Call me nostalgic.
I miss Seve Ballesteros. I miss Hale Irwin. I miss Lee Janzen. I miss Ernie Els. I miss Sergio Garcia. Truth be told, I even miss Vijay Singh.
They all used to play golf right in our back yard.
A sizable void was left the moment the PGA Tour divorced itself from Westchester Country Club following a win by Steve Stricker in 2007 and took a show that now dates back 50 years on the road.
A move was probably inevitable.
“To a certain degree, I think it’s missed,” said Jimmy Roberts, a White Plains native and Westchester Country Club member who does commentary for NBC and Golf Channel. “It was a special event. I remember how it was back in the day. This was the circus coming to town and it was a very, very big deal.”
William Jennings was definitely on to something.
He’s the former president of the New York Rangers, who started the Westchester Classic in 1967 to help fund a number of charitable interests within the county. To date, the yearly tournament has given away $45 million.
“It really was a forerunner,” Metropolitan Golf Association executive director Jay Mottola said. “Outside the major championships, it was looked at as one of the most important Tour stops. I think players looked forward to coming to New York and Westchester Country Club.”
Tiger Woods proved to be the exception.
When he finally did show up at the urging of a common sponsor in 2001, attendance records were set.
Favorite memories are generational.
“It’s hard to forget the first one,” said Karen Whamond, a Rye Brook resident who along with husband Don has volunteered for 50 consecutive years. “They had to finish on Wednesday because it rained so much. It was known as the Wet-chester Classic.”
A then-record $250,000 purse kept everyone interested.
Jack Nicklaus won after battling Arnold Palmer in the final round and finishing one shot ahead of Dan Sikes.
The field was always worth the price of admission.
You had to buy a program to keep up with the event’s name changes, though. What began as the Westchester Classic was also known as the American Express Westchester Classic, the Manufacturers Hanover Westchester Classic, the Buick Classic and the Barclays Classic.
For the last decade, we’ve known the playoff event simply as The Barclays. That will change next year when Northern Trust assumes title sponsorship.
When people like Palmer and Nicklaus and Johnny Miller and Raymond Floyd and Curtis Strange and the multitude of Hall of Famers who followed them here over the years flew in for the week, the spotlight was bright.
They built friendships locally and early in the week made a point of playing at landmark courses like Winged Foot and Quaker Ridge and Sleepy Hollow.
It requires a little more effort to watch this generation of stars. Rickie Fowler and Patrick Reed are definitely worth the price of admission, plus a couple of bridge and parkway tolls.
Westchester Country Club has gladly hosted the Champions Tour and the LPGA Tour, but the PGA Tour isn’t likely to come back.
“I don’t know that it’s a good fit any more for a number of reasons,” Roberts said. “Roger Maltbie (who celebrated a win here in 1985) always tells me that Westchester Country Club has the finest green complexes anywhere in golf. Those green complexes will still challenge the greatest players in the world, but I don’t know that the course is long enough.”
Only a few renowned courses in the immediate area have the wherewithal to stand up to the highly ranked and mighty golfers of this generation. Winged Foot, Stanwich and Hudson National are probably the lone exceptions.
So we sit and wait.
Before you know it, the 2020 Open will be at Winged Foot.