May 4, 2015
The week long coverage of Rory McIlroy's stirring win in the World Golf Championship Match Play at Harding Park put the national spotlight on San Francisco as a world class golfing destination. These articles highlight our under-appreciated municipal courses, their historic legacy, and the unique San Francisco golf culture they inspire.
Writing in "Saving Lincoln", in the current edition of Golfworld, Jaime Diaz looks at how the San Francisco golf community has rallied support not only for Saving Sharp Park but also for Lincoln Park Golf Course:
"Battered Lincoln — which beyond its shabby exterior is a 5,146-yard, par-68 gem of sandy soil, giant trees, charming 300-yard par 4s and killer 240-yard par 3s — has a knack for accumulating lifelong paramours. Some fell in love during boyhood and would like to help pay the course's future forward... The place has great bones. It began as a three-hole loop in 1902, but grew to 18 with the help of Pebble Beach-designer Jack Neville and British architect Herbert Fowler in 1917. When golf was the city game in San Francisco, Lincoln was a spawning ground. Bob Rosburg, a prodigy who put on exhibitions in downtown theaters at age 5, lived down the street. George Archer putted for quarters on the practice green under a street light at 34th and Clement into the wee hours. Before Johnny Miller was honing his iron skill from sidehill lies at the Olympic Club, he was doing so as a skinny grade-schooler at Lincoln...Bo Links, a local golf novelist and historian.. "Especially in cities, golfers make a mistake if they think golf is inevitable. It's not inevitable. You have to fight for it or it will go away." However, the tireless efforts of Links and fellow attorney and golfer Richard Harris to successfully fend off environmental groups' efforts to close Sharp Park, a Alister MacKenzie-designed, San Francisco-run muny close to the Pacific Ocean that was taken for granted and allowed to decay (much like Lincoln), has renewed the collective golf spirit in local golfers...Lincoln's biggest champion is John Abendroth, a 63-year-old stalwart of the San Francisco golf scene. A former journeyman tour player who has run junior events and co-hosts a local radio golf show, Abendroth attended Lincoln High School and played his high school matches at Lincoln. In a recent conversation. Miller spoke for them both when he said, "I owe Lincoln." Abendroth's plan is to convert the widespread affection for Lincoln into philanthropy, creating an endowment to allow tax-benefited donations to refurbish the golf operation. "There are people with means and influence who want to see this happen" says Mark Buell, 72, who as a member of Olympic Club and Meadow Club and an annual pilgrim to Machrihanish, is a prototype of the constituency Abendroth seeks. "Properly cared for, Lincoln is a city asset like cable cars or the Palace of Fine Arts, and it can be iconic in the golf world. By not doing anything, we're missing a major opportunity."
"The contrasts couldn’t be any deeper between the two match play tournaments held at TPC Harding Park. The World Golf Championships-Cadillac Match Play features the world’s top 64 players competing for $9.25 million. This year’s winner of the San Francisco City Championship, high school senior Justin Suh, didn’t earn any money, but received the respect of this passionate and diverse golf community.... The City Championship has been held every year since 1917. Its endurance through the Second World War is why it can claim to be golf’s oldest consecutively-played championship. Its former competitors range from World Golf Hall of Famers to taxi drivers, NFL quarterbacks to airport baggage handlers. The doctors and lawyers who are members at the Bay Area’s prestigious clubs play alongside bartenders. It’s not unusual to see a player turn to alcohol to steady his nerves or to witness a former U.S. Golf Association president carry his own clubs through a downpour. San Francisco is a city that prides itself on its diversity. Its amateur golf championship is no different....Lincoln Park, the other course used for the tournament’s stroke-play portion, is a quirky layout that adds character to the tournament. It also offers one of the best panoramas in golf. Whereas Harding Park is slated to host a major, Lincoln Park is a short, quirky layout known for its sharp doglegs and small greens. For all its modesty, it also has one of the best views in golf. The 17th tee overlooks the Golden Gate Bridge. Lincoln Park, a par-68 course, measures just 5,146 yards. Scores aren’t as low as one would imagine because of tight fairways, tough lies, long par-3s and the course’s condition... “You’re not playing in (those conditions) in a PGA TOUR or USGA event,” said Randy Haag, the 1999 champion. “Forget about an umbrella. It’s not going to do any good... You have to waltz around Lincoln.”
"It’s pretty fabulous when the best golfers in the world come to play Harding Park. It’s like Buster Posey playing Wiffle ball in your backyard. Or Stephen Curry playing H-O-R-S-E in the driveway... Most San Francisco duffers have played Harding Park at least once, if not dozens of times. It used to be a bit of a dog track before its miraculous makeover. But it was our dog track: the true home of city golf... Walking the course with the pros, you could look into the gallery and recognize the Harding faithful. A knowing nod when a ball disappeared into the cypress canopy. A wry smile when the fog-laced wind carried an approach shot into a green-side bunker. We’ve all been there. Some of us more than others.. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. San Francisco offers the most distinctive golf experience of any major city in the world. The topography. The fog. The number of world-class courses right here in the city (or nearby in Daly City). It all adds up to an extraordinary environment for the game, sidehill lies and all."