05/07/12 10:00pm

Most of us have had a few heros in our lives. It may have been an athlete. Perhaps a movie star. Maybe a political figure. Come to think of it, scratch the last one.

My first hero was “The Duke of Flatbush,” Duke Snider, who played baseball for the Brooklyn Dodgers back in the 1950s. Golfer Jack Nicklaus is also on my list, earning his way there for what he has done both on and off the golf course. And my hands down number one all-time hero is Jesus. In an interview I did with John Feinstein a few years ago, I asked John if he could play a round of golf with anyone, living or deceased, who would it be? His answer, “Jesus.” I’m right there with Mr. Feinstein.

I suppose if I thought about it a bit longer, I could come up with a few more heros to add to my list. Recently, I was able to do just that.

How many times in your life has someone done something that really ticked you off? Somehow you navigated your way through the situation without being tossed in jail, but a few hours later you said to yourself, “I really should have done this,” or, “If only I had said blah, blah, blah.” Coulda, shoulda, woulda. Too little, too late.

My new hero found himself in an irritating situation and actually had enough courage to do something about it. This being a golf column, my hero performed his act of fearlessness, where else but on a golf course. I recently sat down with this individual and recorded his recollection of the event. Here it is in his own words:

“A few years ago I had an occasion to golf with two other gentlemen and we had a threesome. Before teeing off on the first hole, a fellow came up in his cart and asked if he could join us.

“No problem, I said. After the introductions were made, I said to the man that I only had one request, that he didn’t use his cell phone. I told him if he must use his phone to put it on vibrate.

“As I was about to tee off, his cell phone rang. He went to his cart and answered the call. I asked him again, very politely, to turn off his phone. As we approached the first green, his phone went off for a second time. On the next hole his phone rings for the third time. So, I went over to his cart, took his cell phone and threw it into the other fairway, telling him to have a good day. I told him to go ahead of us if he wanted, which he did, and I never saw him again. I don’t like cell phones on golf courses, it’s as simple as that.”

My regular readers know how I feel about cell phones and golf courses. Unless you’re expecting an emergency call, a real emergency call, put it away. You’re playing golf. Have fun and relax. At the very least, if you really think you’re that important, wait until you get to the turn or finish your round before pulling out your security blanket.

Now, to reveal the name of my newest hero. Stand up and take a bow, Bob Scott (the jeweler).

Bob reminded me he had two of his buddies by his side just in case things got ugly, but still good for you, Bob. Job well done.

TEE TIMES Our first reported hole-in-one of the year goes to Stan Siejka of Southold, who aced the seventh hole at Cedars Golf Club in Cutchogue.

I asked Stan what his golfing experience had been prior to getting his ace. “Twenty-five holes,” he said.

Thinking I may not have heard him correctly, I said, “Did you say you’ve been playing golf for 25 years?”

“No, 25 holes,” Stan repeated.

My hearing is not that good, so I asked again, “You mean you’ve played 25 rounds of golf.”

“No, I had played a total of 25 holes of golf in my life before my hole-in-one,” said Stan, clearing up my astonished confusion.

OUTINGS The seventh annual North Fork Breast Health Coalition will be held June 8 at Calverton Links. For more information, call Susie Bandiera at (631) 722-3025 or email susiq@optonline.net.

04/19/12 3:00am

You may not know this, but there is a beautiful golf course located in the Land of Oz. Yes, that Oz. Let me begin.

Back in the 1930s, the great and powerful Wizard of Oz, an avid golfer, built a magnificent golf course just outside of the Emerald City. Breathtaking magnolia trees line the entryway to the clubhouse and colorful azaleas abound the course along with dogwoods and pines. A most beautiful sanctuary, indeed. Built on a former plantation, Winkie National Golf Course has become a treasured jewel of golf in the Land of Oz.

Every April the top golfers from Oz compete for the honor of wearing the Emerald Jacket, an honor the winner carries with him for a lifetime. However, there were, and still are, some big problems at Winkie National.

During its early years, Winkie National allowed only those with green faces to caddy and allowed only blue-faced golfers to play the course. Getting pressure from the citizens of Oz, some of the rules at Winkie National were eventually changed, allowing anyone to caddy and play golf at the spectacular course.

