Grounds crews mowed the greens to manicured perfection Thursday while workers put the finishing touches on temporary white structures that have sprung up like castles along Long Island’s most famous golf course.
The Barclays Tournament kicks off next week, but already is being transformed for the PGA Tour event. Starting Sunday at noon when 125 of the sport’s top pros show up for the first practice round, the famed course – host to the 2002 and 2009 U.S. Opens – will be the focus of the golf world once more.
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Tiger Woods and PGA Championship winner Rory McIlroy will be paired in the first two rounds next Thursday and Friday, adding extra buzz to an event that’s already drawing plenty of local attention.
And while all eyes will be on Tiger and Rory next week, two local politicians took a victory lap around Bethpage Black’s back nine on Thursday.
Who will actually win the tournament? That has yet to play out. But listen to Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano and , R-Garden City, talk and the big winners are local governments and merchants. Mangano said the event will draw 30,000 fans per day to Farmingdale and .
“I grew up here in Bethpage and have been playing the state park course for most of my life, as soon as I could swing a club,” Mangano said standing on the 18th fairway. “It’s a great public course, perhaps the greatest public course in the nation.”
Barclays Executive Director Peter Mele said proceeds from the event will go to several area charities, such as the Red Cross of Long Island and Ronald McDonald House of Long Island. Last year’s hurricane-shortened tournament in Edison, N.J. raised $1.25 million, according to Mele.
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Bethpage Black has been closed to the public since Aug. 1 in preparation for the Tour stop. It will reopen in time for Labor Day weekend Sept. 1.
“I’m amazed at what’s been done at this course right now,” said Hannon, standing next to an oversized photo of golfer Phil Mickelson, an ever-present icon of the event. “Knowing this course, knowing what was blank space before, they’ve erected great stands, they’ve erected a hospitality tent. There are tents down the green. This is set for world-class golf.”
There were still plenty of recreational golfers at the park Thursday. But those golfers will have to find another outlet soon enough. Bethpage head pro Joe Rehor said the other four courses at Bethpage State Park, which averages 1,500 golfers a day, will close at the end of business Friday and not reopen until Aug. 30.
“We’re prepping it to make it into the best possible conditions that the Tour players can play in,” Rehor said.
The signs of a marquee event were evident throughout the park, from the tents and trucks to fresh signage. Bethpage State Park is about to transform into a boom town and Farmingdale is along for the ride.