Golf Column: There’s life after death for this eighth green

07/19/2015 5:55 AM |

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Life after death is something most of us have thought about. Recent best-selling books such as “Proof of Heaven” by Eben Alexander, “To Heaven and Back” by Mary Neal, and “The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven” by Kevin and Alex Malarkey, suggest that there is.

For those of you who have been longtime players at Island’s End Golf Course in Greenport and have played the course recently, you may now be a believer in reincarnation. I can read your lips: “Oh boy, here he goes. What the heck is the golf guy talking about now?”

I am talking about the miraculous rebirth of the eighth green at Island’s End after many had given it its last rites.

Through the years when people asked me where I regularly played golf, I would tell them Island’s End. “Oh yeah, that’s one of the best 17-hole courses around,” many would say, alluding to the fact that the eighth green was usually in pretty bad shape and not worth playing.

Over the years the powers that be at Island’s End tried everything. Soil tests, different chemicals and fertilizers, and various maintenance techniques. I was there one day a few years ago when the United States Golf Association came in with its soil experts to try to figure out what the problem was. No one had an answer and nothing seemed to work. Nothing, that is, until recently. Enter Gregory Fox, the Island’s End course superintendent. In a short period of time, Fox has turned the longtime troubled eighth green into a smooth, emerald carpet. So, how did Fox do it? First, a little about this golf course magician.

Raised in Port Jefferson, Fox has always had a love of the outdoors and nature. After graduating from Post Junior College in Connecticut, Fox went to work in the corporate world as a sales representative for a major jewelry company. After spending a few years in a suit and tie, Fox realized this type of work was not his cup of tea.

Looking for a change, he began working at a fitness center along with working at Harbor Hills Golf Club in Port Jefferson. “I thought I was stopping by at Harbor Hills for a season or so,” Fox said. “After a few years they put me in charge.”

In 2002 Fox left Long Island with his wife and moved to the Berkshires so he could enjoy the outdoor activities he loved, such as rock climbing, canoeing and skiing. They eventually returned to Long Island after becoming grandparents and Fox quickly found work again in the golf course maintenance business, working his magic at many courses in the Northeast, including Winged Foot Golf Club, Atlantic Golf Club and Sebonac Golf Club.

Island’s End contacted Fox in the fall of 2013. “I spent 10 days at the course before they hired me, checking watering schedules, chemical uses, and I took core samples from every green on the course,” Fox said.

Fox continued his resuscitation process by drilling and filling holes on the eighth green and other troubled greens on the course. Bringing out the heavy artillery, Fox brought in a piece of equipment called the Shock Wave, which is normally not used on greens but rather on harder surfaces. “The eighth green was so bad I figured I had nothing to lose. The Shock Wave produced good results on the edges, so I did the whole green.”

After nurturing the green by overseeding and spiking constantly, Fox and others crossed their fingers and awaited the results. After a little more than a year, the green came back to life. “I’m taking if off life support,” he told the head professional, Bill Fish.

Fox refers to the greens as “my girls” and takes tremendous pride in his role as superintendent. “I don’t like losing, and revitalizing and saving the eighth green and the others was a challenge I wanted to win,” he said. “This isn’t a job for me, it’s a passion.”

19TH HOLE Bunker Boes was on vacation and went into the clubhouse after his round. The head pro asked, “Did you have a good time out there today?”

Bunker responded, “Fabulous, thank you.”

The pro then said, “How did you find the greens?”

Bunker thought for a minute and replied: “Oh, that was easy. I just walked to the end of the fairways and there they were.”

[Caption: The Island’s End Golf Course superintendent, Gregory Fox, on the restored eighth green.]

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