FARMINGDALE, N.Y. – PGA of America CEO Pete Bevacqua played a pivotal role in landing the 2019 PGA Championship and the 2024 Ryder Cup at world-famous Bethpage Black.
For Bevacqua, a New York native, this is almost surreal.
“This is an absolute dream come true,” said a giddy Bevacqua, who in his former life as a USGA executive was heavily involved in the planning for the 2002 and 2009 U.S. Opens played at Bethpage Black. “One of the first conversations I had with PGA President Ted Bishop once I was named CEO was, how are we going to get this done? It went from focusing on the PGA Championship to, you know, with a place like Bethpage Black, why not the PGA Championship and the Ryder Cup?
“The thought of having the PGA here in 2019 and then, just five years later, having one of the most exciting sporting events in the world in the Ryder Cup – it’s just a home run for the PGA of America. I’m really excited.”
The idea for a Bethpage Ryder Cup actually came during a practice round in Wales at Celtic Manor during the 2010 Ryder Cup.
Phil Mickelson approached Bishop – then the PGA Vice President – and asked why the PGA had never contested a Ryder Cup in the New York City area. Rickie Fowler, also a member of that 2010 U.S. team, followed up by saying, “Could you imagine a Ryder Cup at Bethpage Black?”
That set the wheels in motion and, with the addition of Bevacqua as the PGA’s CEO a couple of years later, the dream soon became reality.
Like Mickelson, Bevacqua said he always wondered why there had never been a Ryder Cup played around New York City.
“As someone who grew up in New York and a golf fanatic – I grew up in golf, started caddying when I was 10 – it never made sense to me that there hadn’t been a Ryder Cup in the New York City area,” he said. “I know a lot of things happen and I realize there are a lot of great sites around the country to have a Ryder Cup, but… maybe I’m biased. But to have the most exciting golf event in the world in this market at a public golf course like Bethpage Black, it’s just a perfect recipe for what we feel can really be a landmark event in golf.”
Ah. That emphasis on “public golf.” For a long time, Bethpage Black has been known as “the People’s Course” for that very reason. There aren’t a whole lot of major championships or international team events in professional golf that are played at places where anyone can tee it up. It adds to the charm. Literally anyone can say, “I remember when I did this on that hole.”
And Bevacqua is no exception. Bethpage Black has a very special place in his heart. He estimates that he’s played the course well over 100 times and has incredible memories of the course growing up.
“To have these events at public courses is so important,” he said. “I’m a product of public golf with my caddy background and caddy education, if you will. I played here every Wednesday for the majority of my golf playing childhood – probably from the time I was about 15 through college at Notre Dame. My father was a dentist. He would grab me and my best friend and we would drive out here, play the Black Course, have lunch – most of the time we’d play the Black again, or the Red or the Green – then we’d run over to Jones Beach, jump in the ocean, take a shower and go to a restaurant in the Bronx for dinner on the way back home to Westchester.
“We probably did that, no exaggeration, probably 50 times over the course of my life. Those are some of the best memories of my life and my childhood. To see how this happened and to be a part of bringing the PGA Championship and the Ryder Cup to Bethpage is special.”
And as for on-course memories? Like all of us, Bevacqua has one of those, too.
“I have a most memorable moment here, but it wasn’t a good shot,” he explained. “It was trying to put together a good round. We all know how hard that is to do here. Of course, it was going to that 17th hole, where for me, I was playing well and trying to close it out. The green is surrounded by all those bunkers and of course I found my way in one of those bunkers and kept it in there for a few shots and then found a different bunker in a different spot.
“A ‘what could have been memorable round’ was quickly shot down. But that’s the beauty of this place. It’s unbelievably fair, but I’ve always said it’s a golf course that makes you feel small. When you’re out there – even when you look at people on other holes – everybody looks small. It’s such a big, overwhelming golf course. It’s really a special place.”