Islanders goalie coach Mike Dunham is an alternate in sectional qualifying for the U.S. Open. Dunham shot 74 at a local qualifier in Bernardston, Mass., which was good enough to tie for the last spot. He made four birdies in his final five holes to do that.
He had a five-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole and nearly made that. But it lipped out and he lost on the second playoff hole to Brent Paladino of Kensington, Ct.
Dunham, 38, still can get into sectional qualifying June 6 at Canoe Brook in Summit, N.J. (along with Long Islanders Tarik Can, Jim Liu, Sean Quinlivan, Kirk Oguri, Bob Rittberger, Abbie Valentine and Paul Dickinson) if someone drops out.
The former college and NHL goalie is the son of a club pro and has a plus-1.2 handicap index. That means, if you are a 10 handicap and are playing him in a match, he has to give you 11 or 12 strokes, depending on the course rating.
“I just enjoy playing these [qualifiers] just for the competitiveness,” Dunham told a reporter for the USGA’s website. “I play a big amateur schedule during the summer and this kind of kicks it off. For me, it gets the rust off and having to hole all those 3- and 4-footers when it matters.”
Here’s a column I did on Dunham’s golf in 2008:
Islanders goaltending coach Mike Dunham might never have had a hockey career if his dad were not a golf pro.
When Mike was a child, Ron Dunham was the head pro at Vestal Hills Country Club in Binghamton, which was a good job, except that winter comes early and hard up there and the course closes for five months. Between golf seasons, he worked at the local rink, driving the Zamboni. And his son got a lot of extra ice time.
Dunham was able to do extra goalie drills and become a better skater. He played for the University of Maine and the U.S. Olympic team. He spent 10 years in the National Hockey League, playing for the Rangers, Islanders and Devils among other teams.
The odd thing is, he never did like golf very much. "I gave him some lessons early on, but he played soccer, hockey and tennis," said Ron, who now runs the Teton Pines Country Club in Jackson, Wyo. with his wife Missie, after the two of them spent years driving to Mike's hockey games.
"I only wanted to do the action sports," Mike said. "Golf was more of a relaxing sport."
But once he got into the pros, and had spent seasons traveling, he was actually looking for something relaxing. He took up golf seriously, kept working at it, and ultimately became a plus-1 handicap (meaning he has to give a shot back to par, sometimes he gets a 3 on a par 3 but has to count it as a 4).
Now, it is more than relaxation. "All hockey players are competitors. After you retire, you look for something to fill that need for competition," he said. So he plays in tournaments, such as a pro-am in Massachusetts last weekend in which he and Ron placed sixth in a field that also included PGA Tour pros Brad Faxon and Long Island native Marc Turnesa.
The former pro goalie qualified for the U.S. Mid-Amateur last year at Bandon Dunes in Bandon, Ore. It wasn't the end of the world that he missed qualifying for the match play phase. He still is basically a rookie on the national amateur golf landscape. What he never will forget is having Ron fly out to caddie for him.
"Who would have ever thought I would be playing in a USGA event?" Dunham said.
Who would have thought that his work in hockey would bring him in touch with golf, the way his father's work in golf brought Mike deeper into hockey? He understands that if you want to spend your spare time on the golf course, you can do worse than working on Long Island.
"The architecture, the history here are second to none," he said. "You get that links feeling, that open feeling. You feel the ocean breeze. I think that's one of the things that is underrated about Long Island golf. People who don't live here don't realize how windy it is."
He feels fortunate to have played Deepdale, North Hills, Tam O'Shanter, Sebonack, Piping Rock and the Creek. He has heard about all the others: "Shinnecock, National, Maidstone, Friar's Head, Bethpage Black and Red. You can go right down the line," he said.
Golf will not be a priority for months, what with the Islanders season starting next week. But Bethpage is high on the list of places he wants to play, and to visit for the U.S. Open next June. Dunham regrets now that he didn't appreciate the experiences enough when Ron was a national director for the PGA of America and brought him to several PGA Championships, including the one John Daly won. "That was golf history," the goalie coach said, adding that when his father gets back on the board of directors, the son will be a more attentive guest. He has made plans to be at Whistling Straits in 2015.
Ron is pleased to have the company. They never did spend much time together on the ice. "I have a hard time standing up on skates," the golf pro said. "I'm the furthest thing from a hockey player you can get."