The following article appeared in today's NY Times
By CLIFTON BROWN
Joe Burbeck believes that an important part of golf history should be corrected.
For more than 65 years, A. W. Tillinghast has been recognized as the designer of the storied Black Course at Bethpage State Park on Long Island. But Burbeck disputes Tillinghast's involvement. Burbeck insists that Bethpage Black, site of next month's United States Open, was designed by his father, Joseph H. Burbeck, who was the park's superintendent for more than 30 years.
Burbeck's quest to gain recognition for his father is the subject of an article that is to appear in the June issue of Golf Digest. Now 71 years old and living in Rye, N.Y., Burbeck has spent much of his adult life waging a campaign on behalf of his father, who died in 1987. His story has often been ignored. But Golf Digest is convinced that Burbeck is correct, so convinced that it will list his father as the architect of Bethpage Black; Tillinghast will be listed as a consultant.
With the Open coming to Bethpage Black on June 13-16, Burbeck has never felt more strongly about fighting for his father's legacy.
"Ever since they decided to bring the Open to Bethpage, I've been hearing Tillinghast's name all over the place, and it just isn't fair," Burbeck said last week. "It's one of the best golf courses in the world, and there's no question my father designed it."
Tillinghast didn't design Bethpage? The suggestion sounds unbelievable to some, and Burbeck knows he will never convince everyone. Tillinghast was one of golf's most fabled architects, the designer of exquisite courses like Winged Foot and Quaker Ridge in New York and Baltusrol and Ridgewood in New Jersey.
Rees Jones, a renowned architect who restored Bethpage Black to prepare it for the Open, believes Bethpage is Tillinghast's work.
"Tillinghast did the design and the routing," Jones said last week. "He may not have been on site to see the project finished, but that doesn't mean he isn't the designer. Alister Mackenzie may not have been on site to see every step of Augusta National's construction either, but that doesn't mean it wasn't his design.
"But the hard part about golf history is that a lot of it gets lost. It's not as easy to trace something from that era as it would be today."
Is there evidence to support Burbeck's claim? The magazine article, written by Ron Whitten, points to "History of the Long Island State Parks," published in 1959, which credits Burbeck with the design and construction of the golf courses at Bethpage, and lists Tillinghast as the consultant.
By the time Bethpage Black opened in 1936, Tillinghast had fallen on hard times, fighting drinking problems and financial woes. The Bethpage golf course project was spearheaded by Robert Moses, a builder of many of the region's roads and other infrastructure and a former president of the Long Island State Park Commission. But not everyone supported the effort to build golf courses during the Depression, and Burbeck said Tillinghast was given credit for Bethpage to protect the project from being criticized.
"Moses got cold feet because a no-name was the designer," Burbeck said. "They figured they needed a known quantity like Tillinghast to have his name on the project, just in case the public didn't like it."
Burbeck grew up at Bethpage in a house that still stands near the 14th hole of the Black Course. He remembers sitting at his father's knee, watching him work on design plans.
"Those weren't Tillinghast's plans, those were my father's plans," Burbeck said. "He loved Bethpage, and he knew every inch of the land. It was a great place to grow up, a great place to live. But my mother always felt bad that my father never got the proper credit."
Burbeck's mother, Elizabeth, is deceased. The original blueprints for the course have not been uncovered, and Burbeck knows it is not easy to rewrite history. Yet he feels obligated to try.
Asked if he would attend the Open this year, Burbeck said: "I don't have any tickets. I'm hoping to get some. I feel like I should be there to represent the family."