However, one archaic and narcissistic rule haunts Winkie National to this day, and the rule comes directly from the Wizard, himself. Winkie National does not offer membership in the club to the women of Oz. It doesn’t matter if you’re a palace guard, a flying monkey, a munchkin, a witch. Unless you are of the male species, you are not going to receive an invitation to become a member at Winkie National Golf Club.

Giving credit where credit is due, Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, along with Glinda, the Good Witch, have lobbied for years, hoping to get the Wizard to open the doors of membership to women at Winkie National, unfortunately to no avail.

Here’s a story most people don’t know. A few years ago, the Wizard invited Elphaba, a 13-handicapper, to play Winkie National as his guest. The two were on the back nine when Elphaba hit a ball far to the right and into a water hazard. With no one looking on, the Wizard, pretending to help Elphaba retrieve her ball, came up from behind and shoved her into the water. He said it was an accident. That was the last anyone ever saw of the Wicked Witch of the West, no matter what you may heard about her demise.

Glinda, in addition to her duties as a witch, is now president of IMW, a large company that manufacturers magic wands. Glinda has been ignored at Winkie National and has yet to receive an invitation to join the club even though the former president of IMW, a male, was a long-time member.

The Land of Oz is a little more than 200 years old. How sad and unfortunate the powers that be at Winkie National discriminate as they do. The muckie-mucks at Winkie National should be ashamed and embarrassed. Good old boys are obviously alive and well at Winkie National Golf Club.

Let’s hope someday, and someday soon, the Wizard and his phony cronies will see the light.

Wouldn’t it be great if the ladies of Oz could just say, “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.”

BTW, congratulations to Bubba Watson on winning this year’s Masters Golf Tournament.

03/28/12 3:00am

You may have heard this little ditty: It ain’t the arrow, it’s the Indian. No, your golf guy isn’t so desperate for material that he’s now writing about the wild west. This week we’re going to address golf equipment, a/k/a the arrow.

The golf equipment industry rakes in a tidy sum each year and, like so many products on the market, golf equipment manufacturers are regularly shaking it up, changing colors, designs, shapes and technology. These changes, we are told, will help us hit the ball longer and straighter, putting our handicaps into single-digit territory.

Timeout, Tonto.

I have to admit, I must give credit to the new drivers out there today. For most of my life I couldn’t hit my driver worth a darn. A few years ago the golf industry introduced drivers with huge heads and beefed-up technology. With these new drivers, even I can hit some pretty decent drives every now and then, so let’s chalk one up for the club manufacturers in the driver department.

As far as the rest of the clubs in your bag go, I’m not so sure. Much of the equipment out there seems to be geared for the better skilled players. We see “so and so” out on tour hitting great shots and think we should be able to hit shots just like our heros if we use the same equipment, right? Wrong. In this case, with irons, I think it’s the Indian and not the arrow. Unless you are a skilled, competitive golfer, clubs used by the pros should not be in your bag.

There are a few manufacturers out there that actually design sets with the average golfer in mind. These sets do not contain the conventional 3, 4 and 5 irons. In their place you will find hybrid clubs which are easier for the average golfer to hit. Even some pros today are getting rid of their higher irons and replacing them with hybrids.

Believe it or not, a number of years ago sets included 1 and 2 irons. The legendary golfer, Lee Trevino, put it best when he said: “If you are caught on a golf course during a lightning storm, hold up your 1 iron. Not even God can hit a 1 iron.”

If you are new to the game, there is no need to purchase expensive equipment. You can upgrade your weapons down the road if you find that you enjoy chasing after a little white ball, but first find yourself an inexpensive set of clubs. And don’t worry about carrying the 14-club limit. All you need is a driver, fairway wood (maybe), a few hybrids, a 7 and 9 iron, pitching wedge, sand wedge and a putter. That’s enough equipment to get you going.

The most important thing in golf is not your equipment, it’s having a good swing. Invest in developing a fundamentally sound and repeating swing. It’s not that easy, but with a good swing it won’t matter what equipment you use.

Yes, Kimosabe, it all comes down to the Indian.

