Hovland becomes first Norwegian to win U.S. Amateur Championship
This past week marked the playing of the oldest golf tournament in the United States: the U.S. Amateur Championship. This event is regarded as the most prestigious amateur event in the world, first played in 1895, one day before our first U.S. Open was contested. This 118th edition was played at one of the world’s most iconic 18-golf holes in the world, the Pebble Beach Golf Links.
The newly crowned champion hails from Oslo, Norway. Norwegian athletes have won international medals in a wide variety of sports, including cross-country skiing, sled dog racing, ski jumping, and weightlifting, to name just a few. Now, a new sport can be added to the list of accomplishments by gifted Norwegian sportsmen and women — golf. Twenty-year-old Viktor Hovland became the first player ever from Norway to win the U.S. Am. Over the years, a lot of great things have taken place on the shores of the Pacific Ocean at Pebble Beach. This can now be added to the list.
The 2019 U.S. Open Championship will be the 13th USGA event to be held at Pebble Beach. It has played host to some of the all-time great U.S. Opens. In 1972, at the 72nd U.S. Open, 32-year-old Jack Nicklaus won his third title. It was on the long par three 17th hole that Nicklaus drilled a one iron inches from the cup. Many make the argument that it was the greatest one iron ever hit. And then a pair of Toms won the ’82 and ’92 U.S. Opens at Pebble: Watson and Kite, respectively.
Pebble Beach takes up quite a bit of space in my memory bank. Two of my fondest memories took place in 2000. That’s when Tiger Woods put on the greatest display of dominance and won by a whopping 15 shots, and it’s where Nicklaus made his last appearance as a competitor in a U.S. Open Championship.
After the second round on Friday, it was evident that Nicklaus wasn’t going to make the cut. My assignment that day was to be at the 18th green to interview him when he finished. After two massive shots on the 18th hole, Nicklaus reached the green in two and he was pumped up, to say the least. I was but a few feet away when the emotional moment got to him. He did three-putt, but the roar for the par putt was as loud as if he had made an eagle. What a great hole to end a great run on the par five 18th at Pebble Beach.
The pounding of the surf, the tears in the eyes of Nicklaus, and the appreciation of the thousands surrounding the green will forever be a moment I cherish. That evening, there was a reception held in Nicklaus’s honor. In attendance was Kathleen Crosby, widow of one of the all-time greats, Bing Crosby. Kathleen was wearing Bing’s green velvet hat, the famous fedora. I asked her if she would let me try it on. Much to my surprise, she said yes. Not to my surprise, it didn’t help my singing at all!
Also after that Sunday’s round, I was placed in a van where I was to wait for Tiger to join me so I could interview him on his amazing 15-stroke record-setting winning margin before he was ushered into the winner’s press conference. As I sat there patiently rehearsing the questions in my mind, Tiger got into the van, but he was talking on his cell phone. Much to my surprise, Tiger wrapped up his phone call with the words, “Thank you, Mr. President . . .Now, what do you need, Bobby?” I really was speechless.
I am sure that is exactly how Viktor Hovland felt as he was presented with the most prestigious trophy in all of amateur golf.