12/06/14 1:00pm
12/06/2014 1:00 PM

One of my favorite holiday tunes is the Andy Williams classic, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” Thanks to the commercialism that has stepped all over the real reason for celebrating the holiday, this “wonderful time” seems to be getting longer and longer with decorations and holiday sales showing up long before Dec. 25. And now we have “Gray Thursday.” Give me a break.  (more…)

10/04/14 1:00pm
10/04/2014 1:00 PM
The Cedars Golf Club professional Jimmy McLaughlin with two members of the Cedars Kids Club, Aiko Fujita, left, and Michael Wineberger. (Credit: Jay Dempsey)

The Cedars Golf Club professional Jimmy McLaughlin with two members of the Cedars Kids Club, Aiko Fujita, left, and Michael Wineberger. (Credit: Jay Dempsey)

Conversation overheard this past summer around the North Fork:

Matilda, age 10: “I’m so bored this summer. There’s nothing to do around here.”

Gus, age 12: “I know. All we ever do is go to the beach, go boating, swim, fish and go sailing.”

Clancy, age 11: “ I can’t wait to go back to school.”

Say what??!!  (more…)

08/16/14 7:00am
08/16/2014 7:00 AM
Chet Zelenski, 91, of Greenport has been a member of Southampton Golf Club for 71 years. (Credit: Jay Dempsey)

Chet Zelenski, 91, of Greenport has been a member of Southampton Golf Club for 71 years. (Credit: Jay Dempsey)

I have a bad case of senioritis. No, not that senioritis. Your golf guy is more than a few decades past cutting classes, pulling pranks, and tossing his tassel. I’m talking about enjoying life as a senior citizen. Ah yes, the golden years.  (more…)

07/26/14 7:00am
07/26/2014 7:00 AM
Riverhead, Vineyards Golf Club Head Pro Louis de Kerillis on 1st Tee Box Par 5. (Credit: Joseph DeMaria)

Vineyards Golf Club Head Pro Louis de Kerillis on the first tee box. (Credit: Joseph DeMaria)

Ladies and gentlemen, the game of golf is in need of some help. Yes, Houston, we do, indeed, have a problem.

According to the National Golf Foundation, golf has lost nearly five million players in the last decade. The number of rounds played, along with club memberships, are down at most courses. And golf courses around the country are shutting their doors. (more…)

04/06/14 8:00am
04/06/2014 8:00 AM

Keeping fun in the game is part of the plan for the owners of Cedars Golf Course, Tim McManus, left, and Paul Pawlowski. (Credit: Jay Dempsey)

When I was in seventh grade back in the 1950s, it was my dream to own a transistor radio and a new set of golf clubs. The modest earnings from my Long Island Press newspaper route put my wish list items on hold.

Paul Pawlowski had a dream when he was in seventh grade of one day owning something far more grand than a radio and a set of golf clubs.  (more…)

08/09/12 8:00pm
08/09/2012 8:00 PM

JAY DEMPSEY PHOTO | Tom McGunnigle, front and center, with some of his students.

Some of you out there, probably mostly baby-boomers, may remember the television show from the mid 1970s starring Lee Majors, “The Six Million Dollar Man.” Majors played a former astronaut, Steve Austin, who was injured in an accident and had to have many parts of his body replaced or repaired. Austin, with his newly reconstructed bionic body, went from adventure to adventure in the weekly series.

Well folks, I have discovered the North Fork’s very own bionic man. Our guy is 66 years old, lives in Peconic and has worked at many trades during his life. He has jumped horses at Madison Square Garden, been a race-car driver, farmer, welder, school bus driver and sports coach.

Our Six Million Dollar Man (probably around 30 million of today’s devalued dollars) had hip problems as a child and was on crutches. He was involved in an accident in 1976 where he lost his leg (it was reattached), lost part of his thumb, broke his ribs and fractured his shoulder. He had a blood disorder and had to have his spleen removed. He has had six “minor” surgeries, as he calls them, having his knees, hips and shoulder replaced.

And just who is our bionic man? If you’ve ever taken a golf lesson through the Southold Town Recreation Department, he is the smiling guy with the infectious laugh.

Tom McGunnigle has been giving golf lessons to young and old for over two decades. “I’ve had everything replaced and I’m not quite as nimble as I used to be,” McGunnigle said.

He could have fooled me. I recently went up to the McGunnigle farm in Peconic to take in one of his weekly golf sessions and witnessed a sweet, smooth swing from instructor McGunnigle.

Tom McGunnigle began coaching in 1987 when he took over Southold High School’s bowling team. “I was farming potatoes at the time, which were selling for two cents a pound and I needed some additional income,” he said. “I was a good bowler, so I applied for the job of Southold High School’s bowling coach.”

In 1989 McGunnigle also became Southold’s golf and softball coach.

McGunnigle took up golf after his 1976 accident. “I wanted to get some exercise so I took up golf and joined Island’s End,” he said.

McGunnigle became club champion at Island’s End and has the distinction of driving the greens on the first and second holes, back to back. He is modestly proud of his feat of taking four shots to get from the clubhouse to Long Island Sound.

Like most things he has done, McGunnigle’s golfing skills are self-taught. “My kids will tell you I analyze everything to death,” he said. “My wife says I don’t have fun doing anything because I over-analyze things, but that’s my way of having fun.”

In the late ’90s, the Southold Town Recreation Department approached McGunnigle about offering golf classes in the adult education program. With space being limited on the Southold school grounds, McGunnigle offered a chunk of his farm to serve as the practice facility. “After working out the insurance details, we began the lessons at my farm,” he said.

Getting to Tom’s practice facility is an adventure in itself. Located off the North Road in Peconic, you navigate your way down the dirt driveway with it’s twists and turns, drive past a few barns and voilà, McGunnigle magically appears before you. Acres of land complete with yardage flag sticks, sand traps and a ball-retrieving tractor. More on the tractor later.

McGunnigle offers a series of six lessons beginning with his belly-button drill. He moves onto the triangle and wrist break theories. Then it’s time for his hip high to hip high swing approach. Bubba Watson and John Daly did not attend that session. He finishes up with putting, chipping and bunker play.

One student, Sandy Rave of Peconic, said: “He makes it simple and doesn’t complicate things. And it doesn’t matter how old you are. He’s very knowledgeable.”

Back to the ball-retrieving tractor. McGunnigle’s state of the art, high-tech ball picker-upper is a 1952 Farmall tractor. This little baby runs and performs as well as its owner operates his golf clinics.

Asked what he likes best about teaching golf, McGunnigle answered: “I get the most satisfaction when a student takes it in and asks the right questions. That I love.”