The first ones to leave were the barbers. Matt Fitzpatrick hadn’t even teed off Sunday — still was on the putting green, practicing by himself as a ring of photographers and patrons stared at him as if he were a trained and proficient seal — while Anthony “Monti” Montanez, owner of Monti’s Barbershop in Moriches, N.Y., out on Long Island, slid the first of two large mirrors into his van. Sitting in the parking lot, waiting to be added, was the barber chair, vacant and lonely, no more famous golfers looking for a boy’s regular or a little bit off the sides.
The disassembling had begun.
“We’re going to the Senior Open in Bethlehem, Pa., from here,” Monti said. “We’re going to get out before the traffic.”
For the entire week, Adam Scott and Gary Woodland and Justin Rose and Louis Oosthuizen and Tommy Fleetwood and other citizens of the nomadic golf world had sat for a trim underneath a special US Open cape that featured the logo of The Country Club, squirrel and all, on the front. This was part of everyday life as part of the magic village that had been created on the grounds of this institution of privilege in Brookline, doors thrown open to the world, more than 175,000 people traipsing through the manicured hills and dales, drinks and iPhones in hand, everyone a visiting cousin from Peoria or Baton Rouge or Jamaica Plain, make yourself at home.
Now it was all going to disappear.
“Everything will be broken down and gone by tomorrow afternoon,” Jamie Palatini of NBC Sports said as his company’s 100 cameras and 750 employees recorded the finishing heroics of Fitzpatrick, the 27-year-old Englishman, who captured the US Open trophy (and a $3,150,000 check) with a sweet 9-iron approach to the 18th green to finish at 6 under par, one stroke better than 25-year-old Californian Will Zalatoris. “We’ve got more major championship golf coverage with the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Bethesda, Md., and the US Senior Open in Bethlehem.”
Gone. Just like that.
The two Brookline fire trucks (and assorted firefighters) hidden discreetly on the grounds in case of emergency, ready to fight a fire without fighting the local traffic, would be gone as soon as the golf ended. The 175 local police officers, recruited from surrounding towns and universities, would be gone by the end of the day. The Homeland Security kids and the FBI, some of them involved in preparations for this event for a year and a half, would be gone. The postal police, the inspectors …
The postal police?
“Every bit of mail has been inspected, X-rayed at a special location,” a Brookline policeman explained. “Then it is put in a truck and brought to the club. If the trip takes more than seven minutes because of traffic, the truck has to go back and the mail is inspected all over again.”
An entire infrastructure would disappear. A social construct. Special wristbands no longer would be needed for a person to be admitted to special corporate tents to eat special corporate foods and drink special corporate drinks. Gone. Ropes that were held up to keep spectators from crossing fairways while golfers unloaded long-distance drives, sometimes to the middle of those fairways, sometimes (sigh) not, would be gone. Walk where you want. Go ahead. Walk straight down the well-cut grass.
Volunteers, a legion of them, holding the ropes, waving orange paddles to warn of errant shots, keeping people out or letting people in, doing all kind of jobs, would return to normal lives.
“I’m on a plane back to England tomorrow,” 74-year-old Brian Taylor, a volunteer from “30 minutes outside London,” said as he checked bags at the front of the large merchandise tent at the side of the 18th hole. “This is my 15th year of volunteering at the US Open wherever it is. I have to work four hours a day, then the rest of time I watch the golf. Eighty-five percent of the volunteers come from around the local area. Fourteen percent come from different states in America. And 1 percent are international.”
The shelves inside the tent — splashed with trendy names like Ralph Lauren Polo and Vineyard Vines and Peter Millar — already were largely vacant. They resembled the toilet paper aisles at the local supermarket during the height of the COVID crisis. Hats and shirts and doodads had disappeared.
“Do you have any blankets?” a late patron asked.
“We did yesterday,” Brian Taylor answered. “Then it got chilly …”
The weather, for the record, was uniformly good for the tournament. A bit chilly, yes, for the final two days, but warm before that. Sunny, a taste of New England. The course, the players mostly said, was a golfing wonder. Hard, but fair, like a final exam from a very good teacher.
There were 26 eagles during the four days, 16 of them on the par-5 eighth hole. There were 111 double bogeys, 27 “others,” the designation for large trouble. A total of 1,087 birdies were posted, 1,765 bogeys, 4,820 pars. No statistics were listed for curse words or moments of self-satisfaction.
After an opening round of hard news about the newly formed LIV Series, which is backed by money from the Saudi Arabian government, the conversation mostly stopped when the LIV dissidents fell by the competitive wayside, though there was the occasional heckling. Fitzpatrick, the winner, was public-relations perfect, with his US Amateur championship history at The Country Club, his local story about staying with the Fulton family in Jamaica Plain.
“Six majors to be a legend,” he said. “That’s the rule. Six is a lot. But this is one. It’s a good start.”
The bulk of the golfers, but not Fitzpatrick, left for the short trip to Hartford, where many of the pieces will be reassembled for the Travelers Championship next weekend at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell. Many of the Mercedes vans, contracted from around the country, used to shuttle passengers from satellite parking lots, made the same trip. The Lexus courtesy cars would follow. Maybe. Or maybe they would be put up for auction. Hard to tell. Vehicles disappeared in all directions.
Members at The Country Club would be back on the course as soon as next weekend, playing the same holes with the same problems the pros faced but not with the same results. The stands, the infrastructure, would disappear “by a specified date in August,” according to a spokesman for TCC. The grounds, trampled into submission, would be back to normal “by next spring, or maybe the end of the year, depending on the weather in the fall.”
No date was scheduled for a return of the Open. That was part of the charm of the whole thing. Unlike, say, the Boston Marathon or another 162-game Red Sox season, there will be no repeat next year. There will be no repeat in five years, the event already scheduled through 2027 (Los Angeles Country Club, Pinehurst, Oakmont, Shinnecock Hills, Pebble Beach.) This was a rare event. There could be no repeat for a long time.
The last Open at The Country Club was in 1988, a 34-year spread between then and now. If there is another 34-year wait, well, the magic will return in 2056.
Matt Fitzpatrick will be 61 years old, maybe coming over from the Champions Tour, maybe with those six or more major victories in his pocket. Or maybe not. Keegan Bradley, local favorite, will be 70 years old. Fran Quinn, from Holden, oldest golfer in the field this time, will be 91. Mike Tirico, the lead NBC broadcaster, will be 89. Curtis Strange, the 1988 winner, a color commentator this time, will be 101. The Open will be 156. The Country Club will be 174.
See you then.