News | Mystery of Bethpage Black's Warning Sign
memories can be fleeting. Can you say with certainty that you saw something thirty years ago what about forty years ago or fifty or even sixty years ago, you actually remember it or maybe wanna remember something so badly you simply trick your brain into it? This is the dilemma will discuss today. Welcome to another episode of the golf dot com podcast. I'm your host Josh borough. And today we're talking about the mysterious elusiveness of the most iconic sign in the sport the warning at Bethpage state park's. Black course home of the one hundred first PGA championship chances. Are you're aware of the sign you might even have a picture next to it. It reads warning the black course is an extremely difficult course, which we recommend for only highly skilled golfers the sign sits behind the I t and his Bethpage celebrity. Like, we'll have people for weddings, and they'll figure with it. There's sort of like, but there have been slight variations to the sign over the years different borders longer dashes boulder fonts, but the ominous dare never changes. But what's most interesting about it? No one definitively agrees on how or when it got there. I devour newspaper archives and called texted and emailed. Anyone who might have an idea of how it got there over the last few weeks, I reached out to to name a few the metropolitan Gulf association, the Long Island Golf Association, the US the Long Island studies institute of Hoste Bethpage clubs current supers. Former supers historians. College coaches, authors bloggers journalists and forms more often than not it was a dead end or conflicting information, but the more I dug the more fascinating the story became throughout this episode. We'll hear from six protagonists who I interviewed as I tried to solve the riddle of the signs origin. Philip young and author and Bethpage historian Bill queer in the metropolitan golf associations. Historian, Michael Ascher off the former deputy regional director of Long Island, state parks. Dave Catalano, the former director of Bethpage state park's. Andy Wilson, the current Bethpage superintendent and lastly jewelry hor the former head pro at Bethpage Ray, hor might sum up the signs meeting. The best. You know, someone that something is very hard and like damn, okay. And that's kind of what that signed did. So we got we have people of all playing levels that went out there to play. And you know, as the golf course became a manicured, in know and more more people wanted to come and see why that's I was up. Did this come off as a gimmick? But it works at Bethpage because the black core is the terror for pros and amateurs alike, the sine transform from local legend bucket with material in two thousand two when Bethpage Black became the first public course to host a US open. Tiger Woods was the only player under par. One by three. The course was hard. The sign was a hit in star was born. No tiger not use the sign the sign received more TV time when the two thousand nine US open came the Bethpage followed by the two thousand twelve and two thousand sixteen Barclays Andy Wilson has been at Bethpage since the summer of nineteen Eighty-nine. He's now the head superintendent he's witnessed the signs of Aleutian firsthand. For the. Well. When Bank and being like, people were then never vanity more than on the fun game. They wanna notice her cared more about the working making your about getting the dial down or anything like that the. Yeah, I've made of and all that thing people right now planned thing is reading. Are. Park on the part of the reason that original nine of the nine we wanted to really Allen plant. They really don't have as one balloon. I don't think been going for years. Now, they Cochran by Neil gotta know want without twelve and never came upon. The lady early nineteen year. But not not often, you know, making you know, one year that way wasn't one like the beer all. Then I think improved on selling into Lynn like being on running like that. And then Laura driving was. Neyland was gone. But to better understand the big picture. Let's I understand Bethpage Long Island has a rich golf history in the nineteen twenties. The club called lenox hills country club was built by the lenox hills corporation and Farmingdale the Bethpage park authority later purchase lenox hills country club in the early nineteen thirties along with the surrounding area. Bethpage state park was born amid the depression in the nineteen thirties. AWT wing house was tasked with the construction of three golf courses at Bethpage state park is a part of the federal works progress administration project, the red and blue courses opened in nineteen thirty five as did the remote green course, which used to be lenox hills. The black horse opened in nineteen thirty six to give Bethpage's fourth course. And golfers came in droves Bethpage's, fifth course, the yellow opened in nineteen fifty eight, but the black was always the best in the gnarliest of the bunch. Black fee on great. It was probably competition course in America when it opened in the thirties really was Tilly himself you to that way. He said he wrote that the the two most difficult and challenging courses in America where pine valley and the black leopard as he told him, and it was he was immensely. Proud of what he was able to to do there. Byung his tune house biography as well as two books on the black course, we'll let him fill you in more on the Aleutian of Bethpage. Two. The there was tremendous play for courses there really was. More to a obvious big flack to the point where both of the black and blue courses and the blue original blue was much better than the red and considered really it's close to the black. He can't as far as outstanding. It was a phenomenal course in forty two Bethpage announced that until was over. They were not going to do any more maintenance on those courses, and they let it just grow in this spring of forty five seeing that the war was okay going to be over. And that a whole bunch of people are gonna come back. The sent their maintenance crews out there to restore the courses. And that's when those greens became nothing more than small circles restoration of the course, never really took place afterward to so many guys came back. It was a huge us, desire Horton. Normalcy after horror. One of the great wage for normalcy in the fifties was sports and the only place they could play with bent pager is our is our was solely old guys. And everybody wanna play Bethpage and to overnight all the in the in the in the fifties, all the courses were so overcrowded. Everybody wanted to play a black and everybody did then like they do today. Go out on the black who's into this weight and butcher it up because they couldn't play it. And so finally somebody got the idea was put a sign near that tries to keep people from going in playing the sign really go up early as you'll find out there discrepancies. Fill also suggested a promising lead. I never thought about contact Saint John's university, the Bethpage has been their home place