Our Weekend at the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black

Our Saturday at the 2019 PGA Championship

What We Liked, Didn’t Like and Who We Saw

What We Liked

Chase Sapphire Club – At PGA events, there are always opportunities to get upgraded hospitality tickets. At the PGA Championship, these tickets are called “The Wanamaker Club”. There are several other hospitality tents which can cost up to several thousand dollars for clubhouse access. If you don’t feel like spending extra money for upgraded tickets and hospitality experiences, you may be in luck. Large corporations like Chase and AMEX usually have a free hospitality tent for specific card members. Chase had a “Chase Sapphire” tent for their card members. We went over to the tent and waited about 45 minutes in line to get in as they have a capacity limit. The wait in line was well worth it as it was “free” to get in. By “free” we mean except for the $99 for the annual cost of the credit card. In the tent was upgraded food selections like shrimp tacos/Burgers/Grilled Chicken Sandwiches’, etc. which were different than the standard concessions, a full bar with small lines, air conditioning, couches (where Steph and Lia were able to relax and we could feed her comfortably), complimentary Water/Gatorade/Soda/Iced tea and upgraded bathrooms which was clutch! No lines and No porta-potties for us! The elevated tent had seating and standing room along the side of the 15th fairway where you could see drives come in and then approaches to the green. The only thing you couldn’t see was the green as it was about 20 feet up from the fairway. All in all, well worth it. Be sure to look into the venues for opportunities like this. (Photos below –  View from the balcony at Chase Saphire Club on the 15th fairway and Inside the tent)

The Scenery/Course Architecture – Going into the weekend, I didn’t know much about the course other than it had hosted a few previous US Open’s and that Tiger had OBVIOUSLY won there. Following every golf social media outlet gave me a good idea of what some of the holes looked like, but like all things on social media, they looked doctored up with filters. Seeing it in real life was an amazing experience. No photo can show the true magnitude of the hills and valleys at Bethpage Black. The fescue, bunkers, green and fairway shape was immaculate. Just about every tee box and green had a severe elevation to it that required a good set up shoes for traction (which I wasn’t wearing…). You were able to see many holes from certain vantage points which was awesome. This allowed you to see the volume of people lining the fairways/greens. I only hope I can make it back to Bethpage and tee it up in the near future and probably shoot 100 and be happy about it.

(Photos below – Left: Tee shot from hole #4. Right: Looking out to #17 from the road crossing from hole #1 to #2)

Family Time – Nothing beats a day with family on the course. Though it was a little expensive to cloth with PGA merch, feed and keep us all hydrated, it was priceless. Those that don’t have their own child won’t quite understand. I was nervous when we got close to the greens/tee boxes that 9-month old Lia would start crying and force a player to step back off of a putt or a drive, but thankfully it didn’t happen. A full day outing with a baby may seem like it would be stressful, but Lia and Steph were champs. They made it all day and kept up with me wheeling around the course like the crazed golf fan I am as we walked over 10 miles that day. It was a great experience for my family and me to be on the course and see some of the world’s best. We will have memories to last a lifetime from it. Lia has now attended 2 of 4 majors. 1st being the 2018 US Open at Shinnecock won by Brooks and the 2nd, this year at Bethpage, ALSO won by Brooks…  I called into PGA Tour radio and talked with Dave Marr on “Mornings with Marr” about our Phil Mickelson experience (See below) and he shouted out on air to Brooks Koepka saying, “get this family some Masters tickets because this baby is your good luck charm!” Brooks, DM me on Insta if you’re reading this… We’re working to get Lia the grand slam and would prefer to get a trip to Augusta in before heading overseas for The Open… Just saying.

Seeing The Players Up Close – Seeing the players up close is so cool. It’s such a different experience than in photos and on TV. You can truly see how big (or small) the players are. Tony Finau is a big boy, Molinari is my size (5’6”), Brooks looks much bigger than he really is, and I can’t really remember Phil because I blacked out when he came over to us. I also liked getting close to the tee box and seeing the ball come off their driver heads. You can hear the ball breaking through the air and sounds like a rocket. Plus you get to see the ball flight and carry of a 300+ yard drive.

(Photos below – Left: Brooks Koepka. Right: Francesco Molinari.)

