U.S. Open a Father's Day tradition

Marc Turnesa tees off the fifth hole during Marc Turnesa tees off the fifth hole during the first round of the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines Golf Course. (Jan. 26, 2012) Photo Credit: Getty Images

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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 ...

A cherished tradition will be observed again this Sunday by the Galletta family. Mal Jr. and Mal III, both Long Island golf pros, will get together at the former's house. "It's always an early dinner," the dad said, "and then we watch golf until 10 o'clock."

Something along those lines happens all over Long Island -- and the rest of the country -- on the third Sunday of every June, when Father's Day meets the final round of the U.S. Open. Father's Day has come to be connected with golf a bit like Thanksgiving means football and July 4 means baseball. Golf retailers say Father's Day brings bigger business than Christmas.

It all helps reinforce the idea that golf is a great intergenerational game. A parent hands it on without handing it off. So the elder Galletta, a retired head pro and now teaching pro at Engineers Country Club, plays and practices with Galletta III, head pro at Glen Cove Golf Club.

"Between the first and second rounds of the Long Island Open last week, I went over there and worked on some things with him," said the younger Galletta, 42. "He's my first and only teacher."

The elder Galletta learned the game from his dad, a seven-time U.S. Open participant as an amateur, who used to bring his son to the course.

"I'd go out there and play, hitting two balls. With one I'd be Arnold Palmer, with the other I'd be Billy Casper," he said.

It worked so well that he played in the 1976 U.S. Open. He also shot what was then a record 65 at Bethpage Black. The patriarch, Mal Sr., caddied that day and chided his son for missing two makable putts.

Mal Jr. was much more diplomatic with his own son. He agonized and rejoiced -- silently -- over every shot when he watched Mal III play in events such as the Long Island Amateur (Mal III won it 46 years after his grandfather had). "I never had to push him at all to get involved in golf," dad said of his son, recalling when the family would spend winters in Florida and young Mal III would spend hours hitting balls.

Memories like that are all over the place this weekend, especially at the Open itself. Rory McIlroy, whose dad came in from Northern Ireland to see him win the Open last year, said the other day, "I think it's a great tradition that this tournament ends on Father's Day."

Tiger Woods recalled how his late father, Earl, cherished the U.S. Open because "he loved the fact that you got tested."

Mark McCormick, a club pro from New Jersey, is having the time of his life, preparing for the Open after finally qualifying. His week is even better because he is getting tips on his short game from his son, Ryan, a St. John's sophomore who won the New Jersey Amateur last week.

Back on Long Island, Mike Turnesa Jr., 66, was working on his game, the way his dad taught him. Turnesa, the longtime head pro at Rockville Links, remembers tagging along to tournaments at which his dad played. "I really looked forward to getting a hot dog at the halfway house," he said.

Now, his son Mike is a pro at Tallgrass Golf Club and another is a tour player. Last year, Marc Turnesa played in his first U.S. Open and his dad went down to Congressional outside Washington D.C. to watch. "That," he said, "was a great Father's Day gift."

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