his first major at Winged Foot