Spring is a great time of year to be a golf writer. Actually, it’s great being a golf writer any time of year, but with the golf season now hitting full stride on the East End, there’s a lot going on.
Early May found me at Atlantic Golf Club in Bridgehampton attending a USGA Media Day for the Mid-Amateur Championship, which will be held at Atlantic in September. As always, the USGA put its best foot forward, providing a great day of information, food, and golf for members of the media.
The Mid-Amateur Championship is one of the most important events held by the USGA each year, attracting amateur golfers 25 years of age and older with handicaps of 3.4 or less. Golfers from around the world compete for the trophy along with an invitation to play at the Masters Golf Tournament held the following April at Augusta National Golf Club.
Last year’s champion, Nathan Smith of Pittsburgh, said Masters week was a blur. “It was definitely a thrill walking to the first tee accompanied by a security guard,” Smith said.
Smith’s father, Larry, caddied for him at Augusta. That was special for both father and son.
I asked Nathan who was more nervous. “Definitely my father,” he said. “On the first hole I asked my dad for the pin placement sheet, which he handed to me upside down.”
You’re excused, Larry. Good reason to be nervous.
Asking Smith how he stays sharp during the winter months living in Pittsburgh, he jokingly replied: “My parents have a place in Myrtle Beach. I pretend I miss them and go for visits.”
A word to the wise and avid golf fans: If you have some spare time in September, plan to attend the Mid-Amateur, beginning with the practice rounds on Sept. 22. The competition starts on Sept. 25 and runs through Sept. 30. Now, here’s the best part — it’s free! Just show up and watch some of the best amateur golfers in the world put on a great show.
By the way, the USGA is looking for volunteers to help out at the event. As a volunteer you’ll receive a free uniform, meals during the shifts you work, and a day of golf at Atlantic Golf Club or The Bridge. Not too shabby. Go to www.AtlanticGolf.org to get volunteer information.
CHECKING OUT CLUBS AT THE CLUB A few days after Media Day, I attended Demo-Day at Cherry Creek Golf Links in Riverhead with my friend, Pete Kelley. There were more than a half-dozen of the top golf equipment manufacturers on hand, letting prospective customers hit balls to their heart’s content. I’m not real good when it comes to making choices, but I like being able to try out different clubs at one time. You can work your way back and forth eliminating the clubs you don’t get along with. Equipment technology is so incredible today one club seems as good as the next. Someone once told me the most important thing in purchasing golf clubs is that you must like the way they look. Pete and I enjoyed the day but, let it be known, we did not come home with any new weapons.
MAKING THE QUALIFYING ROUNDS With the U.S. Open just around the corner, qualifying events were being held throughout the country. Noyac Golf Club in Sag Harbor hosted a qualifying event with 122 hopefuls competing for eight spots to advance into sectional qualifying play. Ladies and gentlemen, these guys are good. If your handicap is higher than 1.4, no need to apply.
A Cutchogue amateur golfer, Scott Osler, shot an even-par round of 72, finishing as the first alternate. Osler’s wife and caddy, Julie, gave her husband great advice throughout the round. “I told him to play for par and let the birdies happen,” she said.
North Fork Country Club in Cutchogue played host to a qualifying round for the Metropolitan Golf Association’s Ike Tournament. A field of 70 players competed, hoping to make the finals which will be held at Metropolis Country Club in White Plains on June 28 and 29.
The low score of the day, 68, was turned in by Scott Osler, who is a member of the North Fork Country Club. Osler had a bad session warming up on the driving range prior to teeing off. “I thought I was going to shoot 80 today,” he said. “I stopped hitting balls and went to the putting green. I don’t know where the 68 came from.”
Also moving onto the next round was John McCreary from Island’s End Golf and Country Club in Greenport. McCreary, the oldest player to make the cut at age 62, was rightfully excited about his impressive sub-par round of 70.
Speaking with McCreary after he completed play, he said: “Last night I was fooling around with my grip. I went onto YouTube, saw a new grip and gave it a try.”
Can you imagine that golf fans? An elite golfer changing his grip the night before a big event, and then he goes out and breaks par. Guess that’s why John’s a scratch golfer.