Mark Herrmann Newsday columnist Mark Herrmann

Herrmann has covered the Mets and Yankees since 1988, and has been Newsday’s national golf writer since 2002. A former Mets beat reporter, he has covered baseball's special events, including the World Series and the All-Star Game Show More

Kyle Brey and Matt Lowe, best buddies since first grade and former teammates at Farmingdale High School, agree that their friendship has helped them become better golfers. It starts with them fiercely wanting to be better than each other.

“We’re competitive in everything. When we play Connect Four, we go crazy. Forget about it,” said Lowe, who plays for the University of Richmond. Brey, who plays for Barry University in Florida, said, “You don’t even want to know. Those games are intense. He beats me a lot.”

Nobody beat Brey in the U.S. Open local qualifier Wednesday at Bethpage Red. He was the medalist with a 4-under-par 66 and advanced to the sectional round June 6 at Canoe Brook in Summit, N.J. Among the others in the field will be Lowe, who also qualified by shooting 3 under earlier in the day. After he posted his score, he went right back out on the course to watch Brey finish.

“He was 2 under with two to play. I don’t want to take all the credit for it, but as soon as I show up, he birdies the last two. I don’t think that’s a coincidence,” Lowe said. “I was extremely happy for him.”

Brey said, “When I saw him, I knew he was 3 under. I knew I needed to at least be at 2. I got to 4.”

That they both qualified is precisely the outcome they had envisioned when they played a practice round together on Monday. “Pushing each other gets us to the level we want to be at. We don’t root against each other, but the trash talk we have definitely helps in the long run,” Brey said, excited about Canoe Brook. “To think if we play a good 36 holes, we could be going to the U.S. Open. That’s pretty special.”

Rittberger’s 2nd chance

Garden City Golf Club head pro Bob Rittberger moved one step closer to his return to Oakmont, one that would be much fuller and sweeter than his last trip. Rittberger, who advanced Wednesday by shooting 3 under at Bethpage Red in the local qualifier, had all but sewn up his trip to the 2007 U.S. Open at Oakmont. But a freakish bounce off the flagstick on the final hole of sectionals, after a near perfect approach, caused his ball to carom wildly onto a sprinkler head. He wound up being an alternate at the Open.

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“It was kind of half a great experience last time,” he said, recalling rules regarding alternates. “I was allowed to putt and chip—everything but going out and playing the course.” During the first round, he waited all day to see if anyone dropped out, which didn’t happen. “It would be a little bit nicer to be able to go back and play.”

Josh Rackley, an assistant pro at Tam O’Shanter who moved to Long Island after having been 2015 Player of the Year in the Philadelphia PGA Section, advanced at the local Open qualifier Tuesday at Old Westbury Country Club.

Malone’s outing has grown

Jim Malone is witness to all the good that golf can do and the consolation it offers. The Garden City High golf coach and his wife Diane hosted the annual Jamie and Paige Malone Foundation Memorial Outing earlier this month in honor of their two daughters, who were killed in a 2010 car accident while on their way to volunteer jobs as camp counselors.

The event has grown so large that it is held simultaneously at two courses, the Cherry Valley and Garden City Country Clubs. Proceeds go to local needs, such as paying for the funeral of a soldier killed in Afghanistan and defraying hospital expenses of a teenage cancer patient. Like many other outings, the Malones’ lifts spirits as it raises funds.

“It’s a way to get people together. There are so many people I know from Queens who don’t get to play at a country club very often,” Malone said. “It’s getting to be something where people look forward to seeing friends they haven’t seen in a long time.”