July 15, 2011
The U.S. Open golf tournament took place last month at Congressional Country Club just outside of Washington D.C. It is considered among the most prestigious tournaments in the world. This year it also had a connection to the world of immigration.
While we don’t imagine many among our readership are members of the PGA tour, we thought those here in the local community would appreciate a story about the hurdles everyone has to jump through.
Robert Rock, a professional golfer from England, qualified for the tournament two weeks prior to the event, which began play on June 16. But traveling to Bethesda, MD for the event meant Rock would have to acquire a visa.
And though he started the process on May 30, a driving-under-the-influence offense committed as a teenager would delay the proceedings for 34-year old Rock and create one of the tournament’s more interesting sub-plots.
After winning the Italian Open on June 12 (the first victory of his career), Rock found he was not approved to travel and couldn’t fly from Turin to the U.S. So instead he flew back to London. In England he met with U.S. immigration officials, approximately 72-hours before his tee time at the Open.
Rock’s visa was finally approved at about 4pm on Wednesday, meaning he had approximately 22 hours to get himself to the states or lose his place in the field. The golfer was complimentary of the U.S., saying afterwards he thought “(The US Embassy) rushed it through as fast as realistically you can do . . . they did a great job for me.”
But Rock’s saga was still not over, as he still had to get to Congressional. He took the first flight leaving London for U.S., one that landed in New York at 11:30 pm Wednesday night. He rented a car and finally reached the Washington area at 3:30am, roughly 11 hours before his 2:19 pm tee time the following day.
And incredibly Rock played well that first day. He ended up shooting a 1-under round of 70 that had him tied for tenth and was the best round shot by any Englishman in the field. He would end up finishing a more than respectable 23rd in the field.
Some reports said the process cost Rock upwards of $24,000 in various fees, though he himself said the real figure was “nowhere near that much.”