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Bethpage Black Could Use Another Warning Sign

It might say to pros: "Beware of wild New Yorkers."

There's actually a warning sign on the first tee here, discouraging all but "Highly Skilled Golfers," to attempt the treacherous

The message is designed for weekend duffers who have no business being on this 7,000-yard house of hilly horrors.

But for the pros who can actually navigate Bethpage Black there's something else to contend with: Those boisterous New Yorkers perilously close at hand, a roving band of bleacher bums roped off on the sidelines and just within earshot.

Sergio Garcia's New York minute came at 5:27 p.m.

He's on the 17th tee and suddenly back in it, just two shots behind young Nick Watney with two holes to play. Watney just bogeyed the 16th in the final round of  Sunday. Maybe the kid is rattled. On the previous hole, it was Watney who heard something and stepped away from his tee shot.

The 17th is just one of 18 reasons for the famous Bethpage warning sign, but with 23 major championships under his belt, the Spaniard pulls out an 8 iron and calmly saunters to his ball.

He looks out at a flag fluttering some 204 yards in the distance. From his vantage point, he can't see the putting surface, and the green is guarded by a phalanx of bunkers resembling Field 6 at Jones Beach.

Behind his unseen landing zone is an army of rowdy customers contained in a horseshoe-shaped portable stadium. Garcia tees up his ball.

He hears something and steps away. He turns and glares at someone in the mob scene surrounding him. The crowd moans.

"Just hit the ball Garcia," someone yells. "Everybody just shut up," shouts another. The State Park policeman looks stern. Glassy eyed patrons bearing beer cups and sunburns just stare back and giggle.

Garcia smiles and approaches his ball again.

His shot flies 192 yards and sticks on the green but far right of the flag. In the distance, the stadium moans.

Had any of those weekend duffers nailed this green monster off the tee, they might have whooped for joy and fist-pumped their way to the green, waving to an imaginary gallery in their beer-buzzed, delusional minds. But Garcia's shot is 50 feet from the cup; a birdie is nearly impossible.

It's 5:28 p.m.

Watney steps up and decides on a 7 iron.

"This is your moment, Nick." somebody yells.

The cop glares again at the unruly horde; the "Quiet" signs go up, as if that will make some difference. It's 5:29.

Watney smacks his drive right at the pin. It lands 35 feet to the left, a make-able two-putt. Thunderous roars echo back to the tee. Somebody chants: "U.S.A.; U.S.A." It would be embarrassing if it weren't so quintessentially Gotham.

The native Californian with a wholesome face would run the second shot a foot past the cup and then tap in for par. Garcia needed a 10-foot third shot to save par and would go on to bogey 18. It was all over except for more shouting, when Watney birdied the final hole

Rising-star Watney, who may also have a future in diplomacy, would later describe the crowd as "very enthusiastic."

"You get different crowds in different regions, and New York definitely lived up to its name as far as they were pretty loud and boisterous," he said.

Of the incident at the 17th tee, Watney said "...(It) was really hard (for Garcia) to pull the club and they kind of got him there. But other than that, they were pretty good and it was a blast to play in front of them."

The charming Garcia was gracious about the fans and blamed the delay at 17 on a last-minute wind change.

"Obviously there were a couple guys that shouted: 'Come on! Hit it! Hit it! Go! Go! Waiting, waiting, whatever,' " he said.

"I'm like: Don't worry, I'm going to hit it, I'm just taking my time."

The time he took was a classic New York minute. Bethpage Black has an unwritten warning sign and the tour pros know it by heart: It says:

"Caution: Rowdy New Yorkers present; play at your own peril."

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Dorothy A Whalen August 27, 2012 at 09:07 PM
Yes, happy at least that you say new Yorkers, but this did not take place in NYC, the melting pot.... this is Nassau, Long Island, where I had hoped Manners and Courtesy were something used more frequently. I would love to know where these creatures came from, as they certainly didn't add to the promotion of Golf. I totally agree with the above comment by NickAtNite ~ and the majority of the comments, people who have respect and know how to show it. Maybe there should be a limit on how much Beer is served per person, or don't allow coolers. These people should be pulled out, the same as they do at hockey games. Rules are rules, and silence means just that. This isn't Saturday Night Live, so either keep your mouths shut, or go find some other place to mouth off, and make a complete ass of yourself.I have a feeling that the L.L.R.R. was probably very busy the last few days. At least I hope so, or we have a new element moving to Long Island.........
Dorothy A Whalen August 27, 2012 at 09:11 PM
You take pleasure in hearing your own mouth ~ no one rolled out a red carpet for you, so if you can't control yourself, and shut up when the signs say so, then don't come to golf. We don't need you.
Elena DiMarco August 28, 2012 at 03:22 AM
You never cease to amaze with your writing, Joe. Fantastic article!
Joe Dowd August 28, 2012 at 04:36 AM
Thank you, Elena. I appreciate it. It was an amazing experience to cover it and not at all what I expected. jd
SueRH August 28, 2012 at 03:47 PM
You obviously haven't been paying attention. :)

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