Caddies have their day at Cerrato Memorial Tournament

John Hankins, a caddie at Cherry Valley Club, John Hankins, a caddie at Cherry Valley Club, tees off on the 12th hole of the club's golf course during the fourth annual Keith R. Cerrato Golf Tournament. Almost 100 caddies played in the event. (Aug. 13, 2012) Photo Credit: James Escher

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Mark Herrmann Newsday columnist Mark Herrmann

Herrmann has covered the Mets and Yankees since 1988, and has been Newsday’s national golf writer since ...

Nothing against motorized golf carts, because the participants in the once-a-year special tournament at Cherry Valley Monday all used them. The point is, though, you just cannot beat a caddie.

"You can have blind shots, you can be in fescue, you can be in situations where the caddie tells you you're better off being on this side or that side. A cart can't say that to you," Steve Cervantes said. "And a cart is eventually going to run out of gas. A caddie won't."

He spoke for all of the 104 entrants in the competition at the club in Garden City on that score. Cervantes, like all the rest of them, is a caddie.

This was their day to be served, rather than serve, for a change. It was the Fourth Annual Keith R. Cerrato Memorial Golf Tournament, which has become known as The Keith. It also has become known as the caddies' championship and a sort of caddies appreciation day.

It is put on by Cherry Valley's members and the club pro, Ed Kelly, in honor of Cerrato, a Cherry Valley caddie who was killed six years ago at 24 by a car while he was crossing the street. Seventeen clubs sent caddies, ranging in age from 14 to 81, and backed them up with sponsorships. Proceeds go to scholarships to Chaminade High School and Hofstra, Cerrato's schools.

"There is a Keith at every golf course," said Cervantes, who recently worked his way through SUNY Purchase by caddying at Greenwich Country Club. He never met Cerrato, but feels as if he had. "He was like the caddie from 'Caddyshack.' Everybody is that. He loves to caddie, loves going to school, loves the game . . . "

Cervantes said he became a caddie when he was 13 at the suggestion of some relatives. He loved it. "I had played golf video games, I followed people around the course, I was exposed to it. So I was able to pick it up quickly. I think the skill I picked up first was on the greens: the right reads, the right distances. It's more like you're being a good teammate," he said.

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He also became good enough as a golfer to become an 8 handicap. So his 80 at Cherry Valley Monday was pretty much what he could have expected, considering he had not played the course before and did not have a caddie. Getting into The Keith was no small matter at Greenwich, which had a qualifying tournament to fill four slots in the caddies championship. Cervantes was the medalist there.

More important, caddying introduced him to a member who is an executive at Omnicom Capital. Cervantes recently got a job there. He still caddies on weekends.

Steve Silverstein of Great Neck, a scratch golfer, hopes to become a club pro, or have some other job in the golf industry. So after 10 years of living in Massachusetts, he returned to Long Island last year and started caddying at Deepdale Golf Club. He appreciates everything about the job.

"Our purpose is to make the day more enjoyable for the member," he said, adding that there is skill in reading whether the member wants a caddie to say nothing or to have a conversation.

Silverstein shot par 72 Monday and won the tournament by one shot over Kevin Fuchs and Dave Logan of Garden City Country Club. All of them were honored at a banquet that night, rare air for caddies. "From the second we got there to the second we left," Silverstein said, "it was fantastic."

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