TEE TIMES The Southold Town Recreation Department will be offering three golf programs this year.
Golf Fitness, under the direction of Dr. Jeffrey Poplarski, will kick off on April 8. This program will target golf swing analysis and body mechanics. Dr. Poplarski is the wellness director for the U.S. Open Golf Championships.

Beginner/intermediate golf lessons will be conducted at Island’s End Golf and Country Club beginning May 2 for all golfers 14 years old and over.

Basic golf with Tom McGunnigle will begin on May 26 for residents 18 and over.

For more information, stop by the Southold Town Recreation Department on Peconic Lane in Peconic or phone (631) 765-5182.

Long Island National Golf Club in Riverhead will be offering great specials throughout the season. Contact the club at (631) 727-4653 to enjoy this wonderful Robert Trent Jones course.

Cherry Creek Golf Links and The Woods at Cherry Creek will again be offering men’s and women’s golf leagues this year. Contact the club at (631) 369-6500 for details.

OUTINGS The inaugural Ecumenical Golf Outing hosted by the men of First Presbyterian and St. Patrick’s R.C. Churches will be held on May 16 at Island’s End Golf & Country Club in Greenport. Men and women of any and all faiths are welcome to participate. Call (631) 765-2597 for details.

Hamptons Collegiate Baseball has scheduled a golf outing for June 27 at Rock Hill Country Club in Manorville. Call (631) 897-5544 for information.

02/14/12 3:00am

Come on now, stop your complaining. We managed to avoid winter until the third week of January and that was a short-lived snow event. That’s pretty darn good in my book. For those of us who hold down the fort on the North Fork during the winter months, we have no reason to peep one iota about “Old Man Winter” this year.

The only time I take a hiatus from the links is if there happens to be snow covering the fairways. This winter a number of our local courses have remained open, so along with my wife, Jean, and my hardier playing companions, we’ve been able to get out a few times, playing some winter golf at Cherry Creek Golf Links and Indian Island Golf Course.

I prefer playing golf in cooler weather. Hot and humid may work for some, but not your golf guy. A couple of layers and I’m happy as a pig in sand.

Many golfers play golf according to the calendar and pack their sticks away regardless of how nice the weather may be. Unless these folks commit to an off-season conditioning program, they will need a bit more time to get in shape for an 18-hole romp come springtime. For those folks, here are some ideas to make the transition from their cozy couch and the Golf Channel to the golf course.

Whether you chose to walk or take a cart when you play, your legs have to be in shape. Bundle yourself up, get outside and go for a walk. If you only do one type of exercise this winter, walk.

Get some light weights and develop your own 15-minute workout. Three times a week is perfect.

Add some stretching or yoga and you’ll be good to go when you hit the links this spring.

Swing a club for couple of minutes a few times a week, just to keep your muscle memory from collecting dust. And practice your putting. No excuses now. You don’t need any fancy thing-a-ma-jigs. All you need is your putter, a ball and a glass to aim at. A few minutes a week spent practicing your putting stroke will pay big dividends during the season.

This year the PGA Tour promises to be very exciting with a great crop of young players such as Keegan Bradley, Rickie Fowler, Bill Haas and Matt Kutchar. From across the pond we’ll see the likes of Sergio Garcia, Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy and Camilio Villegas. And don’t forget the faithful core of middle-aged guys such as Rocco Mediate, Phil Mickelson, Steve Stricker and David Toms. Oh, did I mention Tiger Woods?

On the ladies side players such as Paula Creamer, Natalie Gulbis, Suzann Pettersen and Yani Tseng will keep things exciting as we head to the United States Women’s Open Championship which in June of 2013 will be played right across the bay at Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton.

19TH HOLE What would you rather watch, a golf tournament or “Dancing With The Stars”?

Fran Backofen of Peconic: “I’m a big fan of ‘Dancing With The Stars’.”

John Abbott of Laurel: “You don’t even have to ask.”

Betty Kiernan of Southold: “A golf tournament, definitely.”

Josh Carrick of Aquebogue: “I’d much rather watch a golf tournament.”

Will Tiger Woods win a tournament in 2012?

Backofen: “Hmmm. I think it’s possible.”

Abbott: “No!”

Kiernan: “Yeah.”

