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Play the U.S. Open here? Not on your life

By Shane Sharp, Contributor

CHARLOTTE, NC - The fact that the 102nd playing of the U.S. Open was finally held at a publicly owned golf course was trumpeted ad nauseam across millions of television sets last week.

The only images more overcooked than Tiger Woods' fist pumps and Scott Hoch's god-awful polo shirts were those of working men tugging pull carts down a dew swept fairway, poor saps in jean shorts waiting in line for tee times, and a couple of beer-bellied hackers hitting range balls off a worn out Astroturf mat.

And faster than you can say"coupon for 18 holes with cart and a hotdog for $19.95", a list of future U.S. Open worthy, municipally owned venues is sure to surface in the months to come in response to the golfing world's clarion call for equal opportunity access to America's links.

Chances are, none of them will ever see the likes of Woods' dentist office white smile, Phil Mickelson's sheepish grin, Charles Howe III's Confederate soldier's pants, or Sergio Garcia milking his club like a dairy farmer on speed.

That's why, in our humble opinion, it is important to point out those courses that, should come hell, high water, or a 30-inch waist on Colin Montgomerie, will never host a U.S. Open.

El Rio Municipal Golf Course, Tucson, Arizona

This venerable muni on Tucson's westside once hosted the Tucson Open. These days it's lucky to host a captain's choice for the local bricklayers union. But hey, you get what you pay for, and for the thousands of Tucsonans plagued by the town's chronically low wage job market, El Rio is the Old Pueblo's Bethpage Black.

U.S.G.A snubbs El Rio because

Snobby players are offended when their five-dollar golf balls are swiped from the No. 2 fairway by ball hocking neighborhood kids and pawned for 25 cents to the next group; tough to grow 12-inch rough on hard pan dirt around greens fairways; and no way around smell of treated sewage on the No. 6 tee box.

Alpine Country Club, Alpine, Arizona

At over 8500 feet of elevation, Alpine CC can make a solid case for being the highest layout in the Grand Canyon State. However, the course would be better off just getting players high (on something, anything, and not just what you are thinking) before they tee off, so as to distract them from …

U.S.G.A snubs Alpine Country Club because

The back nine is, and we use this term too loosely in everyday conversation, a goat ranch. Actually, it is a cow pasture, but you get the idea; the maintenance crew drives ATV's and there are actually stipulations on the scorecard about playing through deer and bear; and its hard to argue that your track is Tiger proof when the door is open to the majority of Noah's Ark.

Rio Rancho Country Club, Albuquerque, New Mexico

The course is actually private, but few courses in Albuquerque could make as strong a case for"going municipal" in hopes of luring the Open to the Duke City. When daily fee tracks like Paa-Ko Ridge and Santa Anta are within spitting distance of your private gate, one has to wonder how this venue survives on membership dues.

U.S.G.A snubs Rio Rancho because

The course has an interesting way of dealing with repairs, as in, you play right through them - this is the only layout the author has played in which a 20-foot hole pegged as"future green for new 9th hole" was in play; Open players may take issue with one particular member who prefers to play the course backwards (and its not CBS basketball analyst Billy Packer); and when asked to name the best thing about the course, head pro responds with"the green chile cheeseburger."

Courses Formerly Operated by the Links Group in Myrtle Beach

Yes, these courses are all under new management now that the Links Group has filed more chapters of bankruptcy than John Grisham has rough drafts of novels. But it may take years for these tender loving care depleted layouts to regain some semblance of a playability and customer service.

U.S.G.A snubs Links Group Courses because

"You are late for your tee time, so now go back to New York, or Ohio, or wherever you are from," doesn't sit too well with the Open field's northern natives; IRS confiscates chili dogs, chili dog wrappers, and chili dog condiments from Links Group courses as part of an effort to recoup delinquent taxes, thus leading to the withdrawal of Montgomerie, John Daly and Craig Stadler from the Open.

Shane SharpShane Sharp, Contributor

Shane Sharp is vice president of Buffalo Communications, a golf and lifestyle media agency. He was a writer, senior writer and managing editor of TravelGolf.com from 1997 to 2003.

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