As a first-year head pro at Bethpage State Park, Kelley Brooke was determined to get to know the Black Course. So, she has played it three times a week and in the process found that in spending so much time on what she considers “the hardest course in the world,” her game improved. So much so that, for the first time in 29 years, she entered a big tournament.
Brooke, who turned 50 in April, called it a dream come true that she was in contention this past week in the LPGA Teaching and Club Pro National Championship. She considered her eighth-place finish in the Senior Division a promising start.
Even a 9 on the second hole in her final round at Pinehurst (North Carolina) No. 8 did not diminish the experience, one that she said will translate into lessons with her students. “Now, I can completely relate to them that the golf game is a whole. It’s not just about technique and mechanics,” she said. “I think the last couple of years, I’ve focused too much on mechanics. Now, I’m going to implement many more playing lessons. We’re going to explore more of the mental side.”
She has big plans that she intends to start after the PGA Championship on the Black in May. “We’re going to build a performance center, we’re going to lengthen the driving range, we’re going to build a short-game area,” Brooke said. “The Black is one of the premier courses in the country and I want the practice facility to match it.”
Among those practicing will be the pro herself. “I feel very positive,” she said, “that I have a long career ahead of me in the senior division.”
Black still a major player
Bethpage Black is not likely to be part of the rotation in the streamlined PGA Tour FedEx Cup playoffs, numerous golf industry sources said. The playoffs are being whittled down from four tournaments to three, with the Northern Trust alternating between Boston and New York.
The upside is that the Black will retain its aura as a major championship and Ryder Cup (2024) site. Tour players sure see the course that way.
“It’s very straightforward. If you don’t get it in position, you will be penalized. That’s why it’s a great major course,” Nick Watney, winner of the 2012 Barclays on the Black, said at the Northern Trust last week. “They don’t need any tricks, and Bethpage doesn’t have any. I think we’re all looking forward to going back there.”
For Watney, another benefit of the Black is proximity to Deepdale Golf Club and pro Darrell Kestner. The latter’s putting lesson helped Watney to the victory six years ago. “I keep in touch with Darrell, I think he’s fantastic,” the tour pro said. “I haven’t met one person who has said even an average thing about him. Everyone glows about him.”
'The Legend' gets ace, betters age by nine
Jim Daly had all of Port Jefferson Country Club buzzing last week and he recognized why. “I understand very few people who are 93 get a hole-in-one,” he said with a laugh. Perhaps even more rare is a 93-year-old who shoots 84, which Daly did in the same round.
His ace occurred with a 5-wood on the 150-yard 11th hole. Daly added a birdie later in the round to beat his age by nine shots. That is on top of his usual energy and enthusiasm, which inspire his fellow members to call him The Legend.
“I work out every day, I play golf every day,” Daly said, adding that he also races sailboats and skis. “I call it circulation.”
He has been a golfer ever since he began caddying as a 10-year-old in Massachusetts. Years later, he moved to Long Island as a representative for the Riddell sports equipment company. All told, he now has four aces.
When he was asked what advice he would give to fellow seniors, he said, “Don’t just sit there and watch TV. Get up and do something …Tomorrow, I’ll get up and play golf at 9 o’clock. Whatever happens, happens. The next day, I’ll go dancing.”
Margarita Papola, The Woods at Cherry Creek, sixth hole, 158 yards, driver
Jim Webster, Pine Hills CC, 17th hole, 145 yards, 7-iron
Wendy Schwartz, Old Westbury Bluegrass, seventh hole, 125 yards, 7-iron
Jan Arden, Old Westbury Bluegrass, seventh hole, 160 yards, 6-iron
Lon Goldstein, Old Westbury Overlook, eighth hole, 153 yards, 7-iron
Bob Conyers, Spring Lake GC Thunderbird, sixth hole, 138 yards, 6-iron
Marge Becker, Spring Lake GC Sandpiper, sixth hole, 87 yards, driver
Steve Oliver, Great Rock GC, ninth hole, 173 yards, 9-iron
Mike Dileo, Nissequogue CC, 17th hole, 154 yards, 8-iron
Vern Lambert, Heatherwood GC, 10th hole, 190 yards, 2-iron
Frank Sider, The Greens, 12th hole, 184 yards, 5-wood