The U.S. Open at Erin Hills Golf Course, located in Wisconsin, is now completed, and Brooks Koepka was victorious against the many great, club-wielding golf warriors as they duked it out to the finish. The experience at this year’s U.S. Open was one to remember, whether you were a fan, member of the media, volunteer, etc.
Fortunately for me, Erin Hills was a two-hour drive from my home, not knowing that this major venue was so close. As I left to make the trip up to Wisconsin, I had a chance to take in the natural beauty of Hartford in Washington County. With its lush landscape, dairy farms, and breathtaking wilderness it made it feel like a world away from Chicago.
When arriving in Wisconsin, you could feel the major championship excitement in the air, when you started to see many police officers, as well as residents using their property as parking lots. You knew you were about to arrive at Erin Hills, the host of the 2017 U.S. Open.
As I drove up the gravel road to reach the Erin Hills parking lot, the fences were covered with the USGA logo. Approaching the lot, I looked to the left and witnessed Erin Hills for the very first time. It was stunning.
The practice green and spectator stands were in close proximity, with the Wisconsin wilderness out in the distance. Erin Hills designers Michael Hurdzan, Dana Fry and Ron Whitten always mention how natural the course is.
You can see how natural the contours are as your eyes gleam on it. It could possibly be, the most natural course since the design of Sand Hills. That’s saying a lot, comparing the young girl Erin, to one of the most famous golf courses on the planet.
There were many things around the course to keep fans busy, from massive merchandise tents to plenty of concession stands. Fox Sports even had their own observation deck, where fans can relax, and get a great view of the action.
When I walked towards the Media Center, I walked past a farmhouse where they housed golf carts for players and others who needed to get around. As expected, the inside of the media tent was massive. Upon entering, other members of the media were cranking away on their laptops and preparing their cameras to head out on the course.
As I found my spot and settled down, I wanted to take in the atmosphere before I started working. The weekend as you know, was a nail-biter, with numerous players hanging out towards the top of the leaderboard. Although the scores were pretty low for a U.S. Open, it was still a great tournament, because everyone was fighting for the title.
Koepka would come out of nowhere to dominate on Sunday to win his first major championship. He certainly earned it and has quietly been one of the best players not to win a major, even though he’s still only 27-years-old.
The interview room was well appointed, with a podium that looked more like a fancy TV studio desk for a news network. It was surprisingly cold in there, but nonetheless, it was very nice.
While in the interview room I asked Brooks if the major win gave him a sigh of relief and if it took pressure off of him.
“No, I don’t think so,” Koepka said. “I worked my tail off the last six months and made some changes, grinding every day in the gym trying to make sure I was physically ready and strong enough to be able to swing the club the way I want to”.
You can hear his full response at the 6:35 mark in the Golf Channel video below.
I could’ve stayed in the media tent all day, but I wanted to go out and explore the course a bit more. As you can imagine (especially if you attended the tournament), it was jam-packed on Sunday.
As I was walking, a section was roped off as Matt Kuchar came walking towards the next hole. Of course, the chants of “Kuucch!” came, as the Olympic bronze medalist was trying to make a late push up the leaderboard.
Getting a chance to see arguably the most talked about hole at number nine, was also pretty amazing. As I may have mentioned before, what makes Erin Hills so awesome, is how often it changes. The front and back nine almost work like two different tracks.
The ninth hole is a reminder of the design changes. A green surrounded by bunkers is something you don’t see as much on the front nine. This unique design makes Erin Hills a fun golf course to watch and play on.
The course also has one of the most dramatic 18th holes in all of golf. As you stand on the tee box, you see the clubhouse, the Wisconsin wilderness, and the legendary Holy Hill, all staring at you. It is a beautiful sight to see.
Like Chambers Bay which hosted the U.S. Open in 2015, Erin Hills is still an infant, however, its future is bright as it will host more majors down the road. It was an exciting experience, watching the U.S. Open in Wisconsin, with another new course, and yet another young major champion. Golf Fans certainly won’t forget this experience anytime soon.
A round of applause for Erin Hills, as we move forward to The Open Championship at Royal Birkdale, as the sunsets on Washington County in Wisconsin.
— Colin GP Mieczkowski (@ChiGolfRadio) June 19, 2017
Posted in Experiences and tagged Erin Hills, U.S. Open by Colin GP Mieczkowski with no comments yet.
Last week was a fun week for golf, as some of the best schools in the nation duked it out for a chance at capturing the NCAA Golf Championships.
I had the chance to go check out the men’s final between the Oklahoma Sooners and defending champion Oregon Ducks. Early on, it was a great back and forth dance of fate between the two legendary colleges.
What made both of these teams so extraordinary, is the situations they were both in. Oklahoma had one of the youngest teams in the country trying to win their first golf title since 1989. On the other side, the Oregon Ducks were in what was supposed been a “rebuilding year” after their magical run last year that ended with a title at their home course.
Then, here they are, yet again, trying to win another title, this time, at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, IL. So both teams had interesting backgrounds behind them.
As the back and forth duel continued on, it was Oklahoma who would grab the first point. They never looked back after that, and would go on to grab their first NCAA golf title since 1989.