Carrick: “I think so. Yes.”

What is your biggest gripe about the game of golf?

Backofen: “The game is so slow to watch. But I guess it’s enjoyable if you’re playing.”

Abbott: “All the crazy rules.”

Kiernan: “Putting. I stink.”

Carrick: “How difficult it is to play.”

What current professional golfer would you like to have dinner with?

Backofen: “ I have a friend who worked with Michelle Wie, so I’d have to say her.”

Abbott: “Lefty, Phil Mickelson.”

Kiernan: “Phil Mickelson. He’s still playing, right? I like him.”

Carrick: “Tiger Woods. That would be very interesting.”

12/12/11 4:00pm

JAY DEMPSEY PHOTO | Andy Stype with his daughter, Erica, after winning the North Fork Country Club championship this past summer.

Alright sports fans, we’re going to have a quiz today. Ready? Here we go. What does it take to win the championship at your golf club nine times over a span of six decades?

A) Skill.

B) Lots of practice.

C) A bit of luck.

D) Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

E) All of the above.

If you answered “E” you’re correct. You just earned yourself a no homework pass. (Can you tell I’m married to a teacher?)

Winning a club championship is quite an achievement. Winning it nine times is unbelievable. And doing it over six decades, well, amazing doesn’t do it justice.

This past summer Andy Stype, 62, of Southold won the championship at North Fork Country Club in Cutchogue. Stype won his first club championship in 1969 at the age of 20. He won twice in the 1970s, once in the 1980s and three times in the 1990s. He won again in 2006 and was this year’s club champion for his ninth crown covering six decades.

Andy Stype was 11 years old when he was introduced to golf, working as a caddy at North Fork Country Club. “Steve Doroski was the best player then,” he said. “It was a treat to caddy for him. Steve did everything well, but he was a fabulous putter. That’s what taught me if you’re going to win tournaments, you’ve got to putt well.”

Growing up on a farm on Oregon Road in Cutchogue, Stype would caddy whenever he could. “After a day of caddying, my mother would stop by the golf course to see how I was doing,” he said. “She’d bring me peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Then I’d go out and play until it got dark and try to imitate Steve Doroski’s swing.”

Stype won a few caddy tournaments and continued to hone his game. His family joined North Fork Country Club in 1962.

“My father had us out on the course all the time,” Stype said. “He would really tick me off. I’d be standing over a putt and he’d jingle his change or cough. One day I got so mad at him I started to walk off. He grabbed me by the collar and said: ‘I’m trying to teach you a lesson. I’m teaching you how tough it is out there. People will do this to you in competition.’ He was right. I learned at an early age to block out distractions.”

Golf is not the only sport Andy Stype has excelled at. Playing for the basketball team at Burdette College in Massachusetts, Stype scored 24 points in Boston Garden before a Celtics game with many of the Celtics looking on.

In 1988, Stype began using his daughter, Erica, as his caddy. “Erica didn’t do much,” he said. “She just sat there and looked pretty, and son of a gun I started winning a lot.”

During his run of championships, Stype has defeated some of the top names in golf on the North Fork, including Joe Deerkoski, Steve Duke, John Stype (Andy’s brother), Bob White, Ken Kreitsek, Scott Osler, Peter Miller and Steve Flurry.

Reflecting on his life playing golf, Stype said: “Golf has made me something I never thought I could be. It builds your character and you grow. I’ve enjoyed every step of every round, whether I’ve played well or not.”

One more question: Can you guess what Andy Stype’s choice of nutritional fortification between rounds of his championship matches has been?

You guessed it. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Some old habits are just hard to break.

11/15/11 2:00am

The 2011 Presidents Cup, a biannual event pitting the top golfers from the United States against the best golfers from the rest of the world except for Europe will be played at The Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Australia Nov. 17 through Nov. 20.

Ten players automatically qualify for each team based on points they have accumulated over the past year, along with two players chosen by the team captains.

Fred Couples, this year’s captain for the USA, chose Tiger Woods as one of his picks, creating some heated discussion in golfing circles. Couples’ other selection was Bill Haas.

