Golf has been sitting on the back burner since the beginning of winter. But with the emergence of spring, the game is making its seasonal return and the Pittsburgh Penguins got an early taste.
As the Pens returned to the locker room following their morning skate, they were surprised with a visit from USGA Museum historian Mike Trostel who brought along one of golf’s most illustrious pieces of hardware.
There is reason behind the visit, of course.
This summer, Oakmont Country Club is hosting the U.S. Open for the ninth time. Today, the Penguins had a chance to hold and take pictures with history.
“It’s not as big as the Stanley Cup given that we only put one name on there each year instead of a full team,” Trostel jokingly said after giving some background to the players about the hardware. “But it still means a lot to the players.”
“It’s quite an opportunity,” Brian Dumoulin said. “It’s really cool to look at the names of the people who won and talk a little golf. Now that the weather is getting nice, it’s getting into the golf mood.”
(Note: Today was the Pens' turn with the silver chalice, but during Sunday's 6 p.m. game vs. Washington, fans can stop by the 116th U.S. Open Championship display behind Section 110 to get a photo with the trophy. The trophy will be on display through the end of the second intermission).
Most of the Pens admitted they’ve played golf, but few recognized themselves as ‘good golfers.’
Bryan Rust is one of the exceptions, finding time in the offseason to hit the course a lot.
“In the summer I play maybe three or four times a week,” Rust said. “It’s pretty much my entire summer. It’s just me doing my off-ice workouts in the morning and then I try to go to the range or play in the afternoon. It’s definitely not a bad routine.”
His golf roots stem from his family’s enthusiasm for the sport. Together, they take annual trips across the country, visiting some of the most well known courses.
“We try to play a few of the nicer courses around the country,” Rust continued. “I think this year we’re going to Whistling Straights. A few years ago we went to Pebble Beach.”
In the locker room, players were given black and gold U.S. Open Oakmont hats, and were invited to the tournament June 13-19.
“I spoke with Sidney Crosby and Phil Kessel, who are big golfers,” Trostel said. “It sounds like a lot of them are going to be at Oakmont this year. We gave them some hats with the Oakmont logo. It should be really fun this year. It would be great to have the Pens out at Oakmont.”
Oakmont has hosted the U.S. Open more than any other club in the country and has entertained some of golf’s most memorable events.
Jack Nicklaus won his first professional major at Oakmont in 1962, which was the first of his record 18 major championships.
Ernie Els had his name etched on the trophy for the first time after winning in 1994.
In 2007, Tiger Woods was edged by Angel Cabrera -- who was the first player from South America to win the tourney.
“There have been a lot of really great championships here,” Trostel finished. “I’m looking forward to another one in 2016.”