Sue Auer of Mattituck can remember a time when sheep roamed the fourth hole of Cutchogue’s Cedars Golf Club.
It was 1990 and Ms. Auer was a new member of the course’s fledgling women’s league, The Cedarettes.
In the 25 years since, she said, the golf course and the league have both come a long, long way.
“Back then I really just needed some exercise in my life,” she recalled. “It was a small group of women, but it was fun. And it felt good to be doing something.”
Founded in 1988 by fellow Mattituck residents Marie Venteau and Rene Cardinale, the Cedarettes continued to grow each year. By 2000, there were 85 members and in the 15 years since it has expanded to include more than 150 women who play the nine-hole course each week.
On Tuesday, the Cedarettes gathered for their annual breast cancer awareness fundraiser to benefit the Susan G. Komen Rally for the Cure. The league’s signature event raises close to $3,000 each year and has led to more than $50,000 in donations to the charity since the Cedarettes began hosting it 25 years ago.
“We do it in hopes that someone who can’t afford it can get treatment or an evaluation to see if they have cancer,” said Ms. Auer, now president of the Cedarettes. “This disease touches everybody.”
And what better group to raise funds and awareness locally than the women who make up one of the largest sports leagues on the North Fork?
“I am willing to bet there isn’t a larger ladies’ golf group in the country,” said Cedars Golf Club partner Paul Pawlowski, who called the Cedarettes an “impressive group” of women.
League members range in age from their 30s to 80s, though some recent members have played into their 90s. Among the group are mostly retired educators, health care workers and law enforcement personnel. They live as far west as Wading River and Bayport and as far east as Orient and East Hampton.
Each week the women, who play in one of five groups every Tuesday or Friday, draw numbers to determine their foursomes for the day. This way, they get to meet someone new each time out on the course.
Nan Endemann, a retired physical education teacher for the Mattituck School District, joined the Cedarettes five years ago after several fellow educators convinced her to play. She’s been a member each year since.
“It was really low-key and not at all stressful,” she said. “I thought, ‘This is all I need.’<\!q>”
Janet Johnson of Southold, who helped organize this year’s fundraiser, said the Cedarettes are mostly about “getting together and being easy.”
“The North Fork is all about living a laid-back life and this is very accommodating to that lifestyle,” the retired social worker said.
Mary Grace Meier of Wading River joined the league in 1992 at the urging of her friend Anne Engelhardt.
Having played in co-ed volleyball leagues since the 1960s at Brookhaven National Laboratory, where her husband worked, Ms. Meier always enjoyed sports but had never played golf before Ms. Engelhardt invited her to play with the Cedarettes.
The league was an instant addiction for her.
“The women are wonderful and I love this course,” said Ms. Meier, a retired substitute teacher in the Shoreham-Wading River School District, who admits she used to arrive at school a little late so she could sneak in nine holes.
Jim Hines, who recently began working at the clubhouse at Cedars, couldn’t believe his eyes the first time he drove to the course and saw the parking lot overflowing with cars on a day the Cedarettes were teeing off.
“This place is definitely the home of the Cedarettes,” he said.
Established informally in 1911, when workers from the neighboring North Fork Country Club would wander up to the sheep pasture and practice their golf game, Cedars was officially founded as a golf club in 1965.
When the course opened for the season in 2014, it did so under new owners Tim McManus and Mr. Pawlowski, a local real estate developer who has said it had been his dream to own the course since he was in seventh grade. Since the two old friends purchased the course, they have improved the practice areas, replaced fencing, trimmed trees and painted the clubhouse, where a brand new golf simulator has been installed. They’ve also worked to grow the club’s youth program, having hosted more than three dozen young golfers for a camp this summer.
This is all welcome news to the Cedarettes, who say the new owners have helped improve the golf club without losing sight of what it’s always been about: having fun on the golf course at an affordable price. A round of golf at Cedars costs $15 or less and memberships begin at $340.
“Yes, we used to have sheep here,” Ms. Auer said with a smile. “But they’ve done a wonderful job cleaning this place up. There’s just not that many other great places where you can play golf for the same cost in Suffolk County.”
Photo Caption: Members of the Cedarettes who were teeing off Tuesday morning for the ‘Rally for a Cure’ tournament at Cedars Golf Club in Cutchogue. Since 1990 the annual fundraiser has raised a total of more than $50,000 for breast cancer awareness (Credit: Grant Parpan).