Yesterday it was officially announced that the 2013 U.S. Amateur golf championship would be held at The Country Club, in Brookline, Massachusetts, marking the centennial of Francis Ouimet's victory there in the 1913 U.S. Open. I am a member of that wonderful club, and, like the majority of members, am excited that the U.S.G.A. has chosen to recognize Ouimet's historic win in such a fashion. Several years ago, many of us had been hoping the U.S. Open would be held at TCC in 2013, but negotiations broke down over a variety of issues. However, hosting the U.S. Amateur can be construed as a possible precursor of a future Open, perhaps in 2018 or 2023. There is already a
blueprint for a couple of million dollars in "improvements" to the course in anticipation of such an event. Fortunately, due to the moribund economy, these design changes--new tees to lengthen some holes, new bunkers in landing areas 300 yards or more yards from the tees--have been tabled. But they're coming, I'm sure of that. Like all of the old, classic courses, The Country Club has fallen victim to technology, and holes that used to require a drive and a three-iron are now a drive and a wedge. 550 yard par 5s are easily reached in two shots. 350 yard par 4s are drive-able. So we lengthen the tees until we run out of space, at a cost to the membership of millions of dollars.
...The problem, as Jack Nicklaus has said for years, is the golf ball. The metal drivers have something to do with the extra length players are getting off the tee--I am 57 and hit it as far as I ever have--but by far the biggest factor is the ball. So I wonder what the solution is?
...Let me think. Let me think. Could it possibly be to regulate the ball?
...I can only think of one other pro sport where players bring their own ball to the competition. Bowling.
...Bowling and golf. Now there's some select company.
...Can you imagine a baseball pitcher who insisted on using his own ball when he took the mound? Absurd. Yet the fathers of golf insist the equipment companies are so powerful that you could never get, say, Tiger Woods to play with anything but a Nike ball. Poppycock. In tennis, another sport heavily influenced by endorsements from Nike, Wilson, Spalding, et al., the balls are given to the players. Roddick can't chose one brand, Federer another. But golf officials, somehow, haven't the guts to stand up to the players and their multiple corporate sponsors: Titleist, Nike, Callaway, Bridgestone, and the rest.
...Look, I don't care what happens on the PGA Tour. Let the players bomb 400 yard drives at the ATT Invitational all they want. But the U.S.G.A., the not-for-profit organization which oversees the game and hosts our national championship, should be able to take the Open to historic old courses without requiring them to put in a whole new set of tees in order to "defend" par. The U.S.G.A. should have the cojones to say to Tiger, Phil, and Vijay: "Thanks for coming. Here's the ball you'll be using for the next four days. It says U.S. Open on it, and it's a 90 compression balata." Or whatever. Everyone plays with the same ball. What a concept! It's called a level playing field. And it's called monetary sense. Enough of the 7,600 yard courses. Because it will never end. Technology's not going to stop here. The balls will keep going further if someone doesn't put a lid on it. Let's keep the old designs relevant and save everyone (but the course architects and equipment companies) a pile of dough.
The other big news from Massachusetts yesterday (that had nothing to do with a funeral) was here at Breakwind Farm we harvested our crop of dolgo crabapples and made applesauce. It is a tart-ish, red applesauce that we use with pork, on gingerbread, and as a stand-alone desert topped with vanilla ice cream. As you can see, part of its appeal is visual. You simply cannot find anything like this in the supermarket. So if any of you readers are thinking of planting an ornamental tree that is easy to care for and also produces a useful, unique fruit, I heartily recommend the dolgo crab. It likes full sun, is fast growing, and looks like this in the springtime.
(My bees LOVE it1) Then in late august, without the least assistance from me (I don't even spray), it produces an abundance of golf-ball sized, red crab apples, too tart to enjoy raw, but which can be easily made into applesauce or jelly.
...Here's my recipe for Breakwind Applesauce.
20 cups dolgo crab apples, stemmed and cut in half
4 or 5 regular apples, stemmed and quartered
1 1/2 cups water
1 cinnamon stick
juice from 1/2 lemon
5 cups sugar
Wash, stem, and halve the apples. Put in large pot with water, cloves, cinnamon stick and lemon juice. Cook 20 minutes over medium heat, covered.
At this point it should look something like this:
Put through a food mill. (This is a food mill:
Stir in five cups of sugar. Bring to a boil.
Put into 1 pint jars. Makes 8 pints.
The jars, of course, should be sterilized. Then after they've been filled and sealed, you should still boil them while completely immersed for several minutes. The result: red, delicious, dolgo applesauce, which all winter long serves as a reminder that spring is just around the bend.