U.S. Open Challenge - What a Difference a Year Makes

It's becoming almost like a ritual of Spring: The unveiling of the "average golfer" finalists for the U.S. Open Challenge.

Tiger Woods was the unwitting instigator of the Challenge several years ago when he suggested that a 10-handicapper could not break 100 at Oakmont Country Club the way it had been set up for the 2007 U.S. Open.

That's when Golf Digest, the United States Golf Association and NBC Sports came up with the idea for the U.S. Open Challenge and each year since, there's been an essay contest to select the one "average golfer" who'll join three celebrities for a chance to taste of the thrill and pressure of playing a U.S. Open course under championship conditions. The challenge is filmed and broadcast nationally by NBC.

☝ That was then...
Just about 12 months ago the 2009 finalists were announced. And there was something quite remarkable about them: they were four different men ... but so stunningly similar to one another that they almost seemed to be the same person. And the person they seemed to be was a kind a composite of late 20th century American golfer stereotypes. Collectively they personified the Stepford Husband... middle-to-upper-middle-class, white, suburban, married, middle-aged, professional and male.

Though each of the men was, in fact, a distinct individual, and each... individually... made a good finalist, there was a general consensus (among my readers, at least) that out of 73,581 entries a slightly more multifarious foursome should have emerged. The fact that last years contest was based on a 6 word essay and video, made the results seem all the more subjective. I've got to admit, I didn't even vote because to my mind, there was just nothing big that set any of the four apart.

Flash-forward three hundred and something days. This year the contest involved an essay of up to 60 words, explaining how playing in the Golf Digest US Open Challenge would significantly change your life, why you felt you could handle the pressure and what you felt you would score.

This is now. ☟

Five finalist were recently chosen, and they're as diverse as last year's group was similar. Each has a unique and compelling story, presented in a video at the site. The winner will play Pebble Beach with Wayne Gretzky, Drew Brees and Mark Walberg, prodigious golfers each one.

I'm definitely going to vote this year, and you should too, after all each time you do you're entered in the companion sweepstakes with the chance to win your own trip to play at Pebble.

And I guarantee you, you won't have any trouble telling these finalist apart.