Woods has played little competitive golf this year and is currently 56th in the world rankings. Australian professional golfer Geoff Ogilvy, ranked 39th in the world, had this to say about Couples’ choice of Woods: “I don’t agree with the way Fred picked him. Announcing it months early, basically telling the guys on the fringe of making the team that there’s really only going to be one pick. Keegan Bradley is the obvious choice. He’s won two tournaments, one a major, and he hasn’t made the team.”

Here’s what some of your neighbors thought about Woods representing the United States in this year’s President Cup competition.

Bill Hands of Orient: “He’s there because of his reputation. I don’t think he has played well enough this year to merit his being on the team.”

Donna Kerrigan of Aquebogue: “Although the respect level is much lower for Tiger Woods because of what he did in his personal life, there is no denying he will always be one of the greatest golfers of all time.”

Scott Klipp of Greenport: “Tiger Woods is good for golf. I would not have picked him, but I respect Fred Couples’ opinion.”

Chris Schade of Southold: “He’s on the team because of his reputation. He should have earned a spot.”

Whatever you think, one thing is for sure, you can bet the networks broadcasting the event are thrilled that Woods will be on hand. Can you say higher ratings?

Professional golf is entertainment, and with Tiger Woods in the field, this year’s President’s Cup will definitely be entertaining.

TEE TIMES Congratulations go out to Bob Scott, who had a hole-in-one on the third hole at Cedars Golf Club in Cutchogue. Terry McGlaughlin aced the 16th hole at Island’s End Golf Club in Greenport. Vince Scheraldi of The Links at Cherry Creek in Riverhead reported an ace by Steve DiFruscio on hole No. 2. Tony Meras, 80, of Riverhead recorded his first hole-in-one on the seventh hole at Southampton Golf Club where he has been a member since 1957. His brother, Peter, and his son, Anthony,  also have made aces on the same hole. Guess it runs in the family.

19TH HOLE There are some hardy golfers who will venture out onto the links in just about any type of weather. Here are a few advantages to playing in the rain courtesy of Chris Gallagher of Southold, who has played in just about every weather condition imaginable:

o The course is not crowded and you can play a round in under three hours.

o The greens are soft so you can aim for the pin.

o You don’t have to wash your ball.

o Your clubs become self-cleaning and need just a soft wipe from your already damp towel.

o You don’t need to use as much sunscreen.

10/25/11 6:00am

JAY DEMPSEY PHOTO | Brian Schuman, far left, was among those who participated in the Long Island Hickory Open.

One of my favorite films is “The Greatest Game Ever Played.” I’m not a big movie guy, but I love this flick and have seen it a few times. It’s a golf story (what else?) about a young man, Francis Ouimet, an amateur golfer, who plays in the 1913 United States Open Golf Championship, competing against the biggest names in golf at the time. It’s a true story pitting David against Goliath. I will not spoil the ending. If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth every one of the 120 minutes.

The film is a wonderful period piece. The golfers are decked out to the nines in time-appropriate apparel. Nickers, dress shirts and ties. They use golf equipment that was manufactured before World War I; wooden shafted hickory clubs. No steel, titanium or graphite shafts in those days. It was a time when golf was pure.

That time in golf history may be a thing of the past for most, but there is an ever-growing group of “Hickory Golf” enthusiasts who are not letting  go of golf’s time-honored traditions and the history of the game.

Long Island National Golf Club in Riverhead hosted the first Long Island Hickory Open Sept. 16-18. Players had to compete with original, or approved reproduction, hickory clubs and wear period attire. The event, spearheaded by Brian Schuman, had a small but enthusiastic field of players.

Schuman had left a set of demo “hickories” at Long Island National over the summer and your golf guy, along with my wife, Jean, had the opportunity to give them a whack.

Walking to the range with my bag of hickories in tow, my first thought was that I would probably break the clubs. After all, these sticks were almost 100 hundred years old and made of wood. Yeah, right Tarzan. You just signed up for Medicare and you think you have the strength to bust these babies? Dream on big fella. The old hickories had nothing to worry about.

After hitting a few balls and getting comfortable with our new equipment, Jean and I made some pretty nice shots. Granted, the sweet spot on the face of the club is about the size of a shriveled-up pea, but when you hit these puppies right it feels great.