The cool thing about college sports is the spirit that’s involved with it. After capturing the title, Oklahoma fans everywhere can be found saying “Boomer Sooner!” all over social media. It’s the one thing you don’t see often in golf, besides at the Ryder Cup where American and European fans spray the golf course with their team colors.
Because of the team spirit that’s involved, college golf is great for fans, and for the sport in general. Almost anyone and everyone loves their alma maters, and would root for their team any chance they can get.
Then there’s the fans who grew liking a college team and represent their team. I’m one of those fans, growing up being a DePaul and Northwestern fan.
The school I went to didn’t have sports, but our radio station covers the UIC Flames, so I also have adopted them as well, thanks to my alma maters coverage of the squad. Not too long ago, they added a women’s golf team, so I was certainly excited about that.
But the joys that college golf provides is unmatched in the sport. Nobody gets more emotionally attached to their team like their high schools and colleges, especially college.
One of the things that also stood out was the cool polos the players were wearing. They each were multicolored with their school color and either white or gray. Then, one of the dopest things I noticed was the jersey numbers that were on the sleeves on the polos, giving the players the since that they are truly apart of something, that they have their uniform that makes them stand out.
Vanderbilt and USC, who were within the final group of teams, also had the multicolored polos with the numbers on the sleeves. Some schools have yet to adopt this, such as Illinois, which made it to the final four, ultimately losing to the eventual champion, Oklahoma.
Rich Harvest Farms proved to be good host course for the title. The home of the Northern Illinois Huskies had a beautiful blend of tree lined and open land holes.
One hole in particular was stunning, featuring some seclusion with all of the trees surrounding it. There was even a tree in the fiariway, so even if you thought you were safe, you may not be if you get caught right behind it.
Overall, the NCAA Men’s Golf Championship was a great experience and will continue to grow as a main event in the world of golf. The team atmosphere combined with young, hungry talent and a ton of school spirit from fans and great drama, makes this a must watch event for golf fans every year.
Posted in Experiences and tagged College Golf, Golf, NCAA Golf Championship, Oklahoma Sooners, Oregon Ducks, Rich Harvest Farms by Colin GP Mieczkowski with no comments yet.
With the Tour Championship beginning this weekend, the best players on the planet will duke it out for the $10 million prize. But I wanted to share my experience at the BMW Championship at Conway Farms Golf Club here in the Chicago area.
As we know, Jason Day won (Yet again) beating Daniel Berger by five strokes for his fourth win in his last six starts. His win has now created one of the most interesting Player of the Year conversations ever on the PGA Tour.
Jordan Spieth was a run away at first but now with Jason Day’s wins, it’s a whole other story. One thing Jordan has is two majors as opposed to Jason’s one major but you can argue that the pace that Jason has one could win him the award as well.
My experience at the BMW Championship was fun. The Tuesday practice round was probably the busiest day for me as that was where I had the chance to take pictures as Saturday, nobody was allowed to take pictures except the photojournalists.
The practice round was pretty fun as you were able to get more close and personal with the players and was a laid back environment. Exploring Conway Farms was interesting as it is quite a hilly course with a cool layout.
The ninth hole was probably my favorite hole on the course. A beautiful hole with a great view for fans and a unique slope on the green that dropped down like a roller coaster on the left side.
With bunkers on the right, it could be a nightmare for those recovery shots as the if you hit a little too far, then that ball is rolling down the slope. Tom Fazio, the designer was quite clever with this layout.
Other things you see are BMW cars which are in the main location, near the putting green where the players practiced as well as motorcycles. Another thing that caught my eye was a putting contest where you get a couple of chances to sink a putt on a cool replica of one of the Conway Farms holes.
Not sure what the prize was because well, I’m an idiot, and idiots don’t know things. It did have to do with the Chick Evans Scholarship Fund (As pictured) which awards scholarships to caddies all around which is very cool and the WGA (Western Golf Association, loooong time organization based in Golf, IL) is heavy duty when it comes to caddies and it’s great.
On the putting green, many fans had the oportunity to see the players up close such as Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson. Of course, when DJ walked past some fans, one fan had to say something about Paulina Gretzky, DJ’s female friend but that’s totally expected and he knew that.
Some other golfers that were putting on the green were Kevin Na, J.B. Holmes, Rickie Fowler and Sergio Garcia among others. Later on I spotted Henrik Stenson as well working with the flatstick.
Walking over to the driving range, I had the chance to see some players pound golf balls into oblivion. There was also boxes of Lou Malnati’s pizza that was by the range as well for the players (Pizza before practice? Wouldn’t that slow your swing down?).
Some of the players that were there swinging were J.B. Holmes once again, Bill Haas, Hunter Mahan, Tony Finau and then of course, Jason Day. When Jason was setting up, that’s when all the loud whispering started.
“Oh look, it’s Jason Day!”
And he didn’t disappoint, hitting some terrific shots on the range his swing was perfect. No wonder he’s the new number one male player in the world.
