Harding Park a rich piece of SF sports history 

click to enlarge TPC Harding Park
  • Eric Risberg/2013 AP file photo
  • TPC Harding Park, which was used for a parking lot during the 1998 U.S. Open at the Olympic Club, is an indelible part of San Francisco sports history.
These are good days in the old city that remains forever young.

We start, of course, with the Giants and AT&T Park. Couldn’t get much better than that, could it?

Then we look a few miles west, beyond Twin Peaks and Mount Davidson to another venue of champions, TPC Harding Park, the muni golf course that in some ways is a miracle.

The World Golf Championships Cadillac Match Play is coming to Harding on April 29-May 3. All the big boys, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, presumably Tiger Woods, but he has to be eligible as one of the top 64 in the world rankings.

Three years ago, at the Olympic Club, on the side of the reservoir called Lake Merced, it was the U.S. Open.

In five years plus, three World Series and two huge golf events. Not bad for a place the musician Paul Kanter described as “49 square miles surrounded by reality.”

The reality of Harding Park is it went from greatness, arguably the best public course in the land, to disrepair to greatness, from a place where the grass never was mowed to one the pros embrace.

During the 2005 American Express Championship, John Daly, who was to lose to Tiger in a playoff, was told Harding had been used as a parking lot when the 1998 U.S. Open was held at Olympic.

“What they should have done,” insisted Daly, never short of opinions, “was play the Open here at Harding and park cars at Olympic.”

The late Ken Venturi, 1964 U.S. Open champion, grew up at Harding. Johnny Miller, 1973 U.S. Open champion, spent a great deal of time there. Miller and Venturi also graduated from Lincoln High School. As did 1963 U.S. Public Links champ Bobby Lunn. As did John Abendroth of KNBR’s “Hooked on Golf.”

People talk about the DiMaggio brothers and San Francisco baseball — Dolph Camilli, Frankie Crosetti, Joe Cronin, Tony Lazzari. Golfers were no less numerous. Add Bob Rosburg, winner of the PGA Championship, and George Archer, 1969 Masters winner, to the list.

“The putting green at Harding Park is really where I became a great putter,” Miller has said.

And Harding in 1956, before the Giants, is where two different sort of giants, Venturi and E. Harvie Ward, at the time amateurs — and at the time supposedly the best players in America — faced each other and a gallery 10,000 in the City final.

Now, it’s match play, in a modified format — round robin the first three days, so the stars don’t get eliminated like that — and then in 2020, one of the majors, the PGA Championship.

“I was here in 2009 for the Presidents Cup,” Chris Reimer of the PGA Tour said at Harding as the hype machine rolled through town Monday. “What a spectacular venue, to a tee. Every player who came here and played talked about the true test of golf that it is. It proves that you don’t have to have 600-yard par fives to give a true test of golf.

“They love the fact that it’s a public facility so that everyone can come out and put the ball down on the ground and say, ‘Well, this is where Phil Mickelson hit his drive. Let’s see how I can do.”

Harding, they know, will do just great.

Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on www.artspander.com and www.bleacherreport.com. Email him at typoes@aol.com.

About The Author

Art Spander

Art Spander

Bio:
Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on www.artspander.com and www.bleacherreport.com. Email him at typoes@aol.com.
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