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April 15, 2002

David Fay

Q. David Fay having grown up in New York in the metropolitan area, how often did you wait in that early morning line to play here at Bethpage?

DAVID FAY: I never waited. I grew up on the west side of the Hudson and trying to find someone who had a car and it having some old enough to drive, it was quite a task. I played the Black about seven times, always in the late afternoon, so I never spent the night in the car waiting for one of those early tee times. Only time I would spend at night in a car was for concerts.

Q. This Open this year coming to Bethpage the first time a truly public golf course. Let me be the first to say, can we make the pros get here at 2:30 in the morning and wait in line so it will be almost like the Bethpage course always plays?

DAVID FAY: Won't that be terrific, having the entrants to wait in line getting the donut run, putting the ball in the ring, but no, that's not going to work that way.

Q. Tell me a bit about the vision you carried to bring the U.S. Open to a truly public course, and how you arrived at the decision to give the green light for the USGA to come here?

DAVID FAY: Most of the golf in the United States is played on public facilities and by people who play at public facilities, so, the game has changed in that respect since it first was introduced in the United States. The Bethpage Black was always the gold standard. I was a public course player and you could only hear and dream about places like Winged Foot and Baltusrol, but I always felt that in the Black we had a golf course that could go up against those belly-to-belly. First and foremost, the idea of having the Open finally in a truly public golf course was an idea, I think, it was overdue, but you can't compromise on the quality of the golf course. First and foremost, you have to find a golf course that is outstanding and in the Black, you have that. It's got great lineage, it's a Tillinghast design and as I said, it was always regarded by players in the met area as one of the best in the met area. I happen to believe that the met area has the finest collection of golf courses in the country.

But the idea just sort of sat there for quite a long time but then I was getting letters from my good friend Jay Mattola, talking to him, the executive director of the Metropolitan Golf Association; received a letter from George Dehringer in the late '80s early '90s about how either a Metropolitan New York State Open or Metropolitan Open had been played at the Black and we really ought to give it a look. It just sat there for a while. In early 1995 in April, I wrote a memo to a number of my senior staff members saying I have got this idea - it may be absolutely crazy, but this is what I propose. Let's go out to the Black course, let's check it out and let's -- in fact even someone will have to draw the short straw and sleep in the car because I wanted to come out here unannounced, just check it out, and see if there was a possibility. Our spiritual advisor, if you will, Rabbi Mark Gelman who has also been very enthusiastic about this right from the start, he spilled the beans to the state, so we came out and it wasn't unannounced. They were ready for us, but when we played the golf course - and this would have been early May of 1995 - the condition wasn't in very good shape. That's no reflection on the crew. It is just the amount of money that you can put into the golf course. In fact I remember I think everybody in -- we had 12 players come out that day including Reese Jones, everyone had at least one unplayable lie in the bunker but it was clear, I think, to the group - I know to the group that this was someplace very special and then the next step was to contact the state and Commissioner of Parks Bernadette Castro, very enthusiastic, she then took it up to her ultimate boss the governor, Governor Pataki who sized it up in just a matter of minutes and said: This is something that would be very good for the golfers in the State of New York, let's do it. Then it -- there was this big issue about the amount of money that you would need to get the golf course in good shape and you couldn't really expense the State of New York with everything else, all its other obligations, to front this money. That's where the USGA stepped in. I don't think this could have happened in the '80s because since the mid-'90s we have been fortunate in amassing a fair amount of money.

We took this proposal to the executive committee, the executive committee, which ultimately makes all decisions for the USGA. They were very enthusiastic and away we went.

One funny story, in 1995, we had the Open at Shinnecock that year, and mind you, this little trip that we took out to Bethpage Black was about a month before the Open. Apparently there was a rumor circulating among the golfers, the regulars at Bethpage that something had happened out of Shinnecock and the USGA was going to move the '95 Open the next month back to the Black course. But this has been a wonderful collaborative effort, an effort between the USGA and the State of New York, and there's so many people who played a critical role in this, both on our side, and on the state, and you can't forget the course designer architect Reese Jones who came in. Reese is a good friend of mine, and I basically pitched it to him. Hey, Reese, this is a home game, all you have to do is pay tolls to get across from Montclair every day. An architect worth his or her salt would want in on this job. Reese waived his entire fee. But not his entire fee, the stipulation was I had to take Reese and Susan along with my wife out to dinner at a nice spot, maybe once or twice a year. But what a bargain. I think he has done a wonderful job and he's certainly lived up to his reputation of the Open Doctor.

Q. Another thing that has transpired since this very wise decision to bring this event to Bethpage obviously the tragic events of September 11. It seems now that having this golf event so close to Ground Zero will just be another step in the healing process that everybody in this area is still going through.

DAVID FAY: Well, we're all going through the healing process, the country is. It's something that's indelibly etched in all of our minds. Certainly when you live in a community like myself where a number of the residents of the community lost their lives, it certainly is a tragedy that we continue to live with.

Q. One other benefit to the players that play here on a regular basis, they are going to be playing a much improved golf course, but there will be no significant increases other than inflation for the next three years following the United States Open, probably difficult for people around the country to realize that for about 31 dollars during the week and 38 dollars on the weekend, you could play a US Open golf course, that's fabulous?

DAVID FAY: Well, that, to me, was always a major part of the magic, the idea that, as you said, you can pay less than 40 bucks and play a US Open course, because once the show, the circus, if you will, leaves town the third week in June that's not the end of it. In fact, to me, that's only the beginning because this golf course will still be here and anybody can come and play it and say they have played a US Open golf course. And that's a very important part of all of this.

Q. Last year the USGA crowned Retief Goosen. When we get to know Retief, he's a wonderful ambassador for the game, he almost is the prototype of what the USGA likes in their champion. You have to be proud of not only Retief winning but the manner he has promoted the game since his victory?

DAVID FAY: He's a real gentleman and he's a world-class player. He's ranked in the Top 5 in the world, No. 4, I believe, now and almost won The Masters this past weekend. And he's certainly has a very strong game for many years probably the American audience wasn't that familiar with Retief unless you were picking up the European Tour broadcast on the Golf Channel which I happen to do, but he has a complete game in every respect, and I am sure he's going to make it very, very strong in defense of his title.

End of FastScripts....

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