USGA winds up making the right choice

It’s nice to see the U.S. Open return to Merion. The last Open held there was way back in 1981, and conventional wisdom had said the course was just too short for today’s power game. Because Merion is situated in a Philadelphia neighborhood location, extra space for any significant lengthening of the course has never been an option.

A few years ago, the USGA surprisingly chose Merion to host the 2013 U.S. Open – despite its relatively short length and limited space for galleries. The choice actually necessitated a reduction in daily ticket sales, from 45,000 during a typical Open to 25,000 per day this year.

It’s great, though, to see the USGA choosing their tournament site based on the quality of the course. Many historic moments in golf have occurred at Merion over the years – and not by potential profits generated by ticket sales.

Smith thriving

Congratulations to Down River’s Tracey Smith who captured the Central Counties Individual title at Lewistown Country Club two weeks ago.

Over the years, this Everett native has been one of the area’s best golfers. It’s the second Central Counties title for Smith, who also won the event in 2004.

Congratulations as well to Down River Golf Course in Everett for being selected to host an upcoming U.S. Amateur Sectional Qualifying event.

Down River owner Carl Michael, Sr. has nurtured this course over the past two decades while also serving as the club’s course superintendent (a position now filled by son, Carl Michael Jr.).

The condition of the course has steadily improved over the years – placing it now as one of the best-maintained and aesthetically pleasing courses in south-central Pennsylva-nia.

Being accepted as a host course for any USGA event is an honor so hats off to Down River, who will hold its U.S. Amateur Qualifier on July 24.

Open prediction

I’m picking a longshot to win the U.S. Open this week.Young, PGA touring pro Rickie Fowler was a standout on the winning U.S. Walker Cup team in 2009 – held at Merion.

Fowler is one of the few pros with any tournament experience at Merion, and he usually plays well on tough golf course. He’s my pick this week.

Ken Love covers area golf for the Mirror. His column appears on Fridays.