Fan Slam Complete
by Peter Kravitz
The day after our thirty-second wedding anniversary, my wife Jennifer joined me for the first time at a golf tournament—the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black.
This was my first PGA Championship, and it enabled me to complete my career fan slam of golf. I had already journeyed to the other three majors—one Open (British Open), one Masters, and eight U.S. Opens.
Only male family members had previously gone with me—my dad and two brothers at U.S Opens at Merion, my father-in-law at the 2004 U.S Open at Shinnecock, my son at the 2002 and 2009 U.S. Opens at Bethpage Black, my wife’s first cousin at the Masters, and my brother-in-law’s ex-brother-in-law at the Open in Scotland.
Guys bond at golf.
So I apologize to my two daughters for never inviting them, but they would have declined. “Spend a whole day at a golf tournament with dad?” they would have sung in unison. “Eww. No way.”
That’s why the anticipation of hiking Bethpage Black with Jennifer caused some trepidation for me—and I’m sure for her, too.
While I watch the majors obsessively, my wife doesn’t. She knows a few big stars, but was puzzled when I said hello to a man walking alone past us on his way to his group after a stop at the Gents on the sixth hole.
“Why did you bother him?” she asked. She had no idea who the three-time major winner, Irish great Padraig Harrington was.
“He smiled when I said hello,” I said. (Luckily I didn’t say it in my brogue, which I foolishly considered.)
She was annoyed that I rushed her as she primped in the morning. Guys never primp for a golf tournament. Thirty-two years together, with three amazing grown-up children (they all have jobs!), and we are still completely different. Maybe that’s how we’ve survived.
But Jennifer showed a surprising interest in the golfers and the action. “I can’t believe Dustin Johnson drove it 380 yards and then missed that little putt for the birdie,” she observed. Johnson was the eventual runner up by two strokes to the champ Brooks Koepka, Johnson’s best friend.
“Don’t you think Bryson DeChambeau looks like our son?” I asked.
“Yes, except DeChambeau is much stronger than Brett,” she replied.
“I suppose,” I said. “And they are both really into science.” (DeChambeau applies physics to his unique golf game, and our son is a geological engineer who builds solar and wind farms.)
Since we both enjoy burning calories, we gamely trudged the formidable, hilly Black course for five and a half miles.
While just getting to big golf professional golf tournaments also seems like an arduous trek, the PGA streamlined the process a bit for this, its 101st championship. After a short Uber ride to the Newsday parking lot, we took a shuttle bus to the course, which stopped at a massive merchandise tent built on the ninth fairway of Bethpage Yellow. (Bethpage features five courses—Yellow, Blue, Green, Red, and Black.) There you could buy shirts, towels, coffee mugs, golf balls, hats, coasters, poker chips, shot glasses, raincoats, lithographs—anything with the logo of the 2019 PGA at Bethpage Black.
Things have changed. In the ’70s you paid $3 to park on someone’s lawn and then walked to the tournament, sans the five-acre merchandise tent.
We watched the action at the fourth green, and then the sixth green, and finally the ninth, as huge roars for great shots sprung up all around us from the massive, passionate New York crowd.
What a day! A mere forty-nine years after my dad took me to my first major, I had completed the true fan slam (no media or other passes) with my wife. And only because a friend abruptly canceled on her for something else. An ace of a thirty-second anniversary gift!
Photo credits by author and grupgta.com
Peter Kravitz is the author of So You Wanna Be a Teacher, a former Philadelphia reporter and retired New York public high school Journalism teacher. He's a regular contributor to Silver Sage Magazine.