As Rickie Fowler's manager, Terry Reilly has seen how young people gravitate to his client. So he is optimistic about the long-term effect of the thrilling PGA Championship that featured Fowler and fellow next-generation golfer Rory McIlroy. Reilly appreciates what golf can mean to a young person, having built a dream career in the game that captivated him as a teenager in Sayville.
It was a big day when his dad, Bill, a professor at Farmingdale State, first took Terry and his brothers to Broadway Park to hit shots. "We hit them, and then we had to go pick up all 48 balls. That was part of it," he said, recalling his late father. "He taught us golf etiquette and everything about the game."
The lessons have remained with Reilly all the way to his status as partner in the golf division of Wasserman Media Group, which represents many PGA Tour players.
From that vantage point, he has seen how golf can affect young people, even those who never will take one swing. Reilly witnessed what happened when J.B. Holmes, another of his clients, learned that Reilly's sister, Bridget Costello, is director of Camp Pa-Qua-Tuck in East Moriches, the Moriches Rotary's summer camp for special-needs children. Holmes donated $20,000 one year, and came back later with another $5,000. The money helped pay for live music shows and other attractions that lifted a lot of spirits, Costello said.
Such is golf's power, which wasn't hurt by the dusk-enshrouded finish at the PGA (Fowler lost to McIlroy on the final hole). "I think it's great for golf that this next generation is stepping up. Rickie, Rory and Jason Day -- they're all in their 20s and they're all friends. They've been playing against each other since they were amateurs," Reilly said.
Reilly didn't get started as young as those guys did. He was a freshman at Sayville High School when Bill introduced him to golf. But he immediately went out for the team. "I didn't know I was joining a dynasty," he said. By the time he was a senior in 1984, coach Tony Gamboli wrote, "Terry could be the biggest sleeper in Sayville golf history."
Sure enough, Reilly finished fourth in the state championship. He wasn't Tour caliber, but he did maintain his love for the game as a student at William & Mary, and in his first job with a financial firm outside Washington, D.C. (where he still lives with his wife and four children). A friend at a sports agency said there was an opening. "I had to take a pay cut, but I called my dad and he said, 'If you can go to work every day with a smile on your face, you've done the right thing,' " Reilly said.
He spent 10 years on the road with John Daly, which might sound like a manager's worst nightmare, except Reilly loved every minute of it. The agency changed hands and kept growing, attracting Fowler, a phenom. "I tell everybody this: Rickie is just different. He's very humble and down to earth," Reilly said.
The same could be said for Holmes, who met Reilly's family during the 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage. "I never told him what kind of work I do," Costello said, adding that her brother mentioned it and that Holmes' father did "due diligence" about Camp Pa-Qua-Tuck. They made it the beneficiary of their charity fund, twice -- as the golfer was facing surgery to remove a brain tumor.
Holmes provided one of the Tour's most inspiring stories this year when he capped his full recovery by winning the Wells Fargo Championship. People at Camp Pa-Qua-Tuck sent an e-card, congratulating him on persevering. "We understand about that stuff," Costello said.
And her brother understands the impact golf can have.