By Michael Cousins
As most of you I’m sure have heard by now — assuming you haven’t been hiding under a rock — the US Open has decided to “close” its field for the 2017 event. This decision has been met with mixed emotions, and I do not think that surprises anyone. So who’s right?
Is it good for the sport? Is it bringing prestige back to an event and a sport that has, saddening to say, lost its luster?
Is limiting participants in a sport that is already losing participation really the answer?
How can you call it the “Open” when it is a closed field?
I can see all sides of the argument. Like anything else, there is simply no way to please everyone. And I applaud Chad Murphy and the USBC for making such a huge decision knowing full well that they would be met with some level of criticism and scrutiny.
My personal opinion? And I have thought long and hard about this. I have talked to some of the smartest minds in the bowling industry. And, after much dialogue and thought, I think it was the right decision.
Kudos, Chad and bravo, USBC.
The US Open is our biggest tournament. It has always been one of – if not the – toughest tournaments in the world to win. The format is long, the pattern is demanding, and the field is strong – at least for the most part.
In past years – recent years especially – the tournament has been top heavy, meaning, sure, the top tier players are competing at a high level, but, with the open field, some – many in fact – simply shouldn’t be there.
John Doe, whom is, for the sake of this argument, completely unqualified to compete, should not be able to simply pay an entry fee and bowl against the best in the world. It dilutes the field and the integrity of the tournament, and of the sport.
To win the US Open, you should have to compete against the best, and only the best. Period.
Look at other sports’ “Open” championships. The fields, themselves, are not truly “open.” There are qualifiers that one can play in to earn their way into the main event, but even they, like this years US Open, are not truly “open.”
It seems, to me, as though many – the ones against the change – are ignoring the fact that there will be qualifiers, just as there are in other sports. There will be plenty of opportunities for both men and women to earn their entry into the event.
You and I cannot simply pay $1000.00 and expect to go toe-to-toe with Tiger Woods on the golf course. There is no set entry fee to square off against Roger Federer on the blue hard court. One must be invited to these events, or they must qualify.
So, as I have said article-after-article, why should our sport differ? Why shouldn’t we parallel other major sports? We wish to be their equal, but, yet, we wish to ignore conventional wisdom?
This decision reminds me of the former exempt tour, which, by the way, I was also for.
It pushed players, made them work harder, strive to be better, and gave them goals to reach for. As a young player, it was my goal to achieve that one day. To get to that level of excellence. And to say that I was truly “elite.”
As I got older, and the exempt tour folded, I lost my passion. I lost my sense of urgency. I lost the hunger to get better, to achieve greatness, and to compete. For me, and I think many others, the tour had lost its luster. With the fold of the exempt tour, the prestige was gone.
Alas, here we are, in 2017, years after the fold, taking a step in the right direction, attempting to bring integrity and prestige back to a tournament and a sport in desperate need of it.