Forecaddie: USGA shares its greatest artifacts, Rory McIlroy calls it really cool


If there were ever a week the Forecaddie could be a seagull with good ears, it was this one.

Monday of U.S. Open week, nearby Cypress Point opened its quaint clubhouse doors to the 15 amateurs in the field for the third (and now annual) dinner for the amateurs who qualified into this year’s U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.

Tuesday on another glorious evening, 33 of the 36 living U.S. Open champions gathered at the Beach Club just steps from the 17th hole to enjoy a cocktail reception and private dinner. Only partners and a few USGA officials could join to listen as the players swapped memories and stories from the U.S. Open trenches.

The 1-iron used by Ben Hogan in the 1950 U.S. Open. (Photo: Todd Kelly/Golfweek)

Adding to both evenings was a classy touch from the USGA Museum, which went to extravagant effort in shipping out some of their most important artifacts for players to look at: the ball Bobby Jones closed out the Grand Slam with, Francis Ouimet’s 1913 U.S. Open-winning putter and the grandaddy of them all, Ben Hogan’s 1-iron from the 1950 U.S. Open.

Hilary Cronheim shows Rory McIlroy a U.S. Open medal artifact during a past champions dinner prior to the 2019 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. (Photo: USGA/Chris Keane)

“It was awesome,” said Rory McIroy, who attended with wife Erica. They were at a table with Jordan and Annie Spieth along with Brooks Koepka and girlfriend Jena Sims. “We were obviously the young table.”

As with the amateurs over at Cypress Point, USGA Golf Museum director Hilary Cronheim said Hogan’s 1-iron and its striking wear pattern near the hozzle got the most attention, with McIlroy, Geoff Ogilvy, Martin Kaymer and Lee Janzen taking the most interest.

The golf ball used by Bobby Jones in the 1930 U.S. Amateur, completing the Grand Slam. (Photo: Todd Kelly/Golfweek)

“I’m a golf geek, and I love the traditions and history of the game,” McIlroy said. “And that was so cool.”

Getting that kind of priceless history cross-country involved an incredible effort given the value of so many important U.S. Open artifacts. The USGA contracted a professional art shipper to help pack and ship the cases, with security accompanying the pieces every step of the way. The museum’s junior curator of collections, Kylie Garabed, traveled with the prized pieces and was with them except in the cargo hold of the shipping flight.

Tom Watson and Andy North walk along the 17th hole, close to where Watson made his famous birdie chip in 1982, during a gathering of past U.S. Open champion at the 2019 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. (Photo: USGA/Jason Miczek)

But the effect was worth it, as the sense of history made the night that much more special for such a rare gathering of the U.S. Open’s greatest names.

“It just made me really appreciate being a part of that club that have won the U.S. Open,” McIlroy said. “It was a really cool thing. And looking forward to being able to do it for years to come.”

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