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PGA tournament talent keeps Bethpage Black spectators in awe

Dustin Johnson greets fans as he approaches the

Dustin Johnson greets fans as he approaches the tee on hole 2 during the final round of the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black on Sunday. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Mike Glennan has played the formidable Bethpage Black Course, but on Sunday he stood aside and watched the PGA greats with awe.

They're just so good, said Glennan, 41, of Lynbrook.

“It looks like they’re in another world,” he said. “Everything is precision.”

Other golf-playing spectators at the PGA championship in Bethpage agreed. The Black Course is so challenging it comes with a warning sign at the entrance stating it’s meant for experienced players.

Pros such as Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy play at such a high level — the power, the composure, the consistency — that they inspire a kind of reverential respect from these duffers, several said.

Consider the game of Glennan, who said he gets on a golf course about twice a month in the warmer months. He shoots in the 90s. The pros are able to finish 18 holes with 30 fewer shots.

“These guys are the gods of golf,” said Rich Filonok, 32, of Ashburn, Virginia. “They make it look so easy.”

Filonok, who used to live in Huntington, has played Bethpage Black numerous times. Standing beside the tee area for the first hole, Filonok recalled that he has driven the ball about 220 yards down the fairway, nearly to the trees by the bend in the course.

Then Webb Simpson stepped up and blasted a drive well over and beyond the trees.

Jimi Barrett, 53, an avid golfer from Oakdale, learned a thing or two following Phil Mickelson around for 18 holes Sunday. He took video of the swing by the man fans call “Lefty,” and studied it.

But Barrett, a drummer in the local bar band Hard Copy, loves to watch Mickelson interact with the crowd.

“He’s doing that thumbs-up thing,” Barrett said. “I actually high-fived him. Then he gave a ball to a little girl next to me.”

But walking up and down the hilly Black Course took a toll on Barrett. “Now I’m camped out at the 18th hole,” he said. “I’ll be feeling it for the next three days.”

Having played this course years ago, Bill Shaughnessy, 55, of Lindenhurst, said that as much as he marvels at the golfers’ skills, there’s not a lot he can transfer to his own game.

“There’s a saying: 'These guys are good,'” said Shaughnessy. “You look at them, but can you do it?”

The look on his face gave the answer.

Sunday was the final day of play, and with Tiger out of the field and Brooks Koepka, who started the day the clear front-runner before faltering a bit , there was a bit less of a sense of competition in the air.

Sunday seemed to be more of a family day than the weekday events, with many sitting on the grass, enjoying the 70-degree temperatures and gentle breeze that whipped up later in the day. Families perched at the edges of the greens. Young couples walked hand and hand down the hills. And kids played out their own version of hero worship.

With the Goodyear blimp floating in the sky above, Jeff Lewis, 10, planted himself smack in the front of the practice putting green, where many of the stars approached fans and offered autographs. Jeff was thrilled, and his PGA ballcap was covered in felt marker signatures.

He and his father spent nearly two hours there.

The crowds were boisterous, loud and pretty funny as they called out encouragement, and some light jeering, to the players. At times, it seemed they were acting more like they were at an Islanders game.

But rarely were they rude, said Anne Bernstein, 62, of Northport, who was in full PGA regalia, from her hat to her shirt to her jacket and bag.

“Here in New York, we love our teams, our favorites,” she said. “But we’re not nasty.”

Some in the crowd didn’t play golf at all. Kayci Owen, 32, of Jersey City, said she enjoys coming out and watching a game. After all, she comes from a family filled with guys.

When she joins those who play, she finds a way to contribute.

“I enjoy driving the golf cart,” she said.

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