forever. Right. They gotta have photographs of the I see the blanket way back simply because of the guys playing there, and they did, but they weren't able to help. Either young also suggested I reach out to the Long Island studies institute of Hoste, which has substantial photo archive of Long Island Lennox, but that was also a dead end. So is it safe to assume it wasn't placed in the fifties? I don't think it was there before the sixteen not a single person knows. And I guarantee you there isn't a person on the planet that one knows more about Bethpage or Tilly than me. But Phil's, right. His third book on Bethpage Black called Gulf for the people the true history of Bethpage in the black could be available as early as the summer. All right. So let's take Phil young in his word and assume it wasn't there in the nineteen fifties. Dr Bill Queyranne who is seventy six has been the historian of the metropolitan golf Isuzu rations since nineteen ninety in his the author of America's links land a century of Long Island Gulf. He. Grew up in the area. Played Bethpage as a kid and again in college he says, he thinks he recalls the sign from the nineteen sixties, although he certain it was there by the time. He started as a professor at nearby Adelphi university where he still works today. Was there in sixty nine early seventies? I know for sure I think I I played out there when I was a kid every week got two times. Once I play I play one of the other. And that's fine was always there. I am. Sure. Sixteen late sixty nine phone sixty nine I'm fair. It was out there. And it was there with somebody say something else as a matter of fact, yes, the most thorough dare we say confident answer of the signs origin comes from Michael Ascher off to deputy regional director of Long Island state parks from nineteen seventy six to nineteen Ninety-one. He pins the signs founding in the early nineteen eighty s in has one unbelievable story that goes with it was June of eighty eighty one may have been eighty two. That's I mean, I can tell you the sign what up in early June of one of those years broad exactly which year died on. Oh, I was sitting there with in the cafeteria at the at the clubhouse having a Cup of coffee with a fella named Eric Sieber? And was superintendent at the park. So he's radio starts to crack is the problem out on the golf course. And there was a guy teaching his wife to play golf on Memorial Day on the black course, and they will like five holes or six holes opened in front of him. And this foursome finally had a bad habit and hit the ball into him. And he turned around and hit their balls back at them. This didn't make them very happy. And there was should be an incident report somewhere the police files from those years because the state park police had to show up out there and get them separated. And at that point, I scribbled something on a piece of paper, the the exact wording. I don't REM. Member. And I said the era get this over to the sign shop have a signed made and put it by the front desk. I mean, and least we will be warning people and telling people that this is much to Tuffah golf course, unless you are skilled, and it's it's a public course, you can't say to the public you can't play here. So we tried to go at it a different way. And that see all that simple. That's the origin of that signed the sign. Go up in eighty then. Gone up within within a week or two Memorial Day. One of those years now who the hell knows whether these records still exist. Okay. First of all, I don't know that the police filed a report or didn't am I remember it precisely zoo was she's I think so, but you know, hell, I'm I'm talking about something close to forty years ago. Asraf mentioned a police report the might have been filed I reached out to the state and through the freedom of information act requested any Bethpage police reports filed on Memorial Day during the years in question. I'm still waiting to get the results. But even if report from that, they does exist it doesn't necessarily prove the sign came in. Then anyway, it would be one hell of a read though, Ashraf also mentioned that there might have been a purchase order placed and in the system at the state parks regional sign shop after being transferred a few times. I've actually got a hold of her the signs are made. But the worker I talked to his mum on details. My information was passed onto the super. Visor who supposed to call me back. I haven't heard from them yet in the worker. I spoke to didn't wanna give their supervisors direct number. But any hope I had finding some old service orders for warning signs erased when Andy Wilson told me, they might not even exist. When the people more repeaters. Really like working on here. And things like that. Millions of them early on. Bye bye human. Anyway. That's rough story sounded convincing an honestly a little too crazy to make up problem is I haven't found anyone else who was there that day to confirm it, former Bethpage state park director. Dave Catalano wasn't there them, but he worked closely with Ashrof and said he believes his account Catalano also said his friend bobbling or housing who is the assistant super Bethpage during the nineteen eighties. Always attributed the signed Asher off Eric seabird has since passed away as former Long Island parks chief John Sheridan. Former Bethpage pro Jo Ray horses, Sheridan was instrumental turning the black horse into what it is today. So let's talk about Ray radar now seventy three he grew up on Long Island and caddied at timber point golf course and spent Saturday afternoons during his childhood teeing up at the black. He later played the black horse even more when he played golf at Saint John's university before graduating in nineteen sixty eight he says the sign was not there then while Ray her doesn't remember exactly when the sign went in. His best guests aligns with Ashraf timeline, but he's confident Sheridan head his handprints all over it. In nineteen seventy eight, but I played my college golf on the black horse and say, we play Saint Johns, and that sighing never was there while I was playing graduate in nineteen sixty eight nothing went on at that park. If John didn't know about it. Okay. And didn't put a stamp of approval on. I do remember John saying, you know, he wanted to develop some sort of mystique about the black horse. Okay. And the sign was part of that development of the mystique. I'm going to say was he the seventy nine eighty eighty one or eighty two in that range late very late seventies early eighties. John ordered all of the Gulf the basic rough areas totally chop down which was probably eighty eighty one eighty two. So and that's that's one sign went up. So what did we learn it depends whom you ask like I said memories can be fleeting in while the origin of the sign might forever remain a mystery further losing its battle with time as every year passes by its message will forever remain intimidating because if there's one thing we know it's the Bethpage Black's warning sign isn't going anywhere. We're not over you will. For he. Person by choice.