Over at the short game area, I spotted Scott Piercy and Patrick Reed hitting some shots. Scott was chit chatting on the phone as he was taking one-handed practice swings. I asked one of the Green Coat gentlemen (They are called “Green Coats” and are special members of Conway Farms) if he thought I may be able to get a quick interview with Scott and he said “Probably not. The players probably don’t want to be disturbed while practicing”.
Understandable and I was there as a fan and not a media member but was still trying to see if I can get some opportunities as a fan/media member. So I’m sure it was easy for me not to be taken seriously, not to mention I’m only 21 years old and have the face and voice of a 16 or 17 year old.
Nonetheless, it was really cool getting a chance to see these guys up close. Watching Patrick Reed hitting chips and pitches, he was attacking the hole on the green and even holed out one of his shots.
When I went to the ninth hole, I saw Jordan Spieth and Jimmy Walker working on their short game on the tricky green. Seeing the two best putters on the planet grouped together was very interesting and as expected, there was a solid crowd around the two.
I recorded Jordan’s bunker skills on the ninth and as usual, made it look pretty easy:
— Colin GP Mieczkowski (@ChiGolfRadio) September 16, 2015
Also had the chance to see the trophies that were on display:
The legendary J.K. Wadley trophy which has been awarded to the winner of the BMW Championship for a loong time.
This is the BMW Championship trophy. You see the winner normally hold both this trophy and the J.K. Wadley.
And of course, *GASP*, the FedEx Cup which the players will be battling for this weekend at East Lake:
I headed over to the merchandise tent to check out some of the goods that was there. Of course you had some cool polos, golf jackets, hats, etc.
These are some of the hats:
And here some of the cool Conway Farms T-shirts you were able to get:
Among other things were the cool CF poster and Desk Caddy.
These putter head covers were pretty awesome too. There were some driver head covers as well but apparently the picture didn’t save as I was kinda rapid fire taking pics:
I’m a sucker for cool collectibles and these ball markers were pretty sweet:
Use one for the green, carry one for good luck and use the other for display in your home or office perhaps? Pretty awesome.
This bear also caught my attention, rocking his BMW Championship shirt.
Bears are terrific collectibles:
I wound up getting the bear on Tuesday and the ball markers and the blue hat on Saturday.
The bear’s name is “Da homie Teddy” in case you were wondering.
During my time at Conway, I ran into a gentleman named Dave. He spotted me as I walked past the tiny members-only house which was right across from the final three holes.
Dave is one of the longtime employees of Conway Farms. Best way to describe him is just a cool, real dude.
I told him I was coming back on Saturday and I so I made sure to swing by again. Just a super cool dude.
Since I was a media member disguised as a fan, I made sure to have my audio recorder ready to roll in case of any interview opportunities.
I almost had a quick interview with Kevin Chappel but he said he had to go as his caddy was already off to the races. It was a nice try and at least he did say something which is good.
Another close call was on my out when I spotted Tony Finau and like Kevin, was pretty close but he also had to jet. Then I thought to myself that maybe I shouldn’t had been like “Hey you got a quick minute for an interview?” and should have just been like “Hey Tony, can I ask you a quick question?” and had the recorder ready to roll.
Even one question would’ve been an accomplishment, especially with a young rising star like Tony. Nonetheless, interviews weren’t necessarily the goal here, it just so happens I got close.
The goal here was just to take in the experience and write about it. And quite an experience it was.
And yes, Da Homie Teddy was in my hand when I was trying to talk to Tony. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking!
On Saturday, things we’re definitely more hectic. There was cheering from all over the course so you know a player did something amazing.
It was awfully muddy outside due to the rain in the morning and my Nikes got wrecked. Luckily, I wasn’t rocking my Fubus which are my swag shoes.
Golf Channel crew members and Conway Farms employees were scattered everywhere. Things started to get really crowded over at the beautiful ninth hole where Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson were playing.
And again, the loud whispers started.
“Oh look, it’s Rory and Dustin!”.
Stuff like that.
They both hit OK approach shots on the ninth. I saw Rory again on one of the final three holes and he hit a bomb that split the middle of the fairway. Just an explosive swing.
There was another gentleman I met who was wearim a suit and it turns out he was also a long time employee of Conway Farms. A terrific guy and he said he has been there for a little over 20 years.
I saw many fans running towards the clubhouse like crazy and I had no idea what was going on. Turns out Jason Day and Jordan Spieth were heading back and everyone was trying to get some autographs.
On the way out on Saturday, I saw a large crowd gather around the putting green, waiting for Jordan to sign some more stuff. Jordan was the only one on the green as he had just finished his round.
Overall, the BMW Championship was a solid experience and was at such a beautiful course like Conway Farms with mansions in the backdrop on some holes (Golf stereotypes jokes in 3..2..1..). And Tom Fazio has once again proved why he’s one of the best designers in the business.
Big thanks to the folks at the BMW Championship for giving me the passes for Tuesday and Saturday, to be able to write about this experience.
Hopefully there will be many more in the future! It’s been real Conway Farms!
Be sure to follow me on Twitter @ChiGolfRadio for no apparent reason!
Posted in Experiences and tagged BMW Championship, Conway Farms, Golf by Colin GP Mieczkowski with no comments yet.