Monday, June 10, 2013

The 1981 US Open at Merion with a Chevy Nova driving on the Greens

If I told you that a car spun out on a green and drove across another before the start of the 3rd round of a US Open, would you be surprised? Would you be even more surprised to hear that at Merion during the 1981 US Open, that a car spun out on the 2nd green then drove backwards on the 2nd fairway, drove between the 2nd and 5th tees onto the 10th fairway across the 10th green through the bunker across the 2nd tee and turned onto Ardmore Avenue never to be seen again? The truth is indeed stranger than fiction. It happened.

Each morning as I drove to the club to prepare for the Championship, I would sneak through security on my way to the golf course maintenance building taking a different route each morning. I wasn't doing this just to irritate the security staff but to make a point that their perimeter and access control were lacking. Ardmore Avenue runs through the golf course and Golf House Road runs along part of the "Back Five."

On Saturday morning, as I was driving through a heavy rain for the third round of the Championship, I noticed that there was no guard at the gate that goes to the 2nd green from Ardmore Avenue and that the chain was down. When I got to the maintenance building, my thoughts went towards that morning's preparations as Richie Valentine and I adjusted the morning's plans for the staff to deal with the rainfall and I really didn't think about the gate at number 2 until as I was making my rounds checking on the staff twenty minutes later.

Wanted for Criminal Trespassing, 1981 US Open

By that time a Chevy Nova had driven onto the course, spun out on the back of the 2nd green, went down the 2nd fairway onto the 10th fairway, across the 10th green through the bunker across the 2nd tee and turned onto Ardmore Avenue. The driver didn't know how lucky he was because he was being chased by Dominic (Loco) Crespo. And if Dominic had caught him, he would have had a tough time of it. By the way, Dominic's brother Miguel Crespo still works at Merion these 32 years later.

The car had spun out on the back of the 2nd green and skimmed the turf off of the green in a half donut within a few feet of Saturdays pin position. Being the ever energetic Assistant Superintendent, I asked Richie if I should topdress the spot. Richie told me to just spread some green's clippings over it after it was mowed and that we'd move the pin to the front. And that was it.

Another Richie Valentine story. Do you notice anything different about this plaque? No, well take a close look at the ROBERT TYRE JONES, JR. section. Now do you notice that it's raised? What name do you think might have originally been on the plaque? How about Robert Trent Jones?

Richie told me the story about how the club had this plaque made and took him out to the 11th tee to see it mounted on the rock. Richie said "The plaques beautiful but that's not his name." Thus the raised portion of the plaque.

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