Nine-time IGA amateur champ reflects on Merion before U.S. Open

ccripe@idahostatesman.comJune 13, 2013 

Scott Masingill of Payette found a photo recently of his only PGA Tour appearance — the 1981 U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club in Pennsylvania.

"It's funny how things kind of slip your memory, and then they kind of all come rushing back," Masingill said.

That likely will happen a lot this week as the U.S. Open returns to historic Merion for the first time in 32 years. Masingill, a nine-time Idaho Golf Association Men's Amateur champion, shot 80-83 at Merion and finished near the bottom of the field.

"Failure in that event really motivated me to change some things and learn to play better, and probably that failure helped me the rest of my career," said Masingill, who reached the Champions Tour as a senior.

Merion holds a special place in golf history. Bobby Jones completed his grand slam by winning the U.S. Amateur there. Ben Hogan famously used a 1-iron on the 72nd hole to spark his victory in the 1950 U.S. Open. And Lee Trevino beat Jack Nicklaus in a playoff in 1971.

Merion also is small by today's Open standards - both in length and in acreage, which is important for ticket sales and corporate tents.

"It's a very, very small property and the U.S. Open, it needed to become a huge money-maker for the USGA," Masingill said. "Now it doesn't need to be, so they will not make nearly as much money at Merion as they will at, say, Chambers Bay (in 2015), which is a huge, huge, expansive facility."

Masingill expects Merion's layout to create problems for today's pros but also produce plenty of birdies. In fact, he figures there's a decent chance someone will shoot the first 62 in major championship history on the par-70 course.

The course has been lengthened by about 400 yards since 1981.

"I'd be surprised if they tear it up, but I wouldn't be surprised if somebody shoots a really low round," Masingill said.

He hasn't returned to Merion since his Open appearance. "Some day," he said, "I'd like to."

After all, there's some additional family history there. Scott's cousin, Brad Masingill, met his wife, Robin, while attending the tournament. She worked at the hotel where the family stayed.

NORTHWEST'S MOMENT NEAR

The U.S. Open makes its first stop in the Northwest in 2015 at Chambers Bay, outside of Tacoma, Wash. Organizers expect to draw 235,000 fans over seven days to the property on the Puget Sound. Volunteer recruitment begins in spring 2014 (the plan calls for 4,500 volunteers) and tickets go on sale to the public June 9, 2014. USGA members can buy tickets earlier in the spring of 2014.

CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON

• The IGA Women's Amateur is June 27-29 at Jerome Country Club. The entry deadline is June 21.

• The Men's Amateur is July 12-14 at Jackpot (Nev.) Golf Club. Entry deadline is July 5.

• The IGA Juniors State Championship is Aug. 5-6 at Teton Lakes in Rexburg

• The men's and women's Senior Amateurs are Sept. 5-7 at MeadowCreek in New Meadows.

NO MORE PUBLIC LINKS

The USGA will end the men's and women's Public Links championships after the 2014 season. The Treasure Valley's qualifier for the men's 2013 event is next week. The championships will be replaced by men's and women's four-ball events in 2015.

The men's Public Links championship dates to 1922 and is the USGA's fourth-oldest. The Public Links tournaments were introduced when the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Women's Amateur were limited to members of USGA member clubs.

Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat

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