USGA makes wrong call in not refunding fans

Friday June 19th, 2009
Fans got to see a few hours of play before heavy rain suspended the first round.
Fred Vuich/SI

Editors' Note: On Friday morning, the USGA announced that Thursday ticket holders would be allowed entry on Monday if there is play. The people have spoken!\n

PATCHOGUE, N.Y. — I grew up in this small village in Suffolk County, about 30 miles or so east of Bethpage State Park. The whole county is loaded with public golf, from Montauk Downs, on the tip of Long Island, to Bethpage Black, on the Nassau-Suffolk County border.

\n \nThe Nassau, as a betting term, was developed at the fancy Nassau Country Club, so that a trouncing never looked worse than 3-0. How very nice.

\n

\n \n At the Memorial, Tiger Woods told some brief stories from his childhood, about his experiences paying for green fees with change he had won on the putting green, sliding quarters across countertops. Every public course I've ever played had a posted rain policy: if the course became unplayable and you didn't get to the ninth green, simply come back another time. That's so basic any kindergartner would understand it. It's how you build — what fancy phrase do they use today? — brand loyalty. If a baseball game doesn't get to the sixth inning, the same.

\n \n Now granted, the USGA is in a tough spot, with this rain of biblical proportions soaking the golf course. But for crying out loud, you play about one-quarter of the day, and you're not giving refunds? You're not inviting the Thursday fans to come for Monday's golf if there is any? (And that of course could happen.) You're not giving them a credit to a future USGA event in the New York area? You're not going to let them apply the cost to a visit to the USGA museum, and a free bucket of balls at its testing center? Or to a green fee at one of the courses at Bethpage?

\n \nYes, it's an act of God, all this rain. But suck it up, blue coats! You've milked this "People's Open" business for everything you can, and I don't blame you for doing so, but don't stop now. It's a logistical nightmare to give a refund? Uh, have you heard of credit cards? Websites? Special toll-free numbers? The USPS, which still delivers refund checks? You give the folks their hard-earned money back, the same way they gave it to you.

\n The USGA has tens of millions of dollars. So maybe this refund policy costs the organization $500,000. (And lots of people wouldn't even bother asking for a refund; they would just look at the $100 ticket as a donation to a worthy cause that is dear to them.) It will cost you more than that not to do it.

\n Here's part of a typical reader comment on GOLF.com: "My USGA renewal was sitting in my in-box for bills to be paid. It's now in the recycle bin."

\n Do you really want to irritate people who can distinguish between their wastepaper basket and their recycle bin?

\n No, you don't.

\n And if you need any understanding of the refund policy at public courses, just get out the Suffolk County Yellow Pages, drop your finger on any of the dozens of public courses, call the pro shop and ask. It's just common sense, good manners and sound business. That's all.

\n• Shipnuck: Tough break, but don't blame the USGA
React: What do you think of the U.S. Open's no-refund policy?

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