The Merch Tent Set Up – Shout out to whoever engineered/designed the PGA Merchandise tent. They definitely knew what they were doing. It was sectioned off perfectly and was about 60,000 sq. feet. I was impressed as last year at the US Open, a ton of the items I wanted were sold out and I ended up buying leftover stuff online. The tent was our first stop and we spent at least an hour in there, most of which was NOT in the checkout line.  The checkout line looked to have about 300 people in it and we breezed through in about 15 minutes as they had ~50 registers operating. We were able to get Steph, the baby, myself and some things for friends/family and have it shipped home, for free! They did have a bag check so you didn’t have to lug stuff around all day which is awesome. As we were about to check the bag, we looked over and saw free shipping for Chase Sapphire card members (you did have to pay if you weren’t a card member). This turned out to be a key time saver when leaving as we didn’t have to wait in another line to get our bag to go get in another line for the shuttle to leave. Well done PGA!

What We Didn’t Like

Rickie’s New Haircut – So, my wife’s favorite player is Rickie Fowler which led us to searching for him most of the day… I’m still unsure as to why he’s her favorite player (as he looks nothing like me so there can’t be a physical attraction) and I can only speculate that it’s because of his eclectic style, being younger and a crowd favorite. We finally saw him in between 11 and 12 where he was not happy after making a bogey. Totally understandable. We were super close and the only thing I noticed was his lack of sideburns and length of the back of his hair. Very interesting cut that looked mullet-esque to me. Not so much a euro-mullet like the soccer players but more like a mullet-mullet. Steph agreed the haircut is unusual but still likes him. I may try and pull the cut off next time and see how much she likes it on me…

Long Lines For Beverages – How much of your life have you spent waiting in line for beer at an event? Hopefully not that much because you would have a sad, sad life… Kidding, but if the PGA can figure out how to get 300 people through a merch line in 10 mins, they should be able to move a beer line just as fast. Somehow I ended up stuck in a line for over 30 mins waiting for a Mich. Ultra right as DJ’s group was coming to the hole we were on. Thankfully it was an elevated platform Concession stand so I got to see his approach in, but come on.  Split up the bar and beer lines! If people want to wait for a mixologist to concoct their drink, wait in another line and have beer only in another with options Heavy or Light and 1,2 or 3 to take with you! Keep it moving, we got golf to watch!

Some Obnoxious Fans – Several PGA players have come out publicly and had issues with fans at tournaments. I truly don’t think it has as much to do with alcohol consumption as I do with the age of social media. I say this because unless you slug 6 Mich. Ultra’s at $12 a pop one after another, you’re not going to be belligerently drunk and chirp the players. I heard multiple college-aged kids say, “Bro, I can’t get drunk here”, likely because the volume you can consume is a casual pace compared to partying. The thing I think leading to fans overstepping the boundaries is getting a video to go viral on social. I mean I understand it more than anyone as we were involved in a viral video with Phil Mickelson, but he acknowledged us, not us yelling to him and the video was picked up by the PGA Tour.  At the end of the day, people are people and all people have opinions which you can’t control.

Course Layout and Our Walking Route – Bethpage was not your traditional circular front 9 holes starting and finishing at the clubhouse and then the second 9 doing the same. It goes 9 out and 9 back. A long thin piece of property makes it tougher to see all of the holes as you have an allotted amount of time to see players and it’s harder to keep your bearings for where you are on the course. I take full responsibility for not doing my research and understanding that walking the original route we did in 1-9 before stopping for food was a bad option. What we should have done, was walk 18-10 as that would have allowed us to see all players on the course instead of walking 1-9 and thinking we could outwalk the players. It ended up taking us at least 3 holes to reach the next group without rushing too much around the course. I guess I can’t say I didn’t like the course layout as much as my poor route planning.

Who We Saw

Below is many but not all of the players we saw taken with our person iPhone’s which explains some of the poor quality. Though it was poor quality, it shows how close we were to some of the players. President Trump look-alike might have been the funniest thing we saw all day also haha.

That was our weekend at the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black. Hopefully if we hear from Brooks Koepka soon we’ll be gearing up for The Masters in 2020… Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more content!

-Alan Liwush-

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