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May 23, 2009

ON AND OFF THE COURSE: ‘Average golfer’ ready to face challenges of Bethpage Black

TERRE HAUTE — Golf Digest, in association with the USGA and NBC Sports, has asked the question, “Can the ‘average golfer’ break 100 at Bethpage Black under U.S. Open conditions?”

In its second year of the event, this year’s challengers will be Ben Roethlisberger, Michael Jordan, Justin Timberlake and the winner of a public voting contest on GolfDigest.com. The magazine asked contestants to submit a six-word essay on why they should represent the average golfer and play Bethpage Black. The winner, a Phoenix, Ariz., police lieutenant named Larry Giebelhausen submitted the essay: “I’m a cop. I’ll shoot low.” The runner-up in the contest, a 39-year-old emergency room doctor from Pennsylvania named Philippe de Kerillis, submitted the essay, “ER doctor ready for Bethpage trauma.” Giebelhausen had 30 percent of the votes and de Kerillis had almost 29 percent.

When he first entered the contest, the Phoenix policeman did not have a handicap. He has since entered enough scores to establish a 3.8 Handicap Index, which will probably translate into a 5 or 6 on the Open course at Bethpage.

The other three members of the elite foursome all have single-digit USGA Handicap Indexes also, and have been in Golf Digest’s rankings of athletes and musicians before. In 2007, on the list of top athlete-golfers, Jordan ranked tied for 30th with an index of 1.2 and Roethlisberger was tied for 121st with a 7.0. Timberlake was ranked tied for 15th with a Handicap Index of 6.0 in the Top 100 in Music list in Golf Digest.

The Bethpage Black that these players will face will be slightly different from the one faced in the 2002 U.S. Open. Fairways have been re-contoured, and there will be graduated rough this time and more flexibility on teeing grounds.

On No. 8, for instance, there are now three teeing grounds, allowing for the par-3 hole to be a mere 135 yards or up to 230. On number 14, another par 3, the green was enlarged, creating three new hole locations.

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