Caddies will be kings for a day at Cherry Valley

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) (Credit: James Escher)

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In this tournament, there will be golfers who shoot in the 70s, possibly the 60s, and there will be golfers whose ages are in the 80s. Some will have arrived through intense qualifying tournaments and some will have merely signed up and shown up. Everyone in this disparate group, though, will have one thing in common.

Each of them is a caddie.

The event this coming Monday at Cherry Valley Club in Garden City is a fixture on its way to becoming a tradition. For the fifth year in a row, the Keith R. Cerrato Memorial Tournament again will be the local caddies' major championship. One-hundred ten are entered so far for a day that will bring someone a trophy, will help two students get scholarships and will remind everyone around here that caddies represent the soul of the game.

"My favorite part is that they get so excited about this event. There is nothing else like it for them," said Mary Lou Cerrato, mother of Keith, a Cherry Valley caddie and Hofstra student who was hit by a car and killed while crossing a street seven years ago. "They keep coming up to [my husband] John and me, thanking us."

Mark Zaino, the club manager at Cherry Valley, a private club, said, "They are playing in a big tournament and they are treated like members for a day, and they should be . . . I know my job would be a lot more difficult if I didn't have them."

That feeling is shared by clubs all over the Metropolitan section, more than a dozen of which hold caddie qualifying events to determine who get to play in "The Keith." The tournament was established in 2009 to honor Cerrato, who started working at the course when he was a skinny junior high kid struggling to prove he could carry two bags at a time. He still was a caddie at 24, when he died.

Each of the participants in The Keith is sponsored, and the money provides scholarships for disadvantaged youths to attend Chaminade High (Keith's alma mater) and Hofstra. Mary Lou said she and her husband John proudly (and emotionally) this year attended the first recipient's college graduation.

The tournament also serves as a de facto caddie appreciation day. They all get to ride in carts, they are treated to lunch and dinner and they get to have the pros and staffers wait on them, rather than the other way around.

"They take care of us very well," Eric Harvery said as he cleaned a member's clubs after a round last Saturday. Harvery took up caddying at the suggestion of a friend on the island of Jamaica and has worked at Cherry Valley for 13 years. He is renowned for having great eyes, even for balls that seem buried in the rough. He shoots about 105, but loves the opportunity to play.

Bell Golo of Hempstead hopes to use his caddie earnings to help him go to dental school, but he sees the job as more than that. "I fell in love with the sport. I love everything about it," the New Paltz graduate said, adding that caddying requires a knack for gauging the wind -- and a golfer's mood. He likes giving pep talks after his golfer's bad hole. "Golf is kind of like life, you have good things and bad things. You just have to be patient and hope for the best."

Golo hopes for the best from his admittedly rusty game on Monday. He is sure it will be a blast, no matter what his score is. He said: "For them to have this outing for caddies, in honor of Keith, you can't ask for more."

Engel wins at Black

Garett Engel, a two-time Nassau high school champion and Metropolitan Golf Association junior champion a dozen years ago, still has the touch. The Woodmere Club member shot 2-under-par 69 in the final round at Bethpage Black Tuesday and won the Michael Hebron Amateur Championship, the Long Island Golf Association's premier amateur stroke-play event. He finished at 1 over for 36 holes, two ahead of Daniel Abbondandolo of Brookville Country Club.

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