The final round of this year’s Long Island Hickory Open had the course playing at 5,600 yards. A respectable distance a century ago and a distance many should be playing from today. (Here I go again on playing from forward tee boxes.)

Hugh Menzies, who is from North Carolina, said before teeing off, “You have to be a little off center to play this game, referring to hickory golf.

Schuman led the introductions on the first tee, delivering a brief and entertaining golf biography of each player.

For those of you who are not familiar with the course, Long Island National gives you the feel of a links course in the United Kingdom. Add a spot of wind, which the players had this day, and the only thing missing is the clubhouse at St. Andrews.

Tim Alpaugh, who is from New Jersey said this, “If you have insecurities in your life, this [hickory golf] is not the game for you.”

From what I saw, this group of golf history devotees did not show one sign of being insecure. They all played the game with the class and skill that would have made their links predecessors proud.

“There is no cursing in hickory golf,” Schuman said. “If we must, we do it with a deep Irish brogue so no one will understand.”

Hickory golf events are gaining in popularity and are held almost every week around the country.

If you would like more information about hickory golf, contact Brian Schuman at: bschuman@optonline.net.

09/26/11 1:14pm

It’s the time of year when shadows are longer, sunlight is more golden, cicadas serenade us from dawn to dusk. And throw in a hurricane for good measure.

JAY DEMPSEY PHOTO  |  Marie Santacroce and Evan Martilotta were this year's Island's End Club Champions.

JAY DEMPSEY PHOTO | Marie Santacroce and Evan Martilotta were this year's Island's End Club Champions.

This time of year also means that many golfers have competed in their club championships and the 2011 winners have been crowned.

Evan Martilotta and Marie Santacroce won the Championship Flights at Island’s End Golf and Country Club in Greenport. Martilotta defeated four-time club champion, Jim Sage, for his second club championship. Santacroce won her match over Anne Keating for her third consecutive club title.

Other winners at Island’s End were Tom Regan and Pat Cristol in the A-Flight. Ron Yedloutschnig captured the B-Flight trophy and Drew Levy was the C-Flight champion.

At North Fork Country Club, in Cutchogue, Andy Stype defeated Steve Flurry and Kristen Gambardella beat Sandra Leary to win their club championship titles.

Gambardella was down three holes after the morning round, but came back after the lunch-break with solid putting, capturing her second club championship. I asked her what she thought the turning point of the match was.

“John Ross’ mushroom soup and the chocolate milk shake I had for lunch after the first 18,” she said. When asked about her swing thoughts Gambardella had this to say: “I had no swing thoughts today. I play better dumb,” she said. “ I definitely play my best when I don’t think and keep it as mindless as possible. I just play the game.”

Stype’s victory marked his ninth club championship spanning six decades.

“I knew it would be a tough match against Steve,” Stype said. “My experience helps a lot, but doesn’t make it easier. My father taught me to keep a level head and hang in there even when I’m down. I keep it simple,” he said. “I try to swing harder and stay down as long as possible. I’ve seen players decelerate and the ball goes all over the place.”

Looking happy and exhausted Stype had this to say as he headed to the 19th hole: “It was a long day and I’m glad it’s all over.”

Also at North Fork, winners in the A-Flight were Cindy Wickham and William Kreitsek, Sr.

B-Flight champs were Kristin Sayers and Dave Fujita. Roger Flore won the C-Flight and Jack McFeely took home the trophy in the D-Flight. Nine-hole winners were Dot Russo and Edna Beirne.

Tee Times: John McCreary aced the third hole at Island’s End. This was the fifth career hole-in-one for McCreary. Cedar’s Golf Club in Cutchogue recently had holes-in-one by Matt Sirico on the fifth hole and Charlie Milling on the ninth hole.

19th Hole: A newly engaged couple were having a discussion. The groom-to-be confessed, “I’m a golf fanatic. I think about the game constantly and play every chance I can.” The bride-to-be pondered this for a moment and said, “Thank you for your honesty. Now I should tell you something about my past. I was a hooker. “No problem,” said the groom-to-be. “Just widen your stance a little and overlap your grip. That should clear it right up.” Courtesy of Terry Matthews.