ClubCorp investing in Long Island courses

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A year into its ownership of the Hamlet Golf and Country Club in Commack, ClubCorp is following through on a seven-figure renovation. The project is practical: the Hamlet needed a facelift. And it is symbolic, signaling that the Dallas-based company is investing in golf while others are leaving the business.

ClubCorp bought the Hamlet, the Hamlet WindWatch in Hauppauge and Willow Creek in Mount Sinai last June from the Holiday Organization, which bowed out of golf. "The business is not doomed at all," said Jon Cheshire, general manager of the Hamlet and regional manager for ClubCorp's three Long Island properties. "The way it has to be run might have changed a little bit, but it's a great industry.

"We're not only excited about golf, we're excited about Long Island. This is a market we've wanted to be in for a long time."

The Hamlet renovation "it's really nearly $2 million," Cheshire said, citing an overhaul to the bunkers and upgrades to the clubhouse, locker rooms and fitness center. "The club has been around since 1994 and it has been a long time since it has had an influx of improvements."

The golf community has mixed opinions about local clubs being taken over by national firms because that usually entails staff changes. But the upside is that there is wherewithal for capital campaigns. "It takes financial risk away from the members. It's win-win," said Cheshire, whose company owns nearly 100 country clubs, including Firestone in Akron, Ohio.

As for ClubCorp's business on Long Island, he said, "Maybe it will even grow."

LI pro Art Silvestrone, 80

Art Silvestrone, a leading Long Island golfer in the 1960s who later played on the Senior PGA Tour, died recently in Neptune, N.J. He was 80. His brother Gene, of Medford, said that Silvestrone, a former assistant pro at Rock Hill and 1963 Long Island Open champion, suffered from the effects of a staph infection for the past five years. He did not recover from a broken bone in his neck after a fall last month. "We will miss him," his brother said. "He was one hell of a golfer."

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Brad Rutkin of Great Neck has been named to Team USA's 15-19 division for competition against Canada and Scotland at St. Andrews July 20-28, the International Junior Golf Tour announced . . . Kellie Stenzel, who has a summer golf school at North Shore Country Club, has been named one of Golf Digest's Top 50 Women Teachers.

Sunday tip

"One of the most important aspects of driving consistently is to hit the ball on the center of the club face. If you are not hitting solid tee shots, try this: Grip down 1- to 11/2 inches and tee the ball lower. Swinging your driver from 43 to 44 inches should help you find the center of the club face, and teeing lower will help you hit straighter. By concentrating on hitting the ball on the center of your driver, you should be walking down more fairways." -- Rick Meskell, head pro, Meadow Brook Club

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