For Xander McDonald-Smith, the First Tee program at Eisenhower Park was everything it is supposed to be: an inspiring launchpad. Early in his teenage years, he rode out from his home in Brooklyn to the First Tee, which is designed to introduce young people to the discipline and joy of golf.
"I fell in love with it," he said.
He studied under Eisenhower First Tee director Mike Wade, took on a peer leadership role and twice played in the program's Champions Tour pro-am at Pebble Beach. Now he is within months of becoming a pro in his own right.
McDonald-Smith on Monday shot 1-over-par 73 at Marine Park, his home course, and won the amateur division of the Brooklyn Open. That bolstered his confidence in a plan to turn professional after his upcoming senior year at Penn State.
"I just have a love for the game, I love everything about it. There are times when it's stressful," he said, but added that on a day like Monday, "You say, 'This is what I'm doing it for.' "
He didn't rest on his laurels. On Thursday, he also won the Met Public Links by a record-tying five strokes, shooting 6 under for 36 holes at Charleston Springs in Millstone Township, New Jersey.
Scott Ford of Manhasset, grandson of former Masters champion Doug Ford, tied for first in the pro division before losing in a playoff.
What are the odds?
Five years ago, Mark Schrader was playing with his brother Paul at Island's End in Greenport, where both are members. He never will forget witnessing Paul make a hole-in-one with a 4-iron on the 190-yard 11th hole.
The memory came into clear focus last weekend, when they were playing the same course, the same hole . . . and Mark got an ace. "The odds of that are 'Never,' " said Mark, adding that both of them are 10-handicaps. The one difference is that he made his hole-in-one with a 5-iron. "I let him hear about that," Mark said.
Patrick Campbell of the Salisbury Senior Golf Club celebrated his 82nd birthday on May 27. Less than two weeks later, club chairman Olaf Johnsen said, Campbell really celebrated. He shot 81. Campbell began playing when he was seven in County Louth, Ireland, moved to the United States at 21 (played for a golf team in the Army) and once shot 67 at Douglaston Golf Course . . . North Shore Country Club in Glen Head, which was all but doomed five years ago before Manhattan developer and golf enthusiast Donald Zucker bought and revived it, is marking its 100th anniversary. The club held its centennial gala Saturday night and is planning an old school tournament using hickory shafted clubs in the fall . . . Dylan Crowley of Glen Cove, a rising senior at St. John's, will play in his third consecutive U.S. Amateur Championship. He was the medalist in a qualifier at Wheatley Hills Tuesday, shooting 7 under for 36 holes. The Amateur will be at Atlanta Athletic Club August 11-17 . . . Chris Gabriele continued the momentum that began when he won the Nassau County high school title in May. The Cold Spring Harbor graduate went on to win Mill River's junior club tournament recently and on Wednesday, he won the Long Island Golf Association's Junior Championship, defeating Jim Smoot Jr., 3 and 2, in the final. Gabriele has signed a letter of intent with Franklin and Marshall.
Fact of the week
A club pro in Calgary, Alberta, was giving a lesson last Saturday when he saw a minivan plunge into a pond. The pro, Josh Gardner, rushed over, swam to the vehicle and rescued the driver. "It's a great feeling, but I just did what anyone would do," he told the Calgary Sun. Well, at least he did what Shaun Micheel would have done. Ten years before he won the 2003 PGA Championship, Micheel jumped into a North Carolina river and saved a couple trapped inside a sinking car.