Bill Harvey loved working as a caddie during long summer days as a teenager on Long Island. Golf consumed his life while at National Golf Links of America in Southampton, N.Y., for six seasons.
Wednesdays proved to be extra special days for Harvey, now the PGA head professional at Ladera Golf Course, and his friend John Curreri.
That’s because Wednesday was Caddie Day at Shinnecock.
“We would play 10 holes at National and we’d cut across the woods about 80 yards and it goes right to the second tee box at Shinneock, and we’d meet the other caddies there,” Harvey said. “We would throw our money down and we played nine holes. It was a lot of fun. We played so much golf. Two of the greatest golf courses in the country.”
Harvey estimates he played about 150 rounds at Shinnecock Hills, site of the 118th U.S. Open that begins today.
“Shinnecock is a bear,” Harvey said. “Unless you’ve played that course you have no idea how precise you have to be to play there. The greens are old-fashioned. Postage stamps. They’re tiny. The fairways are about 25 yards wide. You better be on. They took down all the trees there. The winds will come off the bay in the morning. They get strong. It will wreak havoc on that course.
“I think 1 over will win the Open, if it’s windy. If it’s calm they have a good chance to tear it up.”
The fairways will average 41 yards wide for the Open, according to the Associated Press.
Harvey, 57, meanwhile, is preparing for a different Open, the U.S. Senior Open at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs June 28-July 1. He qualified for the second time on May 29 when he grabbed the second and final qualifying spot after shooting 2-under-par 70 at The Club at Las Campanas in Santa Fe on May 29.
Harvey feels much different from when he qualified for the U.S. Senior Open four years ago, when he played at Oak Tree National in Edmond, Okla. Then he felt it was more like something to scratch off his bucket list. He shot 4-over 75 the first day and then an 86 the next to miss the cut.
Harvey, who played two seasons of men’s basketball at the University of New Mexico in the early ’80s, feels better about this coming Senior Open.
When he competes, or even when he teaches, Harvey remembers the lessons he learned from his mentor, Ron Doan, a Sun Country PGA Section founder who died in May 2017.
Doan, who dealt with Parkinson’s disease, took an interest in Harvey in 1999 and saw that Harvey’s athleticism could be put to good use.
Harvey described Doan as a “tough, old cowboy” and “tremendous teacher.”
“He was a big influence on my life,” Harvey said. “Without him nothing would have happened.”
The funeral was a tough ordeal for Harvey, but he felt at peace when Doan’s son, Cameron, reminded Harvey the impact he had on his father.
Cameron Doan, 50, is the head professional at Preston Trail Golf Club in Dallas, Texas. He left El Paso Country Club for Dallas in 1999.
“It was certainly good for my Dad to have someone close by to coach with me being gone,” Cameron Doan said. “My Dad got as much out of it as (Harvey) did … Their relationship kept my Dad connected to the game. It was a big deal. Coaches, they feel most alive when they’re coaching, and that’s what Billy gave to my Dad.”