When Neil Cohen saw the Mercedes parked alongside the seventh hole at Middle Bay Country Club during the Nassau Bar Association's We Care outing, he never gave it a second thought. He has played in many outings that offer prizes for a hole-in-one, he said, "And no one ever wins the car."
Jay Nathan knew there was a $10,000 prize for a hole-in-one at the Syosset-Woodbury Rotary Club outing at Willow Creek, because he is co-chairman of the event. But he was so immersed in all the details of running the outing, he didn't think much about it.
Scott Dexter wanted to stay in the spirit of the Island Harvest golf outing when he reached No. 17 at The Creek, so he gladly entered a contest knowing that he would win double his allotment of his raffle tickets if his shot was better than that of the Island Harvest president. The provision was that he had to do it barefoot. He wound up playing that hole without socks, shoes or a putter because he made an ace.
In each case, the golfer got into an outing on Long Island this month just to do some good. Playing some memorable golf would be just a bonus. Each of those three received a bonus he never expected.
Cohen, a member of the Nassau Bar who practices in Garden City, is proud that the association raised $250,000 for needy people with the outing. He classifies himself as "a decent golfer" who has played for 40 years, since he was 12. "I've had some close calls," he said. But he never had an ace.
That changed when he struck his 4-iron 190 yards on the par-3 seventh at Middle Bay.
"I knew I had hit a good shot, but I didn't see it go in the hole," he said. "I was so excited about the hole-in-one that I didn't think about the prize."
It sunk in a little later that he had earned a two-year lease on the Mercedes, just as the lease on his current car was running out. This did not go unnoticed at the office. "I was," he said, "a rock star for a couple days."
Nathan brought his 11-year-old daughter, Olivia, along with his foursome at Willow Creek, and had his 8-year-old daughter, Riley, at the outing, too. None of them dreamed they would be celebrating the way they did.
He is a 26 handicap who euphemistically says he plays a fade. The flagstick on No. 4, a 181-yard hole, was on the right side of the green, perfectly positioned for a faded 5-hybrid. A bunker blocked their view, so Nathan scrupulously asked a witness stationed on the tee to check. Sure enough, it was in, and Nathan had $10,000 to spend on golf with his family. "It couldn't have happened to a nicer guy," said Ron Meredith, assistant pro at Willow Creek.
Island Harvest president Randi Dresner likes being out on the course for her organization's outing because it puts her in touch with donors such as Dexter, proprietor of City Cellar restaurant in Westbury, and his buddy, Doug Mauch of JJT Energy. "I'm not a golfer, but that shot was as exciting as anything I've seen in quite a while," she said.
Dexter was told that his prize for the 135-yard 8-iron was an Escort -- a GPS system, not a vehicle. He said he felt rewarded for boosting Island Harvest, which helps feed 300,000 hungry Long Islanders. And he did get some advice from Mauch, a former pro at Wheatley Hills (who once counseled PGA champ Keegan Bradley on using a long putter): "Always play barefoot."