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

PGA Tour pro Zac Blair just spent two weeks here, first on a personal excursion through some of the finest courses and then making the cut in The Barclays at Bethpage Black, and he came away with one conclusion about golf on Long Island.

“It’s good. Better than any place else in America, for sure,” he said.

“I don’t think there is anywhere in America that has this many great courses. You can play a different course every day and not dislike any of them,” said the Salt Lake City native, a student and devotee of golf architecture, who turned 26 the Friday before The Barclays. His wife’s gift to him was a week’s worth of rounds on the Island.

Other tour pros made stops in Nassau and Suffolk while the FedExCup was here. Rory McIlroy did follow through on his plan to play Garden City Golf Club Monday, the day after the tournament. He loved it, head pro Bob Rittberger said, adding that a few others came by the week before The Barclays.

Jon Curran said that in the past he has played Wheatley Hills, where his former roommate, Keegan Bradley, used to work. Last week, Curran played at Huntington Country Club with a friend.

“I grew up in Massachusetts and this is a pretty similar golf style to Massachusetts,” he said. “Good, traditional style golf, and I love it.”

No one, though, did as much exploring as Blair did. He got to experience the revised Shinnecock Hills, which will host the 2018 U.S. Open. “I think they just kind of went back to the original size of all the greens, they widened some fairways, they added about 800 yards. It was really nice,” he said.

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Maidstone exceeded his high expectations. “It was just a really good golf course. What they’ve done on the sandy dune golf holes is pretty awesome,” he said. “Awesome” was also the word he used to describe the lobster lunch and overall experience at National Golf Links of America. While he was there, he happened to play with someone who also is a member at Westhampton Country Club, so he added that to his itinerary.

“I had heard about it. Seth Raynor is one of my favorite architects,” he said. Blair had nothing but praise for that layout, as well as Friar’s Head, Piping Rock and Southampton Golf Club.

He was perhaps best known this year for his newsworthy performance at the Wells Fargo Championship in May, when he was so frustrated by a missed birdie attempt that he bent his putter over his head. He tapped in for par, but noticed the shaft had become misshapen. Blair reported it to officials, knowing he would be disqualified.

So he has respect for all things golf. “My dad designed courses and helped with renovations. So I’ve just been around it my whole life. It just comes naturally I guess,” he said, referring to James Blair, who played at Brigham Young University.

It is no secret that most Long Islanders have almost no access to the courses Zac played on his self-styled tour. The good news is that everyone has access to the Black. “This is just as good as those,” he said Saturday at The Barclays. “It has its own special feel about it.”


Before he left, Blair got to witness local history. He was playing with Johnson Wagner, a former sleep-in-the-car-to-play-the-Black type, as he tied the course record with a 64. He tweeted, “Fun to watch Johnson light it up today!” Then he issued one last missive: “Had a fun couple of weeks in NY.”


The 47th Annual Fuoco Memorial Golf Festival — featuring numerous food booths around the course — will be Sept. 15 at Bellport Country Club. Proceeds go to Camp Paquatuck, the Rotary’s health camp for special-needs children.