This is bad news. The sign on the closed gate at The Links at Shirley says "Closed for the Season," but indications are that the outstanding public golf course will not reopen.

         It's not official yet. The Web site is still up. Owner/founder Mel Mindich said during the summer that he hoped to keep the place open for a few more years. But he has been losing money steadily and can't be expected to keep losing it forever. Call the pro shop and you hear a message saying that the number is temporarily out of service.

        That is a real shame. The Links is an outstanding course--beautifully designed and immaculately maintained. It is challenging enough to hold a regional tournament (the LI Public Links last summer), but it playable enough to make it worthwhile for the average golfer.

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       Business picked up last year after the green fees were reduced, but it seems that the die had been cast. The Links was a private club-caliber course and charged prices higher than other public facilities. It came along at a time when Long Island--like the rest of the country--seemed on the verge of a golf boom, powered at least in part by Tiger Woods. The boom never happened. A number of private and public courses are in jeopardy because the economy is tough and the number of golfers has not grown.

       Anyone who loves golf has to hope for a miracle